Friday, November 18, 2016

Pickett Cemetery, Yazoo County, Mississippi

Since I'm off this week, I had planned on doing some graving. I went to Haley Cemetery in Madison County Monday, and felt like getting out again yesterday. Since I had been to Madison County, I thought I'd check Find-A-Grave for cemeteries in Yazoo County. I found one that had a map and a list of people interred there, but no pictures. I settled on Pickett Cemetery

The GPS coordinates have it just outside of Benton. I've been to Benton a time or two and always enjoy just driving through that little small town.

There are different ways to get to Benton from Jackson. I chose taking I-55 to Canton, mainly to stop at McDonald's in Canton for a small Coke and two sausage and biscuits. I could have just gotten off on the second Canton exit, and coming back I just got onto I-55 from off of Highway 16. From Canton, I think it's about a 20 minute drive to Benton on Highway 16. When I got to Benson, I took the first exit. You can go up further and cut back on 433, I believe it is, or maybe Old Highway 16. Anyway, you come to a 3 way stop. I turned left at the stop sign and drove the block to Berry's Quick Stop.

I wanted to ask the folks who work there if they're familiar with Pickett Cemetery and if they know if it's on private property or not. Well, neither of the people working there knew anything about it. A gentleman there pulled up the route to Pickett Cemetery and could tell it was just right up the road. Basically, the response was to go for it. I thanked him for his time, and headed out. After looking a Berry's on Yelp a few minutes ago, it appears I messed up by not stopping back by after graving for a hamburger. It sounds like they cook a great one. I'll check it out next time.

According to the GPS coordinates, the cemetery should be right up the road where Highways 433 and 432 split. It's supposed to be right off of 432. As soon as I got on 432, I started looking to my right to see if I could see any signs of the cemetery or a possible way to get to it. At .3 mile, I pulled up by a clearing with what looks like a wide path that was also wide enough to drive on. This is not a great picture, but hopefully you can see how the path goes back into the woods.

The night before I had created a way point for the cemetery, so I turned my Garmin on and as soon as the satellites were acquired, I pulled up the way point and pushed "Go". Then I changed to the compass function on the Garmin. It said something like 232 feet, and in the direction of the clearing. I put on my boots and my snake guards, grabbed the stuff I knew I'd need, and headed off in the direction of the cemetery.

It only took a few minutes of walking. As soon as I got close to the end of the path, I spotted a lone headstone. Looking off in the distance, I could see several more.

When I looked at the lone headstone, I could tell it wasn't on the list I had of those interred there. I got a quick picture and walked to the next group of headstones. There I found several folks I was looking for. Their last name was either Schaffer or Schaffers. They were lined up horizontally. None of them needed to be cleaned. They were in good shape, but then they weren't that old either. After getting those pictures, I moved to another row 20 or 30 feet away. The Schaffer(s) were on my list, but none of that group were. I went ahead and got pictures. While taking pictures, I noticed off in the distance a another headstone. There were all over out here. As I was taking pictures, I got to one headstone that was going to have be cleaned in order to get a decent picture. I had a gallon of water and a scrub brush in my trunk. It was short walk back to the car, so I went for it.

I decided to go ahead and get the pictures I could, then I'd clean the ones which needed it and photograph them last. I'm not great on distances, but I'll say the other headstone was about 30 or 40 feet away. When I walked to that headstone, I could see 3 others. Several limbs had fallen and just missed one of the memorials. You can see the limb in the bottom right corner.

Two of the three headstones were for members of the Schaffer family. One was just a blank slab. It was perfectly smooth. There were just no engravings in it yet. I think that was a first for me.

I cleaned up the stones that needed it as well as I could. I was at least able to see the names and dates, except for one. It looks like the name and dates were engraved, and then painted white. I could make out the person's name, but not the dates. I got what I could.

Not seeing anymore headstones, I gathered my stuff up and headed back to the car. It was another beautiful day, and I think if I had brought a rake, I might have spent some time looking for more headstones, possibly some buried under limbs and leaves.

Last night I started looking into some of the names there and from looking at census records and other records, I realized that this Pickett Cemetery is a Black cemetery. That might explain why the folks at Berry's had never heard of it. I'm not sure where the name came from. I didn't see the first Pickett grave. After going back on Find-A-Grave, I noticed there is another Pickett Cemetery not far up the road headed back to Canton. As it turns out, there are several Picketts buried there.

