Before actually confirming anything with land records at the courthouse, the family story is that the Culbreath family obtained 220 acres in Walton County, Georgia around 1820. When Absolem Roberts (1809-1893) married Mary Culbreath in the 1830’s, the land was transferred to Absolem, and then later to Absolem’s son Willoughby (1859-1938), who is Eric’s great grandfather. Willoughby lost the land due to non-payment of taxes during the Great Depression, so the land was in the family for about a century. That is the family story.
We do know that Absolem and Willoughby were farmers, and the 1860 Slave Schedule showed that Absolem owned twenty slaves. The 1860 Agricultural Schedule indicates that the farm was prolific, producing 1,000 bushels of Indian corn in addition to wheat, oats and cotton, and 850 pounds of butter.
On the farm was a family cemetery, which currently holds nineteen graves in two areas with traditional tombstones, and at least another fifty which are marked by small, upright stones, many of the them pink-toned. They definitely appear to be placed intentionally and not naturally occurring. We don’t know for sure, but we suspect that the small stones indicate the graves of slaves.
A chain link fence was constructed around the cemetery; some of the smaller stones are within the fence, but most are outside of it. According to the tombstones, the earliest burial was 1877; the latest was 1935. If the smaller stones are slave graves, they must be earlier burials.
Absolem Roberts and Mary Culbreath, Eric’s second great-grandparents, are buried in this cemetery, along with several of their children, grandchildren, and other collateral relatives. Several of the surnames are unfamiliar to me, and it’s my mission to identify the relationships of all the people buried here. In addition to that, I need to photograph all of the headstones and add them to FindaGrave so others can benefit from the information on the stones.
The property is currently owned by a delightful elderly gentleman whose family purchased it in the 1930’s from the Roberts family. Eric has been in touch with him in the past to obtain access to the cemetery. Eric visited in 1999 with our two children and did some clean-up, and then on his own for a quick visit in 2010 and 2015. This time, it was a bit more difficult to contact the owner in advance, and when we arrived, we found a locked gate across the property. Even though we couldn’t initially drive in, we walked in to the cemetery, and this is what we found:
Painful to look at, but it had not been tended to in seventeen years! We found a local Home Depot, bought a rake and loppers, rented a chain saw, and got to work.
We worked a couple of hours the first day, and then five hours the second day; this was the result:
It felt really good to get it presentable again! In the process, we uncovered pieces of broken headstones which had been buried beneath layers of leaves and dirt. Although we couldn’t repair them, we cleaned them off so they’re now legible.
Once we had the fenced-in areas cleaned up, we thought about all the souls buried under those smaller stones around the area. If the descendants of those slaves knew they were buried there, they would be doing the same thing we were doing: taking care of the graves of their ancestors. I’ll be writing a separate post about the slave graves soon.
We did finally make contact with the property owner, and brought folding chairs to the cemetery where we sat with him for two hours and talked about the history of the property and the town.
Before we leave the area, we’re going to make the cemetery more official looking by putting a sign on the gate saying “Roberts Family Cemetery”, and providing our contact information. And we’ll plan to come back here more often to take better care of it!