First sheriff receives new headstone

Published 10:50 pm Wednesday, July 9, 2008

A local cemetery preservation group has placed a new headstone on the grave of Chilton County’s first sheriff, Thomas H. Williams.

When Williams was first commissioned as sheriff in 1869, the county was known as Baker County. Williams had previously served in the 44th Alabama Infantry during the Civil War, as a second lieutenant.

Assisting with the placement of the headstone was Williams’ own great-great grandson, Jason Williams, who now resides in Georgia.

“I think Chilton County is fortunate to have an organization that will protect these old cemeteries and help families look after them,” he said. “It’s just remembering those folks who were there before we were, and preserving their final resting spots.”

Like the vast majority of graves in the Williams Goodgame Cemetery, located in the Jumbo community of northeastern Chilton County, Williams’ grave had deteriorated from both time and vandalism.

Of the 14 original headstones in the cemetery, only one was left intact, leaving only scattered pieces that are impossible to identify just by looking at them. The wrought iron fence that once surrounded the cemetery is now half gone, and the existing portion of the fence is damaged.

The Chilton Cemetery Association compiled and submitted the necessary information to the veterans department and obtained the new headstone for Sheriff Williams. The CCS also obtained a VA headstone for John C. Goodgame, Williams’ father-in-law who served in the Late Creek War of 1836.

“Unfortunately there are 11 burials in this cemetery where a VA stone is not a replacement option,” said Katherine Reece, secretary/treasurer for the association. “The wives of Sheriff Williams and John Goodgame are now without headstones, as are the graves of Sheriff Williams’ children.”

The Association thanks Jason Williams and his friend Carl Neely for assistance in placing the stone, as well as Troy Cleckler of Chilton Memorial Gardens who agreed to have the veterans’ headstones shipped to and unloaded at his cemetery at no charge.

Ricky Mims, vice president of CCA, hopes to get the Sheriff’s Department involved in a dedication ceremony in the near future.

“I wish more families in Chilton County and elsewhere would be able to get involved with this,” he added.