Well, it was a perfect day to get out of the house and into the woods. I still have another day or so before I have to go back to work, so I'll have to find another cemetery to look for. Graving is addicting!

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Haley Cemetery, Madison County, Mississippi

For what seemed like months, I found myself in something of a funk. My two favorite hobbies are graving and taking pictures. For that time I didn't do either. The first time in some time, I got out and went looking for a cemetery a fellow graver and genealogy pro told me about. I found it, but I didn't take pictures like I used to. I didn't create a post for it here either. After some back and forth with my friend in Facebook, I decided to look for another cemetery he mentioned called Haley Cemetery. There was a map generated for it in Find-A-Grave, but there was no gate shot, nor were any memorials created for those buried there. That sounded promising, and I told myself this time I'd do better about taking pictures and posting them.

Haley Cemetery is an old cemetery out close to the Ross Barnett Reservoir. The path to it actually runs underneath the Natchez Trace Parkway. You have to get to it from Old Rice Road. The cemetery is off of Pearl River Church Road. If you look at in Google maps, it appears to come off of Old Rice Road, and basically runs right up to the reservoir. However, I drove past the turn initially because I was looking for a sign for Pearl River Church Road, and didn't see it until I actually got to the end of Old Rice Road.

Turning around at this point, I started driving back the way I came. There is a Pearl River Methodist Church on this road, so I'm assuming currently that little stretch from North Old Canton Road to at least here is Pearl River Church Road. I kept going past the church and saw a turn to my left .5 mile from the church. It was an old road, and as I looked down the road I could see a barricade. I figured this had to be where I wanted to go. I drove down to the barricade and parked. Vehicles are not allowed beyond this point. As I found out, the old saying "Locks are to keep honest people out" is very true. This is where I parked.

I noticed the coolest old church on my left when I stopped and parked my car. It may be that I couldn't see it for looking, but I didn't see a sign for a name or denomination of the church. I did see a lot of no trespassing and keep out signs.

After I took a shot of the church, I walked around the barricade and followed the path. After walking for a few minutes, I came to a fork in the road. I took the left fork, but then as I looked to my right I saw a cemetery. I walked back to where the path goes straight and actually came across two black cemeteries. One was small and not well kept up, and a few yards past that was another black cemetery, and that one was very well maintained. Neither was Haley Cemetery, so I headed back on the path I had started on. I'm thinking this was the old Pearl River Church Road. As I walked I could see sections of asphalt and gravel. I felt like I was on the right track.

As I was walking along before I got to the Natchez Trace, I came upon a very nice gentleman leaving. He was obviously a bow hunter. He told me he got to the woods around 5:15 or 5:30 that morning. He saw a few small deer, but not big enough to shoot. We visited for a few minutes about the condition of the trails and the cemetery. He knew exactly where it was. He said that a lot of kids will cut the lock on the barricade and ride their four wheelers all over, and that they had left some serious ruts and pot holes behind. I believe he said they had also broken a headstone or two in the cemetery. As it turned out, I did find one broken into pieces. I'll save my rant for this sort of thing for another time. Anyway, he let me know that a ways up the path I'll come to a fork. I need to keep left.

When the hunter and I went our separate ways, I could see in the distance where the Natchez Trace went over the path. The gentleman has also mentioned a bunch of graffiti on the walls of the tunnel or bridge. He wasn't exaggerating. It looked like previous graffiti had been painted over.

As I walked along, I did come to the fork and kept left. I also came to a second barricade.

I have to say that the day was absolutely gorgeous. It was a little on the cool side. It was so pretty in the woods. Now I wish I had brought a light snack. It would have been a perfect spot to sit and relax for a few minutes. One of the clues I was given by my friend is that the cemetery is up on a bluff, and a good bit above the trail. I was thinking it could be seen from the path I was on. I'm probably mistaken. I kept walking looking up along the way, but never saw any signs. I started seeing something in the opening ahead, and realized that it was the reservoir. I walked until I got to the water. I have no clue why I decided not to take a picture from that spot. It was pretty cool to just walk around looking out over the reservoir though.

