Non-fiction readers have a bonanza of good books to read during the 2014 summer. The publishing business knows there's a strong interest in Civil War history and a study of the political times before and after the war during the 19th century.

   I wanted to alert you to two new 2014 books about the Civil War—books you won't want to miss. The first, and perhaps the more unusual of the two just published is A Thousand Stories You Don't Know about the Civil War, by Thomas Power Lowry, MD. (Price listed by Amazon is $17.96 plus shipping. List price is $19.95 there and elsewhere.)

   This 335-page paperback is, as one reviewer called it, "a treasure-trove" of unusual information and events about the Civil War. Dr. Lowry doesn't pull any punches to "pretty-up" the ghastly price of war to both soldiers and civilians on both sides.  I don't know of any Civil War historian who delves deeper and more successfully into obscure and complex military records and other data. He and wife, Beverly, are to be commended for their long patience and diligence in making the war live for us, with narratives about individuals and actions not covered in most Civil War materials.

   If you are new to reading Lowry's many Civil War books, you will be amazed at the work he goes to, bringing you outcomes of courts-martial, post returns, service records, prison records and much more. He and his wife read through and indexed records of all 75,596 general courts-martial in the Union Army during the Civil War. Much of the book uses these rather obscure, but sometimes interesting, court-martial sources.

   But one of the advantages of Lowry's newest book is short chapters covering unusual incidents. There are 35 chapters, each readable in a short period of time. Some topics: "The Battle for Fort Nonsense," "Saints and Sinners: The Union Army and the Mormons," "Court-martialed Chaplains," "Abraham Lincoln's Foot Doctor," and "New Light on Gettysburg."

   Reading A Thousand Stories You Don't Know about the Civil War is like eating potato chips—it's almost impossible to stop. There's something for all Civil War interests in this book.

   The second book mentioned here is The Wars of Reconstruction: the Brief Violent History of America's Most Progressive Era" (Bloomsbury Press, 2014) by Douglas R. Egerton, professor of history at Le Moyne College. As is the case with the Lowry book author, Dr. Egerton has written many books on events in the Nineteenth Century of interest to readers who want an amazing amount of information about Reconstruction and problems after slavery ceased in the United States.

   His style is  generally readable and spiced up with many details which bring home the hard times for African Americans after the Civil War. Price on the hard-cover 438-page book has been dropped to $22.23 at Amazon and list price is $30.

   My main criticism about this book is a sad system of footnoting, which lumps together numerous sources with one footnote. When you check the footnote you find it difficult to figure out just what the source might be. Also, the book has no bibliography. Is this rather wretched footnote system and lack of bibliography something Bloomsbury decided upon, or Dr. Egerton thought up? Either way, in my opinion, it's a loser. With these faults, it's still an important book, discussing the problems of Reconstruction.

Slave Narratives of the Federal Writers' Project: A Major Help for Tracing African-American Ancestry,
 Part 2, By Al Hester

 Part 1 of my Blog of Dec. 28, 2013, on this topic discussed the "treasure trove" of information awaiting those who dig into the 1930's slave narrative interviews now online from the Library of Congress in American Memories  (

There are more than 2,300 interviews with ex-slaves discussing their memories of slavery.

These narratives, while having many short-comings, do possess a wealth of information about the slaves themselves, their family history, and where they lived in the late 1930s when they were interviewed. The interviewers used structured interview questions in their conversations with the ex-slaves. Some interviews are more complete and interesting, but all may contain helpful information for the study of black family history and culture. Some of the interviews reveal the backgrounds of white interviewers and what they thought would interest people about ex-slaves.

The ex-slaves frequently use the "N-Word," as they commonly did  in referring to their own race generations ago. This term is not censored in the narratives. White interviewers did not use it in their own descriptions of African Americans.

For all their shortcomings these interviews can be of great help to African Americans wishing to hunt facts about their U. S. ancestors. Researchers, black or white, can find these narratives quite useful, even if their own families are not found. The best way to explore the materials is to go online and use the key-word search abilities involving the text to find out about specific persons or specific geographic areas. There are also hundreds of photos of aged ex-slaves, although most interviewers didn't take photos. A few interviews include audio interviews, although they are often difficult to understand, using primitive recording devices.

Content details aren't discussed here, but a list of some 62 ex-slaves from the Athens, Georgia, area is given, helping Internet users to find out about black ancestors.  Print editions of the slave narratives are frequently found in major public libraries or university libraries. World Cat online (hthtttp:// lists these and their library locations.

To use the list, look at it on the Home Page of the Library of Congress American Memories Home Page, and find persons or subjects of interest to you. Then using the Library of Congress' slave narratives online, you can find the entire interviews, read them, and see photos or hear audios—if these are existing. The Gutenberg Project ((, also has copies of these ex-slave narratives. Both the Library of Congress and Gutenberg's materials are in the public domain and free to use.

                                                                                                        • • • •

Here is the alphabetical list of Athens area ex-slaves interviewed in the Federal Writers Project.  
 Name of Ex-Slave, Approx. Age, Athens or Area  Address, if known , and Source of Information

