Volunteers give local cemeteries some TLC

Published 9:06 pm Thursday, November 19, 2009

The resting place of Chilton County’s first sheriff is getting some much needed attention this weekend.

Williams Goodgame Cemetery, located in Jumbo, contains the grave of Thomas H. Williams (1837-1904). Williams was commissioned as sheriff of Baker County (later named Chilton) in 1869 and was also a 2nd lieutenant in the Civil War.

Unfortunately, vandals have destroyed the headstones of Williams and all others buried in the historic cemetery. Now, the Chilton Cemetery Association is enlisting volunteers to clean up the site.

“We know everyone who’s buried in the cemetery,” said Kat Reece, member of CCA. “There’s an obelisk that was not destroyed that had the names of all Williams family members buried in the cemetery except for one.”

The headstones were broken up into mostly fist-size pieces and scattered about the grounds. Fortunately, many of the graves had flat ledger stones marking the original burial sites. One that didn’t have a permanent stone, the grave of Joseph Ellison, was located again by descendant Dennie Ellison.

Volunteers have been asked to bring tools Saturday to help clear brush, pour new slabs and clean stones. Others are needed to man “jigsaw puzzle” tables to reassemble the broken headstones.

“We’re hoping that people raking will find more pieces of headstones,” Reece said. “Those who cannot do strenuous work can help put them together.”

The group will attempt to mortar some of the original headstones to the flat ledger stones. New slabs will be poured for the graves of Joseph Ellison, as well as two children’s graves.

Reece said the clearing of brush may help prevent future vandalism by making the cemetery more visible from County Road 61.

“Vandals can go up in the cemetery and be fairly hidden from the road,” she said.

A new headstone from the Veterans Department has already been placed for Sheriff Williams. Others will be placed in the future. A $50 donation will buy one new stone, Reece said.

For more information or directions, contact Reece at (205) 294-2197 or visit www.chiltoncemeteries.org.