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.