Dalia Tharp Garrison
I began researching my heritage about 6 years ago. My husband and I retired and moved from Colorado to the area in Missouri where I was born, so I thought it wouldn’t be too difficult for me to find where my ancestors were buried.
I walked directly to my great-grandparents and my gr-gr-grandparents burial site
I didn’t realize that some of the backroads into the Ozark hills were so treacherous.
We arrived at one cemetery in the backwoods, at a deadend. There was a small, old cemetery and it was ablaze. It is how some of the hill people rid their property of the over-abundance of ticks. Nevertheless, we stomped fire until we could get into the cemetery.
My husband went his own way; I walked through the smouldering cemetery straight to my great-grandparents gravesites. There was no headstone for my gg-grandfather – he had lain beneath the soil since 1866 with only a flat stone to mark his resting place. Then I started searching for their son, my great-grandfather who had died in 1910. I knew which cemetery, but like all the cemeteries in my story, I had not been there before…and again, I walked directly to my great-grandparents burial site.
I walked to my ggg-grandfather’s headstone
After a couple of years, and knowing the name of the cemetery, we headed for Texas to do some ground-truthing. We arrived at the Liberty Cemetery in Dawson, Texas. Neither of us had been there before. It was hot, so husband decided to stay in the car with the air on. I walked directly to the next to last row of headstones, immediately spun to my left and walked to my ggg-grandfather’s headstone.
I don’t think about where I am going, it is as though I have GPS when this happens. That’s part of the reason one of my favorite sayings is: “I may not have gone where I intended to go but I ended up where I needed to be.”
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It was like that for me when I went looking for my GR GR grandparents old home site. Didn’t take long and I just knew. I was very drawn to a spot behind it down a steep hill. I couldn’t go but got confirmation the next day…the old house had been bulldozed a year early and pushed over that hill.
Ancestral spirits are strong.
Scientists think ancestral memories are passed down in your DNA. I think it is true.
Gene Gravely of Summiton is the champion at finding, mapping, and recording lost cemeteries. He probably has over 25 to his credit and is a member of the Alabama Cemetery Preservation Alliance. I am chairman of the Eagle Scout Board for Shelby County and have approved numerous Eagle Service Projects reclaiming overgrown cemeteries in our county but the most extensive was above Florence where Davis Faulkner of Helena restored an 1812 cemetery at Bailey Springs and raised thousands of dollars to erect ornamental iron gates, a large flagpole and fencing for the area. At the dedication he said “this is my cemetery” and he made a commitment for its upkeep. He recently finished college and is in graduate school and still keeps his commitment. His grandparents live in that area so there are family ties with them there and with Boy Scout Camp Westmoreland. He is the next generation of Alabamians who will look after things like we all have. Why? Because he has been exposed to his Alabama Heritage and family history all of his life. We all need to stress these thing more to our young people so our work can continue when we have passed on.
I believe it’s true. My husband’s mother died the year I was born and no one in their family knew where she was buried except somewhere in Tallahassee. I was compelled to go there though I had no clue which cemetery. My arrival night in a Tallahassee hotel I had a very vivid dream. In the dream there was a cemetery 2 blocks behind the hotel. Next morning I asked the hotel clerk if there was a cemetery nearby. “Yes, just 2 blocks behind our hotel.” I drove the directions in the dream, through the iron gate and while I could see blurred headstones in my periphery as I passed by, my view was laser-focused on one area of the huge cemetery, just like in my dream. In my dream I saw a giant oak tree, and there before me was a giant oak tree in the distance. Once I got there I found all of the names on the headstones were, indeed, from my husband’s family. But there was no headstone for my husband’s mother. The groundskeeper there said there was no grave where I indicated by the oak tree. I insisted and begged him to check his records. His roster did have her name listed but he had no idea where she was laid to rest. He called the funeral home from way back then and they verified there had been an interment. The groundskeeper’s face went pale when they told him where. He grabbed a long metal rod and ran to the site I told him about in my dream. He ran it into the ground and it hit something solid. He continued running the rod into the ground, following the pattern of a casket and declared there was, indeed, someone buried there. She now has a headstone.