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Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Cemetery Hunting

I'm deeply into genealogy and, with technology, more so than ever. I'm a descendant of these lines: Reese, Freeman, Lundsford, Conner, Ensley, Miller, Hickham, Lamb, Rickers, etc. on my Mother's side. They were all in the Greeneville County, TN and Madison County, NC area of the Western NC Mountains. Some in Buncombe County and Henderson County, NC too. My husband and I did those back earlier in the month. But my Grandparents left the mountains and came to Spartanburg, SC about the time I was born and my family have been here ever since. My Dad was a TVA (Tennessee Valley Authority) Hydraulics Engineer and so I was born in TN and we moved around there until he got a job in Spartanburg when I was 8 yrs old. We've lived in Sptbg ever since and I consider it my home town. All of my immediate family and Stan's immediate family are here.

Last week, we had a free day that was going to be sunny and fairly warm in the mountains so I asked Dad if he would go with me cemetery hunting. I wanted to get GPS coordinates for the places we found for my notes. Madison County has an active genealogy society that I was a member of for a couple of years. But they aren't as current on having GPS coordinates on their many small cemeteries so I wanted to find them and get the coordinates.

We made it to Mars Hill and found the Mars Hill Cemetery with no problems. I found the people in our family that were buried there, made photos and videos and got the GPS coordinates. Mom, Dad and Uncle Glenn had attended Mars Hill College getting their 2 yr degrees back then. It's where Mom and Dad met. They got married after graduation and Dad went on to get his 4 yr degree at NC State. So we got to see Mars Hill again. It's now a 4 yr college and they have expanded a good bit since the last time I was there. Then we started on Hwy 213 towards Marshall.

We stopped at the library in Marshall (the county seat) and they showed us the books of cemeteries in the area with directions. The only problem is that the directions assume you know the area such as "turn left behind the clinic in the Brush Creek area", er, where is the Brush Creek area and, by the way, there is no clinic there. Or "turn by the old Joe Bishop homeplace" or "turn right and go up Ivy Hill". So we kinda stayed lost but we did happen upon several of the ones we were looking for!!! I love doing this, it's kinda like a treasure hunt!!! I took us a picnic, it was a beautiful day and we got to wind around country roads. We easily found Bull Creek Baptist Church on Bull Creek Rd and Gabriel's Creek Baptist Church on Gabriel's Creek Rd. Easy, since it was the road name. I put the road into my GPS and then we would follow it until we found the cemetery. At Bull Creek we had stopped and were taking photos of the newer brick church and a small log cabin beside it. A gentleman came to do some work around the church. He offered to open up the little log cabin as it was the original church and they have turned it into a museum concerning the history of the church. I got to go inside and take photos and video! On one wall is a big board with all the pastors listed since their first service in July 1818. The first pastor was Rev. Moses Freeman (a direct ancestor of mine) and the third pastor, Rev William Reese (another direct ancestor of mine). Rev. Freeman ordained William Reese and Reese married one of Freeman's daughters. Rev. Billy Reese was pastor there for many years near the end of his life. It was quite a thrill for me to get to go into the little simple church.

We like to never found Grandview Missionary Baptist Church or Flint Hill Cemetery. The directions in the cemetery book at the library really weren't helpful and the librarian just told us to go through Marshall to the bridge and take a left off River Road. So we wandered around a good bit before finally making it to Flint Hill and then Grandview Rd was right there. We got lost because...what bridge was she talking about? Marshall is beside the French Broad River and there are many creeks and such that run into it. So there were several bridges to choose from. We thought it was the old bridge at Hayes Run Rd. Then we thought River Rd would be the one right by the river but it comes to a dead end. It gave us a chance to sit down at the picnic tables on the French Broad River and eat lunch before continuing. It was a nice respite. We finally went out far enough to find the bigger double bridge and we took PanHandle Rd to the left but, there just aren't many road signs there and nothing to indicate a church. We made it to Mt. Zion Freewill Baptist Church thinking it was Grandview or Flint Hill. But, disappointed, we went back and back across the bridge towards Marshall when I saw the road sign for Ivy something Rd so we hooked a right and went up that road and were able to piece it together to find Flint Hill and Grandview. What good finds. And all these cemeteries are on hill tops with gorgeous views! You felt like running through the tombstones and singing, "The hills are alive, with the sound of music"!

We tried to find Big Laurel next. We were looking for the Bishop Cemetery. There was no Big Laurel or Bishop cemetery in the library's cemetery books although the outside of the books listed it. That was confusing. So we assumed it would be on Big Laurel Rd. There was a church right as you turned onto Big Laurel Rd but it didn't look to have a cemetery so we continued following Big Laurel Rd. Boy, that was out in the boonies! We finally came up on what looked like an abandoned church near Big Laurel River and across the street, way up on a hilltop was a cemetery. Big Laurel or Bishop Cemetery? We parked and walked up the little cow path. That walk about killed me, it's so steep, but I was determined to make it. I told Dad, "If we get up here and it's some family cemetery that doesn't hold one of our line I'm gonna be really disappointed." Sure enough, lots of Wallins but nobody that I know of in our line. Meanwhile, the natives were concerned as to who it was walking on their property. Rightly so. They would slow down and give our car the look over and then go on. I'm sure phones were buzzing up and down the road. That is a good thing, neighbors watching out for each other. But if they had stopped and given us a chance to tell them, they would have understood. I mean, I was carrying cameras around my neck with notebook and pen in hand, not a rifle over my shoulder. And my experience up there has been of very kind and helpful people. Anyway, down we trekked and by this time it was time to head home before we got caught in the dark. I had to take the next day in bed.