Adams, Rachel 78 300 Odd St. Library of Congress Slave Narratives
Baker, Georgia 87 369 Meigs St. Library of Congress Slave Narratives
Battle, Jasper 80 112 Berry St. Library of Congress Slave Narratives
Bolton, James 85 Oglethorpe County GA Supplement, LOC slave narratives
Bradley, Alice 72 Hull St., near corner of Hoyt St. Library of Congress Slave Narratives
Brown, Easter 78 1020 S. Lumpkin St. Library of Congress Slave Narratives
Castle, Susan 78 1257 W. Hancock Ave. Library of Congress Slave Narratives
Cofer, Willis 78 548 Finley St.Library of Congress Slave Narratives
Colbert, Mary 84 168 Pearl St.  Library of Congress Slave Narratives
Cole, John 86 On Billups St. (also photo) Library of Congress Slave Narratives
Cole, Julia 78 169 Yonah St. Library of Congress Slave Narratives
Colquitt, Kizzie 76 243 Macon Library of Congress Slave Narratives
Colquitt, Martha 85 190 Lyndon Ave. Library of Congress Slave Narratives
Davis, Minnie 78 237 Billups St. Library of Congress Slave Narratives
Derricotte, Ike 79 554 W. Hancock Ave. Library of Congress Slave Narratives
Dillard, Benny 80 Corner Broad & Derby Library of Congress Slave Narratives
Elder, Callie 78 640 W. Hancock Ave. Library of Congress Slave Narratives
Furr, Anderson 87 298 W. Broad St. Library of Congress Slave Narratives
Garey, Elisha Doc 76 258 Lyndon Ave. Library of Congress Slave Narratives
Green, Alice 76 156 Willow St.  Library of Congress Slave Narratives
Harris, Dosia 78 159 Valley St. Library of Congress Slave Narratives
Hawkins, Tom 75 163 Bremen St. Library of Congress Slave Narratives
Heard, Bill 73 475 Reese St. Library of Congress Slave Narratives
Henry, Jefferson Franklin 78 Athens, but not specific Library of Congress Slave Narratives
Henry, Robert 82 Billups St. (also photo) Library of Congress Slave Narratives
Hill, John 74 1525 W. Broad St. Library of Congress Slave Narratives
Hudson, Carrie 75 258 Lyndon Ave. Library of Congress Slave Narratives
Hudson, Charlie 80 258 Lyndon Ave. Library of Congress Slave Narratives
Huff, Easter 80 125 Rockspring St. Library of Congress Slave Narratives
Hunter, Lina 90 270 Bailey St. Library of Congress Slave Narratives
Hutcheson, Alice 76 165 Rockspring St. Library of Congress Slave Narratives
Jackson, Mariah [Maria] no age given no address given From Al Hester's Memories of Athens book
Jefferson, Franklin Henry Rev. in Athens, but no specific address Library of Congress Slave narratives
Jewel, Mahala 76 177 Berry St. Library of Congress Slave Narratives
Johnson, Georgia 74 1537 W. Broad St. Library of Congress Slave Narratives
Kinney, Nicey 86 R. F. D. #3 Library of Congress Slave Narratives
Larken, Julia 76 693 Meigs St. Library of Congress Slave Narratives
McCommons, Mariam 76 164 Augusta Ave. Library of Congress Slave Narratives
McIntosh, Susan 87 1203 W. Hancock Ave. Library of Congress Slave Narratives
McWhorter, Pitt Thurmond's Story Untold book
McWhorter, William 78 383 W. Broad St. Library of Congress Slave Narratives
McCree, Ed 76 543 Reese St. Library of Congress Slave Narratives
Parkes, Anna 86 150 Strong St. Library of Congress Slave Narratives
Pope, Alec no age given 1345 Rockspring St. Library of Congress Slave Narratives
Raines, Charlotte no age given Oglethorpe County, GA Library of Congress Slave Narratives
Sheets, Will 76 1290 W. Broad St. Library of Congress Slave Narratives
Shepherd, Robert 91 386 Arch St. Library of Congress Slave Narratives
Singleton, Tom 94 1&1/2 mi. out of town; nr. Brooklyn area  Library of Congress Slave Narratives
Smith, Georgia 87 286 Augusta Ave. Library of Congress Slave Narratives
Smith, Nancy about 80 129 Plum St. Library of Congress Slave Narratives
Smith, Nellie 78 660 W. Hancock Ave. Library of Congress Slave Narratives
Smith, Paul 74 429 China St. Library of Congress Slave Narratives
Telfair, Georgia 74 R. F. D. #2, Box 131 Library of Congress Slave Narratives
Thomas, Cordelia 80 150 Berry St. Library of Congress Slave Narratives
Upson, Neal 81 450 Fourth St. Library of Congress Slave Narratives
Van Hook, John F. 76 Newton Bridge Rd. Library of Congress Slave Narratives
Vinson, Addie 86 653 Dearing St. Library of Congress Slave Narratives
Virgel, Emma 73 1491 W. Broad St. Library of Congress Slave Narratives
Wilbanks, Green 77 347 Fairview St.  Library of Congress Slave Narratives
Willingham, Frances 78 288 Bridge St. Library of Congress Slave Narratives


This photo is in the Slave Narratives of the Library of Congress. It's the dwelling of a "black Seminole" family in Brackettville, TX, taken in the 1930s-1940s. Seminole Indians had black slaves who sometimes became tribal members. While most photos in the narratives are of individual slaves, some show their churches, residences or other features. Photo: Library of Congress.
Thousands of African Americans have an ardent interest in finding out whether they may have slave ancestors in the United States prior to Emancipation during the Civil War. White persons have an easier time finding out about their family histories, since more records potentially refer to them.

            In censuses prior to the 1870 federal census, African-Americans were "nameless" as far as government enumerations were concerned, with few exceptions. Historians and genealogists know that the 1850 federal census was the first enumeration which listed all members of each family, including the "head of the household" with names, ages, places of birth, occupations and separate listings for wives and children and others living in the household. Black slaves were generally recorded only on slave schedules, which named their owners, but with no  slave names listed—only their sex, age, and whether they were black or mulatto.

            This lack of information in our major records is a major hurdle to tracing slave ancestors. Free persons of color, however, are easier to trace, as they are recorded by name in the various censuses, even during slavery days.