Well, obviously I had gone too far. I started walking back and checking the GPS coordinates as I walked. I got to a point where I was pretty close, but I couldn't see anything. I spotted a hill that gradually inclined. I thought maybe I could get a better vantage point from there. When I got to the top of the hill, I found myself on another trail. I kept walking on that trail away from the reservoir, and I couldn't have gone far at all when I looked up to my left, and this is what I saw.

All I had to do is look at the first tall monument to confirm this was indeed Haley Cemetery.

One the problems with remote cemeteries like this is that if you need water for cleaning, you've got to carry it there. I didn't know how far I was going to have to walk, so I didn't carry any with me. I also didn't think to grab the roll of aluminum foil out of the trunk to try and get inscriptions off of the monuments. I regret that now because there were parts of the biggest monument I just couldn't make out. I did the best I could to get the pictures I took. I didn't dig around or probe the ground for more headstones. According to an old survey by Pat Wellington, I think all of the headstones were accounted for. There were several names on the different sides of the large monuments. Unfortunately, I missed a side of the monument with Burruss. I guess I'll be going back at some point in the future. One thing I thought was curious is that out of the headstones I took pictures of, only three actually had dates of birth and/or death. There were only names.

It was so nice here with the peace and solitude, and the temperature was perfect. After getting the pictures it was time to head home. I decided to stay on the trail I was currently on. After walking it for a bit, I could see I was getting closer to the reservoir and farther from the path I was on going to the cemetery. I cut back through the woods toward the path, and ended up on a narrow trail that appears to have been walked in the past. I followed it until I started hearing traffic from the Natchez Trace. When I started seeing cars, I walked up a short hill on the trail, and I was looking down at the spot where the path goes under the Natchez Trace. From there it was just a short walk back to the car. Before I left the cemetery, I cleared the track on my Garmin. When I got to my car, I saved it for future reference. According to my Garmin, the cemetery was 1.1 miles from where I parked. Not only was it a beautiful day, but I got some good exercise as well.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Richmond Terrell Skipworth Family Cemetery, Hinds County, Mississippi

This morning I was waffling around trying to decide if it was too wet to get out. I've got rain boots in my trunk and a pair of water resistant hiking boots for stomping around the woods and such. It was such a gorgeous morning, I decided it was worth making a road trip. Again, it was back down to southern Hinds County. The cemetery I went to find is the Richmond Terrell Skipworth Family Cemetery. According to directions provided by Mary Collins Landin on the cemetery page in Find-A-Grave, it should be at the end of Bolton Road which runs off of Highway 27 between Utica and Crystal Springs. There's another cemetery down that way that is supposed to be on Brock Road off of Highway 27, but that's for another day.

The cemetery is supposed to be on the side of the old Bolton home which is at the end of Bolton Road. Finding Bolton Road was no problem. The maps and sign actually said P Bolton Road. I'm not sure what the P stands for. I drove to the end of the short road. I came to a home off from the end of the road behind a gated part of the front of the property. The gate across the driveway wasn't closed, but as soon as I stopped and looked around, three dogs started barking pretty close to the house, and I saw a couple of signs that concerned me. One says "Posted", and the other says "Insured by Smith and Wesson."

The fact that it also says "Bolton Country" makes me feel like I was in the right area. Facing the driveway, there was an old abandoned home to my right. I guess that could be the old Bolton home, but I'm not sure. I was hoping somebody would come outside when the dogs started barking, and I could ask them. That didn't happen. I decided to do what I've done in the past. I tore off part of the piece of paper that had the list of folks buried in the cemetery and wrote a note to the landowner(s) and put it in the closest mailbox. I also checked on to see if a Bolton lived down that way. Come to find out, a Mr. Kevin D. Bolton is supposed to live at 1520 Bolton Road. That was the address on the mailbox I put the note into. I think I'm going to wait another hour or so and give the number a call. I feel like they've probably checked their mail but just to give them plenty of time I'll wait.

Hopefully with a phone call or a note in the mailbox we'll be in touch, and I'll get permission to photograph the cemetery. I'll have to just wait and see.


