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There's a story in every grave

Original Tidwell Cemetery
Walker County Alabama

         Many times I have searched for a certain cemetery, but just could not obtain enough information to locate it. Dennis Freeman, a friend, researcher and historian from Cullman County, telephoned me one day and advised that a lady had called him needing assistance in locating an old cemetery.  This, of course, was what I like to do.  So, a time and place to meet was agreed upon. 

            I had made many trips and had asked many questions in, about and around the area where we were going.  I wondered, could this be the cemetery I had been searching for so long?

            Dennis and I met Mrs. Millie Skinner on Alabama # 69 Highway north of Jasper near the Blackwater Bridge; parked all three vehicles well off the roadway and began the first steps of our search. 

            As a researcher, I have always asked a lot of very specific questions, and even though I don’t’ ask to offend,  I am sure the type of questions I need to ask in order to learn the needed information to solve the puzzle, has offended some people.

            I had never met Millie before that morning. I recall she stated she had not been in the cemetery for over 40 years! So the brain-picking began until she had given enough information that directed us to the top of the hill overlooking Blackwater. This was the place we were to begin our search.

            The three of us ascended near the top of the hill and found that a bull-dozier had been used to clear a new right-of-way for the Alabama Department of Transportation.   Millie walked off the steep grade toward the creek while Dennis and I were using a probe trying to locate a grave.

            We began to find depressions in the earth that were of grave length, and soon determined there were at least 16 graves at this spot.  When Millie came walking back up the hill, she confirmed that this was, indeed the site where she had been so many years ago.  Dennis and Millie were both in and around this cemetery as children because Tidwell Cemeteryof traveling an old road which was next to it.  At that time, they had family in the area.

  Because it has been so many years, all contents in the grave have returned to dust.                                                                                                                              Millie had made a promise to her mother, those many years ago, that these graves would be taken care of.  Now, The Alabama Department of Transportation was going to build a new bridge at this location over Blackwater Creek with the roadway going through the cemetery!

            What a find! This was the cemetery I had been searching for at least ten years; and, one dated that back close to 1850.  It was the old, original Tidwell Cemetery according to what Millie stated.  This was the place where some of her people were buried; even though we had found neither marked headstone nor monument.  The rocks that once marked the graves had been bulldozed, destroyed and were now scattered.   I really don’t believe the dozier operator knew of their existence.

            But now, someone needed to know what we had located. So, I headed to the Jasper office of the Department of Transportation.  Once the District Manager, Wayne Parker was notified, he telephoned the Montgomery Headquarters of the Department of Transportation and within a week of our find, he and the department representative met Dennis Freeman and myself at the site of the latest find.

            A decision was made at this meeting by the representative of the Department of Transportation that a company from Moundville to be called to the scene to use Ground Penetration Radar.  The GPR system was used and it is my understanding from Dennis that graves were located at this site.

            Needless to say, the bridge project was placed on hold until agreements of what to do about the graves could be reached.  This area of Walker County is in Township 13S Range 6W Section 27.  Affidavits from family members have been submitted to confirm the old burying ground was located at this site.

            You can make a difference and these “ole graveyards” can be saved.  You just have to get involved!