            A rich resource, however, are the ex-slave narratives that came to light in the widespread interviews of the Federal Writers' Project during the latter part of the Great Depression. The interviews and narrations were conceived as a way to make jobs available to hundreds of persons in many states, but especially in the Southern states. The interviewers had varying degrees of skill in  gathering information and in recording it. Interviewers were almost all white, and they generally fashioned their interviews around a closed-end method, in which some questions they asked exposed pre-conceived white ideas of what slave life was like. Nevertheless, despite serious flaws in their work due to limitations of the questionnaire given to them  and in their writing and interviewing talents, the 10,000 pages of more than 2,900 interviews give considerable insight into the lives of ex-slaves interviewed. The conversations took place between 1936 and 1939. The photos of hundreds of ex-slaves are included with the text, if interviewers took pictures.  Some interviews also include audio recordings.

            These narratives are in the public domain as Slave Narratives: a Folk History of Slavery in the United States. They are available online from the American Memory Website of the U. S. Library of Congress and you can use key-word searches for names or subjects, as well as narratives filed in each state. They can be read and used freely from the site:

            The slave narratives are also available through Project Gutenberg.  These are downloadable in various formats, including e-book formats, and can be used freely by the public. The Project Gutenberg specific narratives are more difficult to find than the American Memory narratives. See website:

            What types of information are common to the interviews of ex-slaves? Included are the names of ex-slaves, their place of birth, place of residence at time of interview, their age and their answers about slave life they experienced. Often, other family members of slaves and the names of slave owners and information about their plantations, farms, etc., are included. Some of the  interviews are short and not very thorough. But other interviews are long and vivid and contain much valuable information. By inference, we can also find out much about prevailing racial and cultural attitudes of whites doing the interviews and responses made by the ex-slaves.

            States where interviews took place were: Alabama (221), Arkansas (765), Florida (73), Georgia (194), Indiana (69), Kansas (3), Kentucky (57), Maryland (22), Mississippi (31), Missouri (92), North Carolina (218), Ohio (41), Oklahoma (79), Rhode Island (1), South Carolina (341), Tennessee (26), Texas (695), and Virginia (14). Indices are available with the narratives, listing each ex-slave interviewed.

            Since this blog is mainly concerned with Civil War and Reconstruction Period history of the Athens, Georgia, area, Part 2 will focus on what is available for research in the slave narratives for this part of Georgia. It will include a listing of the ex-slaves and other African Americans who may have had memories of the period immediately after the Civil War.

            It will be helpful to go to the slave narrative sites to get the "feel" of what you will find and to see by using the indices which may contain the names of ex-slaves among your ancestors.


Ex-Slave Robert Henry of Athens, GA, one of the interviewees. He lived on Billups Street and was a carpenter.
Ex-slave John Cole of Athens, GA, interviewed in the slave narratives project. Cole lived on Billups Street and was a laborer. Photos from the U. S. Library of Congress.
(See Part 2 soon giving names and information about ex-slaves from the Athens area, interviewed for the slave narratives).

