Monday, November 12, 2012

Scanning and Mapping Cemeteries

November 2012

The Meriwether Historical Society met on Sunday, November 4th, 2012 at its headquarters building on court square Greenville.  President Sallie Mabon introduced speaker Rev. Len Strozier to the members and guests who had come most interested in hearing about Strozier’s work of mapping cemeteries and preserving them for the future.
   Strozier and his son Ben have mapped cemeteries all over the Southeast with two notable Georgia jobs being historic Oakland Cemetery in Atlanta and the Holy Spirit Monastery in Conyers.
   Strozier’s work consists of scanning lots in two foot swaths to find graves using ground penetrating radar that is 85-95% accurate. The radar waves are read by a computer which can distinguish cast iron from concrete from clay pipe to the remains of a body. A grave, after fifty years of moisture and rot, often leaves a depression and always an air pocket. They flag these pockets, do GPS records of the latitude and longitude of each, upload them, and print maps of cemeteries. The records they produce are of three types: Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR), GPS, and GIS, Government Information Systems.
   Many times they find forgotten graves buried under concreted driveways or parking lots. Seventy percent of the time graves lie with the head facing to the west and feet to the east. Strozier explained their interest in cemeteries not as macabre-appropriate for the historical society’s meeting date after Halloween-but really is a connection with history. Strozier’s first cemetery mapping occurred after he finished seminary and was in Bolingbroke, GA where he would eat his lunch in the cemetery and enjoy the quiet, contemplative atmosphere and the beautiful artwork of the grave markers. Recently, he finished scanning and mapping Milledgeville’s seventeen acre cemetery and found over 1230 unmarked burials. He also scanned a 100 acre cotton patch in Metter and found unmarked graves the owners had always heard were there. In Hartwell, GA the Stroziers mapped 1700 burials on seven acres.
   Members of Greenville’s Cemetery Committee (John Norris, Mel Adkins, Tom Tigner) were in attendance and scanning and mapping Greenville’s 10.5 acre cemetery is of interest because of the ongoing necessary expansion combined with the desire not to dig into unmarked graves. The grassy area at downhill right when you enter the cemetery is thought to have indigent burials and slave graves.  The historical society would like to record those graves and place a marker and memorial there. The original main entrance to the cemetery was probably elsewhere, but there are no records of it.
   Strozier showed the group aerial photos and satellite images of the cemetery and member Jane Morrison explained the newest and northwestern most part of the cemetery was sold to the city by her mother during Mayor Bray’s first term as mayor. Having information like this is such a bonus when research and fact finding starts a project.
   Strozier explained that unmarked graves may have a theological reason for being unmarked. Many poorer burials had wooden crosses which rotted or the graves were marked by field stones that were later removed for mowing. Slabs that are hard to read may be best determined by making etchings and recording the data. It takes him approximately five weeks to do 8000 marked and 1200 unmarked graves. Strozier’s costs run $2500 to $3500 per acre.  An MHS committee of Jane Morrison, Lelia Freeman, and Diana and John Norris was formed to look into mapping the cemetery in affordable phases.
   In other news the MHS chose to have its annual Christmas party at the Greenville Art Gallery possibly with Dimitri from the Greenville CafĂ© next door catering the event. Linda Dobbs passed on to the club the possible project of reprinting the History of Greenville 1828-1951 that several in the club were aware of as being a quaint collection of reminiscences of local events that was bound by ribbon somewhat like a bundle of old letters. Also the garden club asked that the historical society donate for the island maintenance that is being done weekly on court square.  The club voted to give $200 to the $1600 project.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Ranching and Rodeoing

