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Some Traditions Shall Not Die

By Mike Watson

Perhaps my generation will be the last to honor the dead, perhaps not, but it seems fewer people make the annual trek--or more often for some of us--to the final resting places of their loved ones. This weekend, Memorial Day, or Decoration Day as it was once, is the traditional time to revisit our past, reconnect with family and old friends, and honor not only those who died in the service of our great nation, but all deceased veterans, as well as all our revered ones.

As I said to someone yesterday, I sort of grew up in graveyards. By that I meant the cemetery was no strange to me, nor was there ever any fear or trepidation of these places. Growing up in the 1960s in a close-knit, rural area, deaths were not uncommon, and when they occurred we visited the local funeral home, attended funerals, and went to the cemetery. As a matter of respect, we stopped at family cemeteries throughout the year, but Memorial Day was the time to talk about family, to place floral tributes, and to visit with family and friends we rarely saw otherwise.

This tradition was instilled in me. I have not wavered. In the 1980s Mrs. Margie Coffey and I undertook a monumental task--the recording of marked graves in the county. Together, and with much help from many supporters, we compiled seven volumes. Published by the Adair County Library and the Adair County Genealogical Society; there came another volume. And in a year or so there will be a volume nine. We still find small family burying grounds and document them.

This week I made an early start.

My usual route, with some meanders, is down highway 704 from Columbia, to the mouth of Burns Creek at Crocus, turn up Melson Ridge Road, through Cundiff to the Russell County line and on to Bryan, then to Creelsboro and Rock House Bottom, back to Cundiff and down toward Crocus, up Simpson Ridge to Glensfork, then right onto highway 55 into Russell County once more, eventually back down 92 through Montpelier and Pleasant Hill to Zion, then 55 back into Columbia. That is one trip, there are usually others that take in Harvey Ridge and Chance; Sparksville and Gradyville, Milltown and more.

For me this is cathartic. It is a way to reconnect with my roots, my ancestors, my own way of life. I am a certified historian. I'm not sure what that means, as I have learned more in cemeteries, speaking with the elder generations, and listening, than I ever learned in a classroom or lecture hall--those were my type of places, too. These journeys help me remember, help me to assist those who want to know more but did not have the opportunities I had to learn local history.

Even today, you never know who or what you may encounter. At Crocus, just as I turned onto Melson Ridge Road, there in the road was a snake. I pulled up close and rolled down the window. It appeared to be dead, but no--it was just sunning. He lay still for me to take his picture. I carried on, and so, I assume, did he when he had taken in enough solar energy.

On my trek this week I tried to list all the cemeteries as I passed, including those not visible from the road. I slowed and looked into or stopped and walked into quite a few; and I communed with the dearly departed along the way.

Here is my list, leaving Columbia and down 704: Sherrill cemetery, now gone, on the old Shuler farm; William Hurt, a pioneer cemetery; Stephen and Thomas White, pioneer cemetery; two graves somewhere behind Tabor Church dating to the Civil War; Loy and Dillingham cemeteries down Loy Cemetery road; Johnston and Stone cemeteries on Johnson School House Road; Frankum cemetery; Murrell cemetery; Darnell cemetery; Smith's Chapel cemetery; Forest Lawn and New Zion cemeteries; McClister cemetery; Yates or Norris cemetery, often referred to as the Loy cemetery adjacent to Piner Loy's; Michael Loy cemetery just up 768 at the junction with 704; June Spoon cemetery; Carter cemetery, sometime referred to as Bennett;

Yates cemetery; Nell cemetery, a pioneer cemetery; Cromeans cemetery or graves, now destroyed; Earls cemetery; Harvey cemetery; Jack Walkup cemetery, damaged; Joseph Turner cemetery at Crocus and Burns Creek; J.N. Petty graves; Simpson cemetery, long overtaken by the woods; Strange-Ross cemetery; Hadley 1 and Hadley 2 cemeteries;

Turning up Melson Ridge Road: Woody Petty cemetery; Jonathan Watson cemetery; John Melson, commonly known as Burchett cemetery; Helm cemetery; Walton Spencer cemetery; Peter Melson cemetery, Cundiff cemetery; Shearer cemetery; Melson-Cape cemetery; and across the county line into Russell County are William Brown cemetery; Helm cemetery; and York cemetery. The Blakey cemetery is back in Adair on the road that leads from the county line and over the hill toward Crocus at highway 900.

From the intersection of Melson Ridge and highway 900, toward Glensfork, are: Cundiff and Peter Melson, as mentioned; then the Barger Cemetery, long neglected; Elijah Melson cemetery, along the creek, off 900; then Martin Loy cemetery; Old Strange cemetery; Antle family cemetery; Simpson plot with two graves; Morrison-Grant cemetery; Letcher cemetery wherein lies the brother of a Governor; Wilkinson cemetery; Sparks cemetery; Powell-Field cemetery; Wilborn cemetery; Taylor-Wesley Cemetery and that brings us back to Glensfork.

There are more, but I shall save those for another time.

--Mike Watson, May 2021

This story was posted on 2021-05-29 11:43:39
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