       Joseph L. Hemphill, a prominent resident of Athens, Georgia, wasn't able "to bring home the bacon."
       He made a claim to the Southern Claims Commission alleging the Yankees took 1,800 pounds of bacon from his family on May 15, 1865, in  the last days of the Civil War. Union troops hunting for Confederate President Jefferson Davis took the Hemphill bacon without paying for it, he swore. They needed it to feed their troops passing through Athens. The Southern Claims Commission was set up to consider cases where Southerners loyal to the Union in the Civil War could be reimbursed for damages to their property caused by Union troops.
       Joseph L. Hemphill, stating he was a Southerner loyal to the Union,  inherited the claim from his father, William S. Hemphill of Athens, a prominent blacksmith. William S. Hemphill was the original owner the Union Army did not pay for the 1,800 pounds of bacon, valued at $360.00 (U. S.). But William S. Hemphill died in 1874 and his heirs tried to collect what they felt the Yankees had taken without any reimbursement.
       Joseph L. Hemphill claimed he was a true-blue Union loyalist, although living in the South. After the war,  a special commissioner came to Athens to take testimony from families and witnesses. But after getting evidence and deliberating, the Southern Claims Commission turned thumbs-down on the bacon claim. Joseph, like his father, was also a blacksmith in Athens, according to 1880 Clarke County federal census records.
       The Commission, set up by the federal government, said there was absolutely no evidence that William S. Hemphill, the original claimant,  was a loyal Union man. Without such evidence the Commission denied the claim in 1878. The claim took up 33 pages in commission testimony about the "stolen" bacon.
       One witness told the claims commissioner that William S. Hemphill had "raised" part of the bacon and obtained the rest of it from others. We might wonder just how he had a stash of 1,800 pounds of bacon when much of Athens was going hungry in the last days of the Civil War. Witnesses to his claim in Athens agreed that the quality  bacon was worth 20 cents per pound in U. S. money. They also said officers of Brevet General William Jackson Palmer's  Union troops took the bacon over William S. Hemphill's protests.
        Augustus Longstreet Hull in his Annals of Athens (Banner Job Office, Athens, GA, 1906), said that bacon toward the end of the war was selling for $7.00 (Confederate) per pound.
       "It may be imagined what destitution prevailed among the poor and what suffering among those of the better class who could not labor and yet whose support was gone," Hull wrote, recalling the last year of the Civil War in Athens.
        The record didn't explain just  how the Hemphills obtained their meaty hoard. Fragmentary Confederate Quartermaster records, contained in Confederate citizen and business correspondence files digitized in on the Web, indicated the Hemphill men made more than $5,000 in business with Confederate military operations  just during the year of 1864, for example. As blacksmiths they had lucrative jobs shoeing Confederate horses and repairing the Army's wagons, these records reveal. One bill paid by the quartermaster was to the Hemphills for furnishing 421 horseshoes.  
                                                                                                                • • •
       The Southern Claims Commission was set up in March, 1871, to consider claims of damages caused by Northern troops to loyal Unionist Southerners as Yankee forces occupied Confederate territory. Often, the claims alleged taking food supplies, horses and other property from Southerners loyal to the Union without giving a receipt or paying for them.  In the next two years, Southerners claiming they were loyal to the federal government filed 22,298 claims for more than $60 million for damages caused by the Yankees, according to Southern Claims Commission tabulations. 
       The Commission, however,  approved paying only 7,092 claims or  just 32 per cent of the claims for about $4.6 million.  These figures come from an excellent summary of the work of the Southern Claims Commission, placed on-line by the St. Louis, Missouri, County Library. It also has produced a quality guide to doing your own research on-line from various sources containing statistics and testimony in Southern Claims Commission documents. 
       Such sources as and on the Web contain the digitized copies of the claims, including all the testimony and findings. Most public libraries have free access to these on-line sources, or you can get them by subscribing for your personal use. To see the St. Louis County Library  free guide to researching Southern Claims Commission cases, go to
       The approved claims are available for Alabama, Georgia, Virginia and West Virginia. The disapproved or barred claims are online for all 12 states from which complaints were taken. These states, in addition to the four above, are Arkansas, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas.
       The Hemphill claim is the only one filed from Clarke County, Georgia. It was easy for Joseph L. Hemphill to declare he had not engaged in action against Union troops. He was born in 1854, making him about 11 years old when the bacon was taken by Union soldiers. Joseph, however, certainly knew his father and  two brothers were patriotic Southerners and they were in a Confederate Artillery unit. The claim Joseph forwarded on Feb. 28, 1873, said his sympathies were "constantly with the cause of the United States for the entire war." (Claim No. 22092 in National Archives Publication M1407 and digitized on
       The Athens complaint alleged that the Hemphills' bacon was taken by members of the command of Brevet Gen. William Jackson Palmer on May 15, 1865 in Athens. The meat was taken to feed Union troops in or near Athens on that day, and no reimbursement was ever made, the Hemphills said. One of the witnesses was the mother of Joseph L. Hemphill, Sarah A. Hemphill. She was the wife of William S. Hemphill. She testified Joseph was loyal to the Union. She, or other witnesses, failed to say that her late husband and two of her sons served in the Confederate Army.
       In a story about her 93rd birthday on Oct. 29, 1910, in the Athens Banner, Mrs. Hemphill said her husband, although over-age for service in Confederate forces, was allowed by special permission from Gen. Robert E. Lee to act as a substitute for William A. Hemphill, while their son remained home on furlough. Young Hemphill was very seriously wounded in his jaw at Gettysburg and was conspicuous for his bravery and endurance.  Military records do show that he was  later allowed to come home and serve only in or near Athens.           
                                                                                                             • • •
       A record from the Confederate States Hospital at Petersburg, Virginia, indicated he was wounded on July 2, 1863. He was taken to Petersburg in an exchange of prisoners after being captured by Union troops at Gettysburg and cared for in a Union hospital and then paroled. [This information is available on William A. Hemphill in military records on the site].
       The Confederate records for Moore's Artillery (earlier in the war called the Troup Artillery) indicate William S. Hemphill served as  a private and a gunner. Joseph's brother, William A., ended the war a first lieutenant. Robert A., another brother, was a private. The Confederate military records indicate the father and two sons were on muster rolls for Moore's Artillery. The services of William S. Hemphill and William A. Hemphill were limited to the Athens area, the  Confederate military records show.
       Obviously many Athens residents knew the Hemphills' military service story, but those giving testimony to John Huggins, a special commissioner for the Southern Claims Commission, mentioned nothing about the Confederate patriotic activities of family members, including the Confederate military service of the Hemphill father, who was original claimant.
       The father was about 47 years old when he enlisted in the artillery unit. Confederate military service would have barred the Hemphill complaint.  The third son, Joseph L., was too young to have served the Confederacy. Perhaps this was a reason for his choice to carry the claim forward, rather than being made by either of  his two older brothers.
       In 1878, the Southern Claims Commission ruled on the claim first initiated by William S. Hemphill and then turned over and filed by his son, Joseph.
       "When the property was taken it belonged to the father of the claimant [Joseph]. The widow and other heirs turned the claim over to Jos. L. Hemphill," the ruling read. "To allow the claim it must be shown that the father of claimant was loyal. There is no proof whatever that he was loyal." The claim was disallowed.
       William A. Hemphill after the Civil War became the founder of The Atlanta Constitution, and was  also mayor of Atlanta. His brother, Robert, was also active in administration of the Atlanta paper. William A. Hemphill became known as "Colonel" Hemphill. Confederate military service records indicate he was only a first lieutenant in the Confederate artillery, but later he was given the honorific title of "Colonel."  
       Joseph L. Hemphill continued being a successful blacksmith in Athens and lived on Prince Avenue for many years with his mother, Sarah. This house was one of the most attractive in Athens. He died in Fulton County, Georgia, in 1932.

Southern Claims Commission disallows the Hemphills request for payment for 1,800 pounds of bacon taken by Union soldiers in 1865. ( National Archives digitized image)
Union Bvt. Gen. William Jackson Palmer, whose troops took 1,800 pounds of bacon from the Hemphill family of Athens, Georgia on May 15, 1865. (No source given on Internet image.)
William A. Hemphill of Athens in 1892, whose Confederate service and his father's service barred a claim for property taken by Union soldiers—1,800 pounds of bacon to feed troops hunting Jefferson Davis. (No source indicated on Internet image).
The Mystery of A. Oluwole Snelson

By Al Hester, Ph.D.

Head, Gospel Pilgrim Cemetery History & Research Committee


   The Grave of A. Oluwole Snelson is a lonely grave. It is far back in the historic African-American Gospel Pilgrim Cemetery in Athens, Georgia. I saw it for the first time about six years ago as I was identifying graves in this 9-acre cemetery founded in 1882 by the Gospel Pilgrim Society. I tallied its location and wondered whether the brief inscription was in error. What person could possibly have a name like that?