Last night was a wonderful one. I decided to call the phone number again. I didn't get an answer and decided not to leave a message. About five minutes later I get a call from someone at the number who had just gotten a call from my number. I told him who I was and asked he was Mr. Bolton. It wasn't. It was his son. He was very nice and asked if I'd like the phone number for his dad. I told him I'd appreciate it if he didn't mind. After getting Mr. Bolton's number I called him. He was very pleasant and very helpful. He had gotten my note, and had just discussed it with his aunt, who also lives at the end of P Bolton Road. She doesn't mind, but would like to tidy up the little cemetery first. I told Mr. Bolton I certainly understood, and that was perfectly fine. I tried to make sure he knew he's doing me a favor and as long as it all proceeds at his and his aunt's convenience, I'm happy.

We had a nice conversation. I asked him about the old Bolton home. He said it's not around anymore. He said a Bolton has been on that property for ages. I told him I noticed the sign out front that says, "Bolton Country Est. 1875", I believe it is. He also mentioned there's a Magnolia tree where the driveway splits that's 105 years old. I love that sort of thing! Anyway, as soon as he gets a chance, he'll get the little cemetery cleaned up and give me a call. I'm pumped. I read what Mary Collins Landin had to say about the cemetery though and was a little disappointed. There are supposed to be six people buried, but only one headstone. However, from the dates in her book, it may be the headstone I'm looking for, that of Richmond Terrell Skipworth. Even if it's not, it was a treat visiting with Mr. Bolton, and I look forward to meeting him in person.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Update - Daniel Yates Family Cemetery - Hinds County, Mississippi

When I went to Daniel Yates a couple of weeks ago, I mainly just wanted to find it. I really wasn't prepared. I didn't take water and my brush. I didn't take any kind of tool to cut back the vegetation, specifically briars and such. Last weekend it was too soggy to go back. It didn't actually rain Saturday, but it was still wet from Thursday and Friday. This morning I went back.

The weather was gorgeous. I stopped by Larry Lee's house when I got down there to make sure it was okay and to let him know I was back there. I decided it might not be a bad idea for someone to know where I was rather than just down around Utica. I got all my stuff together. I took my black five gallon bucket, my brush, a small folding saw that fits in my pocket, the hedge trimmers I bought this morning at Lowe's, and two gallons of water. One gallon of water will fit in the bucket with the other stuff, but I have to carry one gallon. I hopped the barbed wire fence where I did last time, and walked the field to the other barbed wire fence. I took a left at the fence, but I found out that where there was a big opening to walk through, brand new barbed wire covered the opening. So, I had a second fence to climb. Lovely. After I made it over the second fence unscathed and headed off to the cemetery.

There were several headstones that were in pretty good shape, but I had to cut down the briars and small saplings in order to get to them to clean and get pictures. There were three requests for the cemetery; Mary Yates, Daniel Yates, and James C. Lee. All three were born in the late 1700's. Mary was no problem, but it probably took thirty minutes or so to clear off the brush enough to get to James C. Lee's headstone. I'm afraid though that fresh water and a soft brush really didn't do much good.

I have to say though that after that much time in the elements, I think they still look pretty good. The hardest part to make out is the small inscription at the bottom of the headstone. Last week I was successful using aluminum foil and the brush to bring out the words. I hate to admit it, but I'm afraid my heart wasn't in it like it normally is. There's so much to do around the house, like cutting the yard, I got the best shots I could get of Mary Yates and James C. Lee's headstone plus several around the area and decided to call it a day.

After making it back to the car and getting ready to leave, I wondered if I'll be back. Sometimes I wonder about what I perceive as my responsibility. That may seem odd, but since I know where the cemetery is now, and I know what condition it's in, do I feel responsible for getting it completely cleaned up and all stones photographed, or do I leave it to a member of the families buried there who may or may not live in the area? I don't know. There are so many cemeteries that need work and need "rediscovering". I'll look for others and see what I feel called to do down the road.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Daniel Yates Family Cemetery, Hinds County, Mississippi

This is one of the cemeteries on Find-A-Grave that is also in Mary Collins Landin's book. I looked for it once before and even asked a couple of folks who were out and about if they were familiar with it. I didn't have any luck. Finding the William Davis Family Cemetery, I've been encouraged to try again.

One thing that dawned on me this morning is that Ernie Martin Road runs from Highway 27 outside of Utica to Adams Station Road. When I looked last time, I didn't think to cross over Tom Collins Road and look on the other end of Ernie Martin Road. I told myself I was going to concentrate my search there.

