Recently, I was blessed with the opportunity to visit my mother for five days. A typical visit includes making small (or sometimes large!) repairs around the house, little home improvement or organization projects, shopping, cooking, and lots of sitting and talking.
I usually glean several nuggets of genealogical information from the sitting and talking segments. Then, quite often, on the five-hour drive home, I lament that, once again, I missed an opportunity to do some REAL genealogical work at the courthouse.
Not on this return trip.
I drove all 300 miles without the radio and without talking on the phone. I believe I may have spent the entire drive replaying the last day over and over in my head, thankful that it played out the way it did.
The day I arrived, Mom mentioned that my cousin, Bill, had cleared the cemetery off. I suppose she remembered last September when my brother Steven and I couldn’t even find the entrance because the place was so overgrown.
“You can probably get in there now,” she said. “We could go on Sunday if you want. The weather should be good.”
I could hardly contain myself! Some REAL genealogical work!
Pine Ridge Cemetery, as it is called, appears on few maps—unless you count Google Earth, and then you have to know where to zoom to find it. There is another cemetery close by, Fletcher, which appears, but rarely Pine Ridge.
For over 100 years, it was the “colored” cemetery—the place where black people buried their dead. Since the black people in that area have been able to pretty much bury their dead wherever they please for the last 40 years or so, Pine Ridge has been largely forgotten.
Mom called her sister and asked if she’d like to go with us. She was game, so after loading my handy-dandy cemetery kit into the car, we were off.
It was so heart-warming to see those two senior citizens brushing leaves from around grave markers and scrubbing moss off tombstones to reveal names and birth and death dates.
It was even more valuable to hear them talking about the people whose stones they were working on, “Poor old Miss R. Her family didn’t have a plot so Mr. K. said it would be all right for them to bury her here in his plot because he had plenty of room . . .”
I furiously scribbled as much of their conversations as I could in the notes for each grave that I was recording while also trying to plot a schematic of the graveyard and take a clear picture of each marker or stone.
An hour and a half passed quickly; it was time to take my aunt home. After we dropped her off, and as we watched her make her way to her back door, I thanked mom for taking the time to help me and for all the work she did. I also casually mentioned how I wanted to document Pine Ridge and try to get it on the map.
“Well we can go back down there. There’s more graves in the lower section.”
“What? Wait, REALLY?!”
Again, barely able to contain myself!
We returned to Pine Ridge, mom grasping my right arm with her left hand for support as she picked her way with her four-pronged cane in her right hand down the cemetery path toward the old section.
We battled through high weeds to one plot, seemingly all by itself. Mom explained how many of the graves were unmarked and that there used to be a fence line which set the boundary of the cemetery property, but that it had been gone for years. The oldest graves were along that fence in that lowest section. Stones that may have been in that area at one time have long since sunk into the graves themselves. The “old cemetery”, as Mom called it, where her grandmother’s mother was buried was over that way, along where that fence would have been, in a snake-haven thicket you’d need hip waders, a chainsaw and a DR Mower to even think about approaching.
Nonetheless, I was able to record two more plots, Mom cleared and scrubbed while I scribbled furiously and took pictures.
We did see two other enormous stones in the aforementioned “old cemetery,” however, without the hip waders and at least the DR, there was no way to get to them.
“Next time, we’ll bring the cordless weed-eater. Then we can see who they are.”
My Mother: the 80 year old junior genealogist.
I love it.
And I can’t wait for my next visit.