Much work remains on historic cemetery

Published 1:12 pm Friday, May 14, 2010

Between 20 and 25 volunteers turned out last Saturday to clean up the historic Williams-Goodgame Cemetery, the burial site of Chilton County’s first sheriff and several other graves that have been heavily vandalized.

While much was accomplished, however, much work remains to be done. And the cost of replacing all the damaged property will be high.

“Our main goal was to get the road frontage cleared out so the cemetery would be visible from the road,” said Kat Reece of the Chilton Cemetery Association. “That was really all we were focusing on that day.”

Because the site, located on Chilton County Road 61 in the Jumbo community, has been vandalized repeatedly, Reece didn’t want to take any new headstones into the cemetery until the brush was cleared. Her fear was that if vandals had a place to hide, they might strike again.

In past incidents, the headstones of nearly every grave were busted up into fist-size pieces and smaller fragments. The CCA has raised enough funds to replace 11 of 12 headstones that need replacing.

“It takes a lot of money to do this kind of work,” Reece said. “In this cemetery, we are having to replace 12 headstones out of pocket.”

The Williams family has elected to use CCA’s $50 headstone program, which provides 16-by-18-inch, 4-inch-deep granite headstones with space for several lines of text. The Ellison family, which has only one ancestor buried there, Joseph Ellison, has chosen to purchase a standard size stone.

All the graves originally had horizontal slabs except for four, including the grave of an unknown girl. Family members helped volunteers locate the sites of the four graves. The new slabs will cost about $150 total.

“If something happens again, at least the location of the graves won’t get lost,” Reece said.

Three veterans are buried in Williams-Goodgame. These are Thomas Williams, the first sheriff of Chilton County (then Baker County), who was a second lieutenant in the Confederacy; John Goodgame, who fought in the Creek War of 1836; and Edward Willis, who served in the 39th Alabama Infantry, Company F.

A veteran’s headstone has been placed for Williams, and Martin Memorials plans to donate a new headstone identifying him as the first sheriff, Reece said. A veteran’s stone will be placed for Goodgame, and the original headstone for Willis is still intact.

Clint Seales of Boy Scout Troop 259, based in Clanton, has adopted the cemetery as his Eagle Scout project. He is working to obtain a historical marker for the site.

But there are still other needs, Reece said. Because there is such a big black market for ironwork, a large portion of the iron gate that once surrounded the cemetery has been stolen.

“We need the help of the community on this one because it’s such a damaged cemetery,” Reece said.

Those who wish to donate may mail a check to the Chilton Cemetery Association, P.O. Box 2523, Clanton, AL 35046. There is also a PayPal link on the official website,

For more information, contact Reece at (205) 294-2197.