What stuck in my mind is something I read on the Hinds County GenWeb page about this cemetery. Mary Landin said that back in 1978 it couldn't be seen from the road, but in 2005 with more grazing, it's starting to become visible again. I'm paraphrasing.

I drove slowly starting at Tom Collins Road. I was really hoping to catch a glimpse of it. I even brought my binoculars, hoping they would help. I still felt like I was looking for a needle in a haystack. Before I knew it, I was at Adam Station Road. Obviously I had driven by it. So, I made a u-turn and headed back the other direction. As I was driving along, I saw a black man sitting in his pickup at a house with his truck door open. I decided to ask him if he was familiar with the cemetery. His name is Larry Lee. As a matter fact, he knows exactly where it is. He used to walk by it when he went hunting. He was nice enough to walk with my up the street to show me where to hop the barbed wire fence. He said it was no problem.

People like Larry are invaluable. He's been in the area for some years and is familiar with the landscape. He's also just a very nice fellow.

I drove my car to where he said I could park. I put on my boots and snake guards, got my camera and pad with a list of names, and proceeded to climb over the fence. Fortunately, I didn't do any damage to myself. He said to go to the right to a thicket. I walked all around several what I would consider thickets and didn't see the first sign of a headstone. As I was about to head back and ask Larry how I missed it, he's slowly driving down Ernie Martin Road and spots me. He hollers out and asked me if I found it. I told him I hadn't seen the first sign of the cemetery. Well, as he pointed out, I hadn't walked far enough. I had misunderstood his directions. There's another fence I had to go over or around. When I was looking around earlier, I saw a spot where the fence ended, so I headed for that spot. He had pointed to an area on the other side of that fence, so I walked further away from where I parked, and toward Ernie Martin Road. After walking 20 or 30 feet, I saw a headstone. That was it!

The headstone I spotted is actually to the left of these headstones. Unfortunately, I could only read the name and both dates on a couple of the headstones. They really need to be cleaned. I was able to get enough water from a nearby puddle to clean up the names and dates on the first headstone, that of Daniel T. Yates, Jr.

Since I really had no clue where the cemetery was when I parked, I didn't want to haul around a bucket, brush, and a couple of empty containers hoping I'd find a source of water. I wish I had now. Anyway, the stones look like they're in good shape other than needing cleaning. When I go back, I'll make sure I have the supplies I need, including a small saw and some loppers.

This is the second old and small family cemetery I've been able to find with some very valuable help. It made my day! I'm normally at work on Monday, but I had asked for the day off to go to another cemetery. That plan was changed and it wasn't necessary for me to be there. What a day!

Monday, March 7, 2016

William Davis Cemetery, Hinds County, Mississippi

A year or so ago, I found the William Davis Cemetery in Hinds County on Find-A-Grave, and thought it would be a great one to try and find. It's located around Learned, Mississippi which is down Highway 18 between Raymond and Utica. I looked at the description on Find-A-Grave, but it wasn't very helpful, so I Googled it and found a reference to the cemetery behind an African American church. I went there and looked around. I couldn't find anyone to ask that day, so I came on back home.

At some point after I got back home, I decided to email Mary Collins Landin and see if she could give me any clues. If you're not familiar with Ms. Landin, she wrote a wonderful book The Old Cemeteries of Hinds County, Mississippi: From 1811 to the Present. I don't know if you can still get a copy. I ordered my copy from Pioneer Press, but Amazon is out of stock. Years ago, she went all over Hinds County surveying the old cemeteries, at times with her children. In her book, she usually has a little blurb about the cemetery's history and/or it's condition at the present time (1978, I believe).

I don't recall if she responded or not, honestly, but about two weeks ago, I received an email from her saying she was cleaning out her inbox, and came across my message asking about the William Davis Cemetery, and was wondering if I had found it. I replied and told her I haven't. When she replied to my message, she gave me a clue. The cemetery is not behind an African American church. It's actually on the property of Mrs. Rosa Pittman, who lived on Holliday Road. She said it's also know as the Holliday Cemetery. I found Mrs. Pittman's address but not a phone number. So, I typed a letter to send her asking if I could come down on March 5th and take pictures. Unfortunately, I never got it in the mail. This past Saturday, I decided to go ahead and drive down there anyway to the address and see what I could find out.