   The Snelson grave seems set apart. I can see that A. Oluwole was a child, born in 1897 and dying in 1900. The epitaph, barely readable, says, "A Flower Too Soon Faded." No Snelson family members are buried near the grave or elsewhere in the cemetery at Fourth and Bray streets.

   A tangle of brush, vines and trees makes it hard to identify graves in this cemetery placed on the National Register of Historic Places. As many as 3,500 African Americans may be buried in Gospel Pilgrim, preliminary research indicates.  Only about a fifth have readable markers. Most burial  sites are mere sunken places in the cemetery.  About 20 per cent of the identified graves are graves of ex-slaves.

   Some underbrush is cleared sporadically, but at least 25 per cent of Gospel Pilgrim has not been cleaned up in decades. Little money from Athens-Clarke County is available for Gospel Pilgrim, which is officially an abandoned cemetery, with a small amount of care given by the city-county. Despite Gospel Pilgrim's being on the National Register of Historic Places and having a Georgia State Historical Marker, now it is mostly neglected. Volunteers make forays to remove sticks and brush in small areas, but little overall care is being given.

   Athens-Clarke County voters in 2004 did approve a $306,000 Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax project, for improvement of pathways and sidewalks at the cemetery, but this money could not be used for maintenance and upkeep. Since then most of the pathways have suffered erosion and are overgrown with weeds.

   Close inspection is necessary to see which graves still have readable tombstones. All of the Gospel Pilgrim records were lost when the last officer of the Society, Alfred Richardson Hill, died in 1977. The Gospel Pilgrim Society was a burial society and sold lots in the cemetery, designed to give African Americans a respectable and beautiful place for burial. In the last few years, only a handful of burials have taken place if descendants could present a lot certificate, but it is not really an active burial ground.

   In June, 2013, I looked at an Internet Web site,, which deals with the Civil War period. It contains blogs by Robert Moore. I share an interest in Civil War and Reconstruction history. My own Web site, is mainly about similar local Athens, Georgia, Civil War and Reconstruction topics. Many ex-slaves are buried at Gospel Pilgrim and sometimes I tell their stories on my Web site.

   One of Mr. Moore's blogs was about the Emancipation Day celebration  in 1869 at Andersonville, Georgia, site of the infamous Confederate prison. The presiding leader at that Jan. 1, 1869, event was Floyd Grant Snelson, born in 1847, the  ex-slave child of a white father and black mother.

   The surname Snelson seemed slightly familiar to me. Could it be that Floyd Grant Snelson, an ex-slave Georgia preacher, Republican political leader and educator named for Gen. U. S. Grant, was connected to Gospel Pilgrim's "A. Olewole Snelson"? Snelson, a Swedish name,  is not very common in Georgia, but finally I did recall it was on the mysterious tombstone in Athens.

   As I checked on the Internet and with various public records concerning the Floyd Grant Snelson family—I did find Athens connections. Rev. Floyd Grant Snelson, Jr., the son of the Emancipation speaker,  turned out to be one of the most prominent church leaders and missionaries in the African Methodist Episcopal Church. His middle name of Grant was his preferred name, in honor of the Northern general. About seven years of his life were spent in Athens as a minister, principal and teacher.

   Rev. Floyd Grant Snelson, Jr.,  was born Dec. 19, 1865. Both the father and son were ministers and  important missionaries to West Africa. The elder went to Africa in the 1870s for the Congregational Church, taking  with him his family including  young Floyd Grant, Jr. His son became a member of the A.M.E. faith in 1874 and obtained his bachelor's degree from Atlanta U., as had his father. Rev. Snelson, Jr. was licensed to preach in 1889 and had churches in Atlanta, Warrenton, North Carolina, Cartersville, Georgia, and later in Athens. Later in his career, he would be a leader in the mission field and as a pastor of major A. M. E. churches in Cleveland, St. Louis, Pittsburgh and San Francisco.

   He would follow his father's missionary lead, becoming head of A. M. E. Church mission work as superintendent and presiding elder in West Africa. A. M. E. Bishop Henry McNeal Turner had watched Rev. Snelson's development as a young preacher and educator and liked what he saw, choosing him to lead major efforts in several West African countries.

   In 1895, Rev. Snelson Jr. was appointed principal and teacher at the East Athens Colored School in Athens. He had been the principal of the Mitchell Street black school in Atlanta before coming to Athens. In Athens, he also became editor of The Negro Educational Journal, the publication of a statewide organization for black teachers.

   His wife, Waterloo Bullock Snelson, also an Atlanta U. grad, took a job as first-grade teacher in the East Athens School. We have no information about why she was named "Waterloo." Her parents were Green and Sarah Bullock. Rev. Snelson Jr. would add a master's degree and two doctorates, becoming one of the most highly educated African Americans in the United States. He was principal of East Athens Colored School between 1894 and 1896., after being a principal in Atlanta.  He was also made a church deacon in Athens in 1894 and preached in Athens.  After his African mission work, 1894-1900, he returned to Athens as pastor of the Bethel A.M.E. Church in Athens for 1901-02, according to official publications of the A.M.E. Church.

   Bethel at first was a very small church at Billups and West Broad streets, which would later become the larger  Greater Bethel A. M. E. Church on Rose Street,  just off West Broad.

   Late in 1896, Rev. Snelson became head of A. M. E. mission work for four years in West Africa, headquartered in the country of Sierra Leone. In its January, 28, 1897, issue, The Christian Recorder, official newspaper of the A. M. E. Church, carried a long story about his abilities and characteristics:

   "He is a young man of medium height but well proportioned and full of nervous energy," the article said. "He wears side whiskers which conceal his square jaw, but his strong, yet nervous chin is exposed. His eyes are deep-set but expressive. His voice is full and resonant, but has been somewhat injured by the unrestrained energy with which he has evidently become accustomed to speak. His postures are full of manifestations of decision of character, mingled somewhat with obstinacy."

