Historic cemetery found, dedicated

Published 11:12 pm Monday, April 27, 2009

MAPLESVILLE — Joel Atchison had a worry that if he didn’t find his long-lost family cemetery soon that it would never be found. The trees on the limber land where the cemetery was located, somewhere, were getting to the right size to harvest again. He and his brother Donald Atchison spent their weekends searching, and when not in the woods Joel stared at topographical maps scanning the area where his ancestor, James Atchison had his land grant. Finally they found some of the headstones and knew they had located the cemetery.

But that was just the beginning of their work. Joel and Donald had to contact the timber company and get permission to work in the cemetery. Then they had to clear out the trees and vegetation that had grown over the graves. Headstones had to be lifted off the ground, cleaned and reset. Joel got some granite from a local counter company and began cutting head and foot stones from it to mark the 19 graves that were only identifiable by a depression in the ground, or the placement of old homemade bricks.

Joel diagramed the cemetery and collected all the necessary information to register it as a historic cemetery with the Alabama Historical Commission. The brothers then began to contact family members near and far for donations to put a fence around the cemetery and get a historical marker.

Saturday, April 18 was the culmination of their work when the Atchison brothers and their extended family gathered together at the cemetery for a dedication ceremony. Katherine and Jeff Reece of the Chilton Cemetery Association were invited to attend. Joel wrote a cemetery prayer for the dedication that used words not often heard today, honor and duty. He spoke of how his ancestors had come from South Carolina to the wilderness of Alabama seeking land so their family could spread out and take root and how those of us today who reap the rewards of their pioneering ways owe a debt to those who went before.

The historical marker was erected, as well as a plaque listing the family members who either worked in the cemetery or who had donated funds to the cemetery. Then, a few at a time, the Atchison family left the cemetery leaving their ancestors to continue their restful sleep knowing that they had done all the could to ensure the cemetery would not be lost again.