Ordinaily, I don't go driving up to someone's house at 9:00 on a Saturday morning, but I told myself this time I was. I got to Holliday Road, found the address, and pulled into the driveway. A young lady was standing there close to the house. I introduced myself and told her why I was there. She was very sweet, and told me where the cemetery was, but she wasn't Mrs. Pittman. She's engaged to Mrs. Pittman's grandson. There is a gate that blocked the road and it was locked. I asked if it would be okay to walk around it back to the cemetery. She said that was fine. Well, about that time, a two fellows pull up in a pickup. The gentleman driving was her fiancee and Mrs. Pittman's grandson. No sooner had I explained why I was there and what my name was, he unlocked the gate, told me where the cemetery was, and said to take all the pictures I wanted. They could not have been nicer.

There is a reason for that story. Several events that might seem random to others were meant to be for me. I had completely forgotten about even trying to find the William Davis Cemetery until I received an email from Ms. Landin. If I had shown up there an hour or so later, I would have found everything locked up and no one home. I believe it was time for the cemetery to be found again. Actually a descendant of someone buried there did show up about ten years ago, cleaned the cemetery up, and put a fence around it, but apparently hasn't been back since then. The picture below shows how it looks from where the entrance is.

Once I went through the entrance, you could get a better look at the place.

The ground is covered with periwinkle. I was told it looked a little "snakey", so I wore my snake guards.

Several of hte headstones were visible and in good shape. I ended taking pictures of nine. Several needed a little cleaning. I didn't have any distilled water with me, but I did have several empty jugs and a pond full of water within easy walking distance.

The weather could not have been more perfect and it was so peaceful. I hope to go back down there again, and Mr. Pittman said that was fine. He gave me his cell number and said to just give him a call. The wonderful experience there was just another reason why I enjoy doing what I do.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Camden Cemetery, Madison County, Mississippi

It's been awhile since I've been graving. I stopped getting out during the holidays, mainly because it's deer season, among other things. I don't think I look like a deer, but maybe at a distance with no hunter orange clothing...

Anyway, I looked on Find-A-Grave at cemeteries in Madison County. Camden Cemetery had six requests. It's not far from Canton, and I've never been there before. So, I filled up at Kroger, for .88 a gallon with discount, drove to Canton, hit the McDonald's for a couple of sausage and biscuits and a small Coke. For me, that's standard out of town graving fare. One is for the trip there, and one is after all that hard work walking the cemetery.

It only takes about an hour from my house to get there. It's an easy trip up Highway 51 and on Loring Road. You pass by Velma Jackson High School, and it's on your left right before you get to Highway 17. The cemetery is not marked. I assumed that was the right one considering where I was, and as it turned out, it was the correct one. It's a pretty little fenced in cemetery up on a hill. It's well kept and easy to walk.

One of the headstones I was looking for was for Lillian Magruder. There were a bunch of Magruders up toward the front, but the first pass through, I didn't see it. I saw one that I couldn't make out, but I had others to find, so I moved on. It was only when I was ready to leave that I saw it. It was the one I couldn't make out. With the rising of the sun though, it illuminated it nicely. The problem is and was that it's so degraded, it's very difficult to make out.

I had a brush and a gallon of distilled water in my car, but I was really reluctant to do any scrubbing on it for fear of making it worse. If the stone was erected when she died, I guess 128 years of weather can do that to a headstone. When I posted it on Find-A-Grave, I added a caption. Based on the birth month and year and the death month and year, plus what I could make out of her name, I believe that's her. It's sad to see those in that bad shape, but maybe at least with what picture I posted, the image is frozen in time

I managed to find five of the six requests and it was time to head out. But, since I've never seen Camden, I thought I'd check it out. The coolest thing is there is the post office.

Best I could tell, that was pretty much it. There are a couple of abandoned buildings, but I have no clue what old businesses used them.

Now it was time to head home. On the way to the cemetery, I passed a piece of an old bridge right off of Highway 51 by the Duncan Gray Center. I made myself a note to stop and check it out. I think it's very cool.

That's about it for what I saw and did today. It was gorgeous morning and just a bit on the brisk side. IMO, it was perfect graving weather. I always prefer that to breaking out in a sweat as soon as I get out of my car. I don't miss the heat and humidity. It'll get here soon enough.