We did so good and found enough that I wanted to go back. Sunday was suppose to be another pretty day so this time my husband came along and drove while Dad and I navigated. We wanted to find the Moses Freeman Cemetery (which I found in the library cemetery books). We got to Hwy 25-70 and started looking for "Shop Hollow Rd". There is no Shop Hollow Rd. But we found Lower Brush Creek Rd so we took it and "Sharp Hollow Rd" comes out on Lower Brush Creek Rd. According to the directions in the cemetery book we parked and Dad and I sloshed through the creek. I can't skip over rocks. No, I fell in and so just sloshed through. Now, where were the 5 graves? We figured they wouldn't bury them on the flat bottomland. It is cut and used for planting or pasture. And, close to the creek, there is the possibility of flooding and they normally bury on hilltops. So we started following some deer tracks up the hill in the woods to the top of a knoll. (Yes, I literally saw the deer bopping up the hill as we stopped.) We found a huge oak tree and some rocks but with the leaves down it was hard to see any depressions or mounds. We continued to follow the ridge but it ended in a yard of a house so we backed up. We didn't want people thinking we were peeping toms. I took some video and photos of the knoll under the oak tree and the rocks just in case that was it. As I started down the hill, a truck stopped and a nice young man asked my husband what the heck we were doing tramping around in his woods. I made it back to the creek and waded back over with Dad right behind me and I got to talking to the young man. Sure enough, he was able to tell me the knoll was the cemetery and I was able to tell him who was buried there. He gave us directions to Station Cemetery which was next on my list. I had been unable to find it because there is no "clinic in the Brush Creek area" and the road to the cemetery is labeled Station Gap and went through a trailer park so I didn't know it was the road that eventually led to the cemetery. But with his help we did find it and walked it. By now I was so exhausted after that little climb and my shoes and socks were soaked from slogging through the creek and my feet were cold but there were more cemeteries to find.

Next we went to Hot Springs and found the Old Antioch Cemetery. Last time I was there, Hwy 25-70 had just been finished and the cemetery was very grown up. I was so glad to see that it has been kept up and was easy to spot from the road. It was cleaned up. I found my Great Grandmother, Noda Vesta Miller Lamb, there with her daughter, Sueda Lamb, beside her and baby Noda who died 3-4 mos after her mother died is buried there too. They had tombstones although they are almost unreadable. There are a lot of graves marked with just stones around her and I wonder if there are any other Millers buried there?

Then we stopped at the New Antioch Cemetery on our way back to Hot Springs and I found my Great Great Grandparents, John Rollins Lamb and Sarah Ealey Lamb. I did not know they were buried there and was thrilled to find them with their stones. Newer stones have been placed there too. Many thanks to the person who did that!!!

Then we went to Shut In Creek where Noda's father, Anderson Miller, had a mill on Upper Shut In Creek. It has been 18 yrs since I'd been back to that place and it was changed enough to make us have to really look for it. Last time I was there there was an old barn with a raccoon hide tacked to the side of it and it was very overgrown. This time, the old barn was gone, it was cleaned up and just across the creek is a newer home. But we found the spot because there was the big rock and the tiny waterfall into a pool. I had had my photo taken sitting on that rock back then so we knew we were in the right place. I got good photos and video. I had remembered there being a Methodist church near Shut In that had Noda's sister buried there. On the way back something said, "Turn left here". Sure enough it took us around the curve to the little Fairview Methodist Church. I have no idea how I suddenly knew where it was since it's not visible. It was just a feeling. But I found Ora Catherine Miller Huff and her husband. It was a nice enough spot for us to have our picnic lunch. I ate my turkey sandwich with the camera in the other hand as I wandered through the cemetery.

It was only 1:30pm but I was so tired. Sometimes I hit, what I call, my brick wall. I just can't go any further. So we stopped and started back home. I was hurting so bad I was miserable but it was so worth the trip. I made myself as comfortable as possible and took something for pain and endured until we got back home and I went to bed.

There were more cemeteries on my list and I will have to make another trip sometime. I want to do Poplar Gap Cemetery (it's been a long time since I've been there), Meadow Fork Baptist Church, Bluff's church cemetery (been too long since I've visited them too). I want to get GPS coordinates for all these places for my notes. I'm also still looking for "Nelson Cemetery", "Bishop Cemetery" in Big Laurel, "North Fork Cemetery" in Big Pine, and I may come up with some more through the winter. I have spent a good bit of time, years ago, in the courthouse but I want to spend some time now in the Marshall library to see what all is there. So I expect to go back!

I will be adding photos and videos of these places as I get them processed so keep looking back for postings on these families.

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