The Meriwether Historical Society met at QC Arena at Quercus Farms in Gay on Sunday, September 9th, 2012 for a special program on the history of ranching and rodeoing. Eddie and Melanie Paul and Susan Pritchett manage the farm and arena which is a 125’ by 250’ covered arena that hosts clinics and rodeos and a variety of equine events. The farm has a cottage, cabin and bunkhouse ranch accommodations that are handy when they host large events at the arena or for many riders on the trails.
   Program narrator Winston Neal explained to the group that rodeo events all evolved from the day to day activities on a ranch. Whether moving a herd to a rail line or doctoring the cow out on the range, the cowboy and his horse had to be handy and versatile.  Calf roping, team roping, sorting, and cutting were the fours areas demonstrated by local cowboys John and Austin Gordon, Clay Chapman, Link Mitchem, and Rob Singleton. Bob Perkerson and Georgia State Cowboy Poet Jerry Warren entertained as well with cowboy poetry and storytelling between the demonstrations.
   Neal began by telling the development of the quarter horse with its thoroughbred background and bloodlines of native horses shown to have the talents needed for working cows.  The American Quarter Horse Association began in 1940 and today encompasses horses known for their racing speed at the short quarter mile distance, as well as roping, cutting, and pleasure riding.
   The cowboy we think of today as the American cowboy evolved from the western vaqueros who taught men who migrated west to work on ranches after the Civil War. At that time thousands of feral cattle called mavericks roamed the US.  Worth $4 a head at the ranch, they became worth $40 a head if brought to the rail line in Kansas-so the cattle drives began. The cattle drive era lasted only about twenty years, Neal said, as train travel expanded throughout the U.S. and connected the larger towns.
   Neal pointed out the cowboys’ working clothes such as chaps and a hat and explained how useful chaps were for riding through the brush and a hat for feeding or watering your horse, but in the early years cowboys were as likely to wear a toboggan or sailor’s hat-it was all in what was available. Trivia about Charles Goodnight for whom the chuck wagon was named, Lonesome Dove, the Chisholm Trail and more were sprinkled through the program.
   John and Austin Gordon roped several calves to demonstrate calf roping and it was easy for the crowd to see how this afforded the ranch hand the opportunity to doctor or brand a calf. After dismounting to run down the rope and tie up the calf, the cowboy leaves his horse alone to hold the rope taunt. The need for a good horse cannot be overstated. Team ropers Clay Chapman and Link Mitchem showed how the header roped the horns and the healer caught the back feet to stretch out the larger steer or cow in order to be doctored.
   Moving the cows around the arena and sorting through them showed how a good horse makes the job easy. Cows gravitate toward a herd so the next competition that evolved was cutting. Rob Singleton worked several heifers showing the horse’s cattle sense and quick footed “dance” as his stallion kept the singled out cow from going back to the herd.
   Bob Perkerson who has a deep appreciation for cowboy poetry introduced special guest Jerry Warren who founded the Georgia Cowboy Poets Association and who was named the official Cowboy Poet of Georgia by the legislature. Warren delighted the audience with humorous poems filled with cowboy wit and sayings.
   The historical society program ended with a superb chuck wagon meal prepared by Eddie and Melanie Paul featuring barbecued briskets, homemade potato salad, cowboy beans made with seven different types of beans seasoned by ground beef, bacon, peppers and inions-all served alongside biscuits and finished with peach cobbler.  The meal was served from large and heavy cast iron cookware and eaten from old fashioned blue tin enamelware plates. Red and white checkered linens decorated the many wooden picnic tables at the arena. Those dining were charmed by the authenticity of the setting and accoutrements plus they enjoyed the delicious meal.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Boston Tea Party-Twas a Taxing Event

The Meriwether Historical Society’s entry into the July 4th Sweet Land of Liberty Parade in LaGrange brought home a third place ribbon. “The Original Tea Party: ’Twas a Taxing Event” featured young patriots masquerading as Mohawk Indians to dump King George’s tea into Boston Harbour in 1773.  Greenville Patriots were Jagger Stephens, Hannah, Rebecca, Bethany, and Caleb Emberton, and Evie Sinotte.

With a little engineering, Sally and Winston Neal turned the backyard canoe-with-hole-in-the-bottom into a British frigate. Toots Hobson called in ideas for the slogan, costumes, and special effects and, voila, we had a winner!

Many thanks to April Emberton and Renee Jagger for pulling together last minute outfits for the young patriots/Mohawks.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Historical Society visits the Taylor's Mark Hall