   As the minister and educator resigned his jobs in Athens in 1896 to go to Africa, Mrs. Snelson was making a name for herself in her own right. She was an excellent educator, outstanding speaker and organizer of various social services. She organized the first colored women's club in Georgia, according to The Crisis, magazine of the National Association for  the Advancement of Colored People.

   "In fact, Mrs. Snelson was in many ways the ideal wife for the itinerant Methodist preacher, the article said. "She lectured, sang and worked. She even occupied her husband's pulpit, and she brought up a family of four children; with all this work and her own restless nervous energy she was personally charming, full of humor, and one of the most beautiful women in America," the article in the August, 1914, issue said.

                                                                                                          • • • •
   But nowhere in any record could I find a child named A. Oluwole Snelson. I did learn that Oluwole is a fairly common name for boys in West Africa. One translation from Yoruba is "The king has entered the house."

      There were three other black Snelsons enumerated in the 1900 federal census in Clarke County, but none seemed related to the Floyd Grant Snelsons. No child named Oluwole turned up in the  federal censuses.

   In 2013, I couldn't locate any person in Athens who knew the Floyd Grant Snelson family. John Davis, a longtime member of Greater Bethel A.M.E. Church, said the Rev. Snelson is not listed in a Greater Bethel church history as an early pastor.

   "A 97-year-old woman member of Bethel might have known about the Snelsons, but she died about a month ago," he said in August, 2013.

   There are, however, ample mentions in national A. M. E. records of Floyd Grant Snelson and his wife living in Athens and his being pastor at Bethel Church on the west side of Athens. Fifteen years after Rev. Snelson left, Bethel officially became Greater Bethel AME Church of Athens, when a cornerstone for a new building was laid at the corner of West Broad and Billups, according to the Greater Bethel, Athens, GA, history on its Web site.

   The 1900 federal census for Clarke County indicated the Snelsons lived in East Athens at 614 Third St., which was about a block from the East Athens School. In February, 1900, Mrs. Snelson bought the 4-room house on the half-acre lot in her name, paying $400. She sold the property in Athens for $520 in 1907, when the Snelson family was living in Massachusetts. 

   Rev. Snelson was in the enumeration on June 6, 1900, with his other family members after he came back from his missionary service. The Clarke County federal census enumerator mistakenly listed the family surname as "Nelson."]

                                                                                                      • • • •
   The Snelsons married on Christmas Day, 1890, in Atlanta. Their first son, Floyd Grant Snelson, Jr., was born in September, 1891. A daughter, La Ursa, was born in May, 1893. A second daughter, Blydena, was born in November, 1895. Their youngest son, Strathana or Strathcona, would be born in 1903. The youngest daughter, Arnetta, was born in 1907.

   A. Oluwole Snelson was born on July 29, 1897, according to his tombstone. The year of death is  also clear on the marker, 1900, and the date of the month appears to be March 1.

   We do know in the 1900 federal census for Clarke County, Waterloo Snelson is listed as having three living children—Floyd Grant, La Ursa and Blydena. But she is enumerated as having had a total of four births, indicating one child who was not living by June 6, 1900. It seems likely that this child was A. Oluwole.

   On Jan. 12, 1897, Rev. Snelson, boarded the ship Majestic to go to Sierra Leone, according to a long account in The Christian Recorder. "Upon the pier as the stately ship. . . glided away, stood a band of more than fifty, among whom were Bishop Turner, Bishop Derrick, Secretary Parks and the heroic wife of the departing missionary," the article in the Jan. 28, 1897, issue said.

    Before the Majestic's embarkation, a large congregation at Bethel A. M. E. in New York City said goodbye to Rev. Snelson, giving him their  support and approval.

   "Bishop Turner introduced Mrs. Snelson, who made a brief but remarkable speech," the article said. "Everyone realized the burden of the sacrifice laid upon the wife who was giving up her husband to the cause of God and the Church. Next to his God, every true man holds in reverence a pure and noble woman. Between true hearts the vast ocean may sweep without abating love or dimming the untarnished lustre of loyalty. At the altar, side by side, husband and wife, so soon to be separated, knelt together while forth from hundreds of hearts went up a pray[er]. . . . Then with bowed heads the people sang in tones soft and low, 'God be with you till we meet again."

   The Christian Recorder account ended by saying: "Secretary Parks placed in the hands of the departing missionary a through ticket and about five hundred dollars and assured him that a loyal church would care for him and would soon send to him his wife and three little ones."

   Mrs. Snelson, however, never went to West Africa to be with her husband. We have information from the Athens Banner newspaper indicating in several stories that she was teaching in 1898 and 1899. We also know that before his return from Africa, she was going to Atlanta on business. She also had her children to look after.

   And Waterloo Snelson would also have been pregnant with A. Oluwole Snelson, who, as pointed out, was born July 29, 1897. By that time, Rev. Snelson was running the extensive West African mission program of his church. His supervision included traveling thousands of miles to many mission outposts under very primitive conditions in several countries. A recognition, which he obviously relished, came when he was made a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society (F. R. G. S.) of London during his time of mission work and exploration in Africa, according to many newspaper accounts. He became a specialist in cultures and languages of West Africa. He always included "F. R. G. S." along with his degree credentials in letters and information given to the press.

   We have no private letters written between Rev. Snelson and his wife. He doesn't mention his family in his official correspondence, reports, or in newspaper accounts of his missionary work. We know for certain that Mrs. Snelson had to care for Floyd, La Ursa and Blydena—and A. Oluwole if he were the fourth living child.

