Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Five Wilcox County cemeteries are listed on Alabama Historic Cemetery Register

Melton monument at Pine Apple.
My daughter and I took a pleasant ride through the Wilcox County backroads last week and visited several of the county’s historic cemeteries. She was out of school for Thanksgiving, so we took the opportunity to check out such landmarks as the William Joseph Melton monument in Pine Apple and the mass grave of the Orline St. John disaster victims in Camden. I’d been to these locations many times, but it was all new to her, and I could tell that she was genuinely interested in the tales behind these historic sites.

Wilcox County is one of the oldest counties in Alabama, and it’s riddled with historically significant cemeteries. In fact, five Wilcox County cemeteries are considered so historically important that they are listed on the Alabama Historical Commission’s Historic Cemetery Register. Those cemeteries include the Bear Creek Baptist Church Cemetery, the Camden Cemetery, the Dulaney Cemetery, the Friendship Baptist Church Cemetery and the McIntosh Cemetery.

The Historic Cemetery Register is the state’s official list of historic cemeteries in Alabama. The Alabama Historical Commission considers historic cemeteries of this type particularly worthy of preservation and appreciation and therefore deserving of the special recognition of being placed on the Historic Cemetery Register. The register is updated annually.

The Dulaney Cemetery became the first Wilcox County cemetery to be named to the Historic Cemetery Register when it was added to the register on May 29, 2003. This cemetery is located near the Dulaney AME Church on State Highway 10, between Camden and Oak Hill. Headstones in this cemetery bear death dates that go back into the 1930s, but the cemetery likely contains many older graves because there are at least 50 unidentified grave sites there.

The McIntosh Cemetery was added to the Historic Cemetery Register on July 1, 2004. This cemetery is located in the Neenah community, between Rosebud and Fatama on County Road 51. Graves in this cemetery date back to the 1820s, and records reflect that no one’s been buried there since the 1880s.

The Camden Cemetery was placed on the Historic Cemetery Register on July 17, 2008. This large, well-known cemetery is located on Broad Street adjacent to Camden Baptist Church and contains around 1,500 graves, some of which date back to before Camden was even the county seat. I think you can make the case that this cemetery is the most historic cemetery in the entire county as it contains the graves of numerous historic figures like former Alabama Governor Benjamin Meek Miller, the victims of the Orline St. John disaster and over 80 veterans of the Civil War.

The Friendship Baptist Church Cemetery was added to the Historic Cemetery Register on Oct. 15, 2012. This historic cemetery is located in Pine Apple, across Broad Street from Friendship Baptist Church. Exploration of this cemetery will let you know that it’s a lot larger than it appears from the street. It contains nearly 500 graves, including many from the early 1800s. The most notable grave in this cemetery and perhaps in all of Wilcox County is the unique, lifelike statue of William Joseph Melton.

Last, but not least, is the Bear Creek Baptist Church Cemetery, which was placed on the Historic Cemetery Register on March 19, 2013. This old cemetery is located not far off of State Highway 21, between McWilliams and Oak Hill. Records show that this cemetery contains about 200 graves, including some from the 1800s and many with either unknown or unreadable headstone inscriptions.

In the end, by my count, there are nearly 200 known cemeteries in Wilcox County, and many of them are just as noteworthy as those mentioned above. The Alabama Cemetery Register was last updated on Dec. 29, 2015, and it’s possible that even more Wilcox County cemeteries will be added to the list when it’s updated again. Until then, it’s up for debate as to which other local cemeteries deserve inclusion on the state’s official list of historic cemeteries.

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