The Meriwether Historical Society met on Sunday, April 22, 2012 at Mark Hall, the country home of John and Susan Taylor. The Taylors welcomed the club to the historic raised cottage structure that was the ancestral home built by Dr. James Stinson for his daughter.  Henry Crowder bought the house and moved it to its Hunter’s Crossroads location. Many members in the club remembered the various owners who had enjoyed the beautiful grounds and home, and told the Taylors stories of visiting, overnight holidays, and games and pastimes played there. 
   Sarah Sibley Ogletree, one of the early members of the society and owner of Mark Hall was a prominent member of the historical group and many remembered meetings and visits at the home during the 1970s and 1980s.
   Several years ago the Taylors purchased Mark Hall from Rick Bradshaw who did extensive renovation in the 1990s.  Many of the rooms reflect the work done then with the exception of the lower story or ground level floor of the plantation home where John Taylor has ensconced his wine.
   The wine cellar or Taylor’s “man cave” was architecturally breathtaking with clever attention to detail that highlighted the hand hewn beams, exposed brick made there on the plantation, plastered walls and original features of the farm office but left room for the proper storage of wine, Taylor’s hunting and fishing memorabilia, photography and artwork, and a comfy place for friends to gather.
   Taylor was asked, “In the event of fire, which bottle would you grab first to rescue?” Without hesitation Taylor whipped an ’84 Bordeaux from its nook and said he was waiting for the right occasion to pop the cork.
   The Taylors entertained the club members with a delicious variety of wines from his cellar plus refreshments, all while they enjoyed viewing the rooms and gardens.  Taylor encouraged guests to wander to the estate cemetery where Crowders and Clements were buried.
   Club members reminisced with the Taylors and told Meriwether tales under the green canopy of hardwood trees gracing the backyard.  A delightful breeze kept the afternoon cool while a short business meeting was held.  The MHS headquarters needs a new roof and three bids have been taken to do the work.  Locally Nash Roofing has a supplier making the pressed tin shingles that duplicate the older shingles.  Toots Hobson was named committee chair to head up finding a purposeful use or resale of the old shingles removed from the building-its only roof for 140 years!
   Mike Shaddix spoke about becoming a member of Georgia’s state parks and historical sites and by being a supporter of the parks, admission to all was free. By purchasing through the Little White House, a bit more money came its way.
   President Sallie Mabon presented a gift basket for the Taylors which included the book An Historical Account of Meriwether County and historical society stationery.  

Monday, March 26, 2012

"Rare" "Unique" Historical Book Surfaces at Methodist Church

The Methodist Church in Greenville learned last week of an historical book that the church made in 1861.  The ladies of Greenville Methodist Church formed a Georgia Relief Society to aid in the war effort.  The ladies formed the organization, chose as President Mrs. E. A. Harris, two vice presidents and Mrs. Park, secretary.  It is Mrs. Park’s beautiful floral script that records throughout the handmade book.
   The book itself is in remarkable shape.  The thick quality paper is yellowed but not in damaged or brittle shape. The ink is the bronzed brown color of an aged handwritten document.  The middle section of the book is blank as the secretary recorded minutes of each meeting, bereavement notices and thoughts of each local soldier killed or wounded in the war, and a list of what each of the ladies brought to that meeting to be donated to the soldiers away at war at the front of the book and at the end the book contains a simpler list of the dated and itemized donations.
   When told about the book and its price tag, members of the historical society researched how to go about making sure of its authenticity. Comparing the names to the church rolls and the 1860 census was the method suggested by Kay Minchew from the museum in LaGrange and she also suggested verifying with signatures from deeds, letters, and family Bibles; however, as one secretary inscribed all the information that method was unnecessary.  Also numerous local folk with an interest in genealogy and history appeared and recognized family names immediately.
   Charles Roth, Marietta antiques dealer, purchased the book at a private estate sale between Newnan and Atlanta.  His specialty is rare books and the Civil War period specifically. Inside the cover of the book the name “Mrs. Albert Herring, Greenville, GA” is inscribed and done at an obvious later period.  Roth said he always contacts people connected to the originator of an item to see if they want that item first. If the present day church does not make the purchase he will exhibit the book at shows and probably it will be sold at auction in New York later this year.
   Roth said he did not know the full extent of the book’s worth, but he knew it is rare with few of this type known to exist-especially in Georgia.
   The ladies’ society began July 15th, 1861 and set up a constitution and by laws, elected officers, and listed its members. Some well known names from the area are Martin, Harris, McClendon, Hall, Blaylock, Westbrook, Lovejoy, Garrison, Williams, Robertson, Banning, Peevy, Render, Freeman, Callaway, Ector, Mala, Park, and Lee.
   The lists of items donated are fairly repetitious: shirts, drawers, and dollar amounts.  One can only imagine the ladies going home after such society meetings inspired to do more for the war effort and their loved ones and so they stitched long into the night making shirts and flannel drawers.
   Of local interest to church secretary Sally Estes and Sally Neal were those recordings of their ancestors Sallie Render, grandmother of Mary Ellen Hill and the late Render and Pinson Hill, who donated numerous shirts.  Mrs. Abner Callaway, who was the mother of Fuller E. Callaway, regularly donated handmade items of clothing. 
   While Mr. Roth was in Greenville with the book, numerous people came in to examine the piece.  There was a remarkable energy and noticeable excitement as each person found and touched their ancestor’s name and noted their church donations.
   All agreed that ideally the book should be purchased, copies made of it to protect the original, and it should be placed in the local archives so that scholars can have access to it.
   For more information, contact Sally Estes at the Methodist Church or Sally Neal at the Meriwether Historical Society.