   We do know that her "little boy" had been in a serious fire, but supposedly was recovering in 1900, according to the story in the Feb. 4, 1900, Atlanta Constitution. It seems likely that the "little boy" hurt in the fire would not be Floyd, who would be about nine years old. A. Oluwole, less than three years old, would be more likely. We also know that Waterloo's mother was listed as a member of the household of the Snelsons in the 1900 Clarke County federal census. Sarah Bullock was probably able to help considerably in caring for the children. But A. Oluwole was dead by March 1, 1900, according to his marker inscription in the cemetery.

   Rev. Snelson returned from Africa to Athens on April 18, 1900, according to the Athens Banner. "He built three churches in Freetown [Sierra Leone] and five in the interior, and received 500 members into the African M. E. Church," the article  said, announcing his lecture in Athens at Pierce Chapel  A. M. E. Church upon his return. "He traveled 400 miles into the interior and 5,000 miles along the coast of Africa studying the languages and customs of the people."

   It seems quite possible that Rev. Snelson himself named A. Oluwole Snelson, while he carried out his mission duties in Africa. He was quite familiar with African names. Looking at the names of their children, we can see that Rev. Snelson and his wife had no hesitation in choosing unusual names. Surely Rev. Snelson's grief would have been acute, so soon after his return from Africa. It is possible he may not have received word about the death until he arrived in the United States.

   Soon, the Snelsons were also shocked by the tragic case of the Rev. Floyd Snelson, Sr. In 1902, he was placed in the Milledgeville, Georgia, Insane Asylum. After being dismissed from the asylum, he was run over by a train near Blackshear, Pierce County, Georgia, in 1904. He was "... killed by a freight train near Blackshear," a brief article in the Feb. 14, 1904, Atlanta Constitution said. "Snelson only recently returned from the Milledgeville asylum and for several days past has been crazy in his actions," the article said.

   Strathana or Strathcona [both names are used] McKinley Snelson, the youngest son, died Aug. 30, 1911, in an accident involving rail cars. His death ". . . occurred last Wednesday evening while he with some other boys were playing on the street while the cars were switching, ran in front of one, running directly into another going in opposite direction," the Pittsburgh Courier newspaper reported. "The pallbearers were six playmates of the deceased." Rev. Snelson was pastor at St. Paul's A.M. E. Church in Pittsburgh at the time.

   Floyd, the eldest son of the Snelsons, became a well known newspaper writer, columnist and editor for black newspapers. He also would die in a major accident. He was killed in a stove explosion and fire while staying in a friend's apartment in France in 1956.

                                                                                                             • • • •

   Rev. Snelson would be appointed pastor of Bethel A. M. E. Church in Athens, Georgia,  from 1901 to 1902, according to A. M. E.  official reports. But he left Athens when appointed minister at Bethel A. M. E. Church, a large church in San Francisco. Throughout the rest of his life, Rev. Snelson, who died in 1932, had numerous important preaching appointments. He had a reputation for overcoming church mortgage difficulties, and helped pay off the debts of several A. M. E. churches.

   On May 3, 1914, Waterloo Snelson died unexpectedly after surgery of an undisclosed nature at the age of 44, in Columbus, Ohio, where Rev. Snelson was pastor of Mt. Vernon A. M. E. Church.

   "Only a week ago Mrs. Snelson was requested to take charge of the women's suffrage movement among the colored women in Ohio, and at the same time was appointed by Governor Cox to represent the state at the national education congress which will convene in Oklahoma next July," the Ohio State Journal said in her obituary.

In October, 1914, , he married Blanche Ward, a widow, who also took major leadership positions in the church. She  died in 1923. After that, he married his last wife, Trenna O. Banks Snelson, who also had been a strong church leader.

   In 1924, he campaigned at the general conference of the A. M. E. Church to make him a special "Bishop of Africa" to further mission work there. The Topeka (Kansas) Plaindealer newspaper, reprinted his long announcement and request for votes. In the May 2, 1924, issue, the paper endorsed him. In his campaign for bishop, his seventh point for election was: ". . . My age is ripe; my health is perfect, my habits with religious scrutiny, and I do not SMOKE, CHEW, DRINK, nor CAROUSE, my personal character stands untarnished, the joy of my family, friends and fellow citizens." Although he was endorsed by several A. M. E. leaders, he was never made a bishop. He had sought the bishop's office as early as 1900, but was not successful.

   Failing health, due in part to his service abroad, caught up with him, but he did have a last  pastoral assignment from 1927 to 1931 as a minister in Barbados. He returned to the United States to try to regain his health, but died on Feb. 28, 1932, at the home of his sister in Washington, D. C. "Prominent churchmen from all parts of the country" were present at his funeral, The Chicago Defender newspaper reported in its March 6, 1932, issue .

                                                                                                                 • • • •
   There are no signs of visits to the grave of A. Oluwole Snelson, 113 years after his death. The grave appears  starkly unadorned in Gospel Pilgrim Cemetery. Surely his family and church friends did mourn for him. But the Snelson family soon moved away from Athens for prominent activities all over the country in the African Methodist Episcopal Church.

   No flowers are set in pots by the grave. At the plot, no lilies bloom in the spring, as by other graves.  There are no conch shells or quartz crystals placed there as remembrances, as is common at many Gospel Pilgrim burial sites. Truly, A. Oluwole Snelson, was "A Flower Too Soon Faded."



Rev. Snelson was one of the most prominent black preachers and missionaries around 1896-1900. Source: A. M. E. Encylopedia: 1914
Mrs. Waterloo Snelson was called "one of the most beautiful women in the world" by Crisis Magazine. Source: The Crisis Magazine
The simple tombstone for A. Oluwole Snelson in Gospel Pilgrim Cemetery, Athens, GA. Source: Al Hester
This new marker honors Green and Nancy Pilgrim, mill workers at Roswell, GA, arrested by General William T. Sherman and forced to go to Kentucky and Indiana during the Civil War. Photo by Al Hester
 In the springtime, thoughts of many Southerners turn toward the "Lost Cause" when the Confederacy lost the long and bitter armed conflict between the North and the South. Some know of the war as The War Between the States. Others term it the Civil War. Some Northerners term it  The War of the Rebellion.
   With Gen. Robert E. Lee's surrender at Appomattox , VA, in April, 1865, most of the fighting ended. What followed was mainly a mop-up operation and a long military occupation of much of the South by the victorious Yankees.
Confederate Memorial Day still draws thousands in the South to commemorate  the gallantry of a rag-tag, last-stand army, fighting bravely for an independent South. The day is celebrated at various times in the South, but typically includes visits to cemeteries where  the Confederate dead lie by the thousands. The United Daughters of the Confederacy and the Sons of Confederate Veterans lead in the ceremonies and rituals to keep their history of the war alive and vivid. Typically, the fighting qualities of Confederate officers and enlisted men are remembered.
   But south of Watkinsville, Georgia, in the well-kept Huff Family Cemetery at 3071 Colham Ferry Road, the Laura Rutherford Chapter of the UDC and other patriotic groups on April 21 honored a civilian couple—Green A. and Nancy Ann Pilgrim. The Pilgrims were residents in what was then the southern part of Clarke County, not far from the Huff Cemetery. Later that part of Clarke County would become Oconee County.  Green Pilgrim was born in South Carolina. He moved to Georgia and married Nancy in 1855 in nearby Greene County. Green was born in 1818 and Nancy in 1831. By 1858, the Greens had a baby girl and named her Mary E. Pilgrim. In 1859, a son was born, Isaac Bartow Pilgrim.
   In just a few years, war would turn the lives of the Pilgrim family upside down. Green was about 43 years old when the Civil War started. During the war, the Confederacy could have conscripted him for military service. Green was on the muster roll of the 16th Regiment, 2nd Brigade of the 3rd Division of the Georgia Militia. But he was exempted in 1862 from military service to work at the Roswell Mills in Roswell, GA. Nancy was also a mill worker. The mills on Vickery Creek were a big operation and made cloth for military uniforms, tents and other materials desperately needed by the Confederate troops. Basically, the Confederacy took over these mills at Roswell and mills at New Manchester, Georgia,  about 15 miles west of Atlanta,  and the ruins are in the Sweetwater Creek State Park.

   On April 21, Confederate Memorial Day was celebrated at the Huff Cemetery, bringing together about a hundred persons. The highlight was the dedication of a large grave marker for Nancy and Green Pilgrim. On the front side is an account of what happened to them and their children in July, 1864, when they were among about 400-600 workers arrested for "treason" by Gen. William T. Sherman and forced to leave Roswell for the North for the duration of the Civil War.  On the rear side of the Green's attractive grave stone are their names and dates of birth and death. Previously the only marker was a rugged field stone with Nancy's initials crudely carved on it. The Laura Rutherford Chapter of the UDC erected the tombstone. Most of the workers were women, sometimes accompanied by children. A few men also were employed because of rare skills, disabilities or  old age which limited their use as soldiers.

   Workers at the New Manchester Mills were similarly engaged in producing goods for the Confederate armies. All told, probably about 600 workers were mill hands at the Roswell and New Manchester establishments.
   Led by General Sherman, the Union troops  were on the verge of capturing Atlanta. He sent Brig. Gen. Kenner Garrard and his cavalry on a  flanking movement , and Kenner burst into undefended Roswell on July 5, 1864. Mill hands had been instructed to work until the last possible moment to turn out military necessities. General Garrard saw the strategic value of the Roswell Mills. After removing workers, he burned the entire operation, with General Sherman's approval. The New Manchester mills were likewise destroyed.
   General Sherman took a highly unusual step, giving orders that all the mill workers and supervisors and their families should be rounded up and arrested for treason.  
   "The women, their children, and the few men. . . were transported by wagon to Marietta and imprisoned in the Georgia Military Institute which had been abandoned," wrote Caroline Matheny Dillman for The Civil War in Georgia: A New Georgia Encylopedia Companion."  The prisoners were then given nine days' rations, ". . . loaded into boxcars that proceeded through Chattanooga and Nashville en route to Louisville, Kentucky, the final destination for many of the workers. Others were sent across the Ohio River to Indiana," she wrote.
   Thus General Sherman not only destroyed the mills but dispersed the workers so they could do no harm to Union operations.  Information differs as to what exactly happened to the displaced mill employees. Some apparently were forced to be indentured servants, and some worked for farmers. None were tried for treason. But women workers were separated from their husbands fighting in the Confederate armies, and from their other family members, unless they were all herded together in the North as mill workers.
   One-eyed Green Pilgrim and his wife Nancy were in the forced move, along with their children. Both Green and Nancy got small pox but survived.
    "First housed and fed in a Louisville refugee hospital, the women later took what menial jobs and living arrangements could be found," said writer Dillman. "Those in Indiana struggled to survive, many settling near the [Ohio] River, where eventually mills provided employment. 
   Not only Southern newspapers, but also Northern publications reflected outrage against General Sherman's actions.  Union General George H. Thomas had written to General Sherman  about what to do with the mill employees. "The Roswell factory hands, 400 or 500 in number, have arrived in Marietta. The most of them are women. I can only order transportation to Nashville where it seems hard to turn them adrift. What had best be done with them," he asked General Sherman.
   Sherman replied: "I have ordered General Webster at Nashville to dispose of them. They will be sent to Indiana."
   Author Mary Deborah Petite has written a well documented book about the Roswell mill workers' ordeal, The Women Will Howl: the Union Army Capture of Roswell and New Manchester, Georgia, and the Forced Relocation of Mill Workers.
    "It is difficult to rationalize the arrest and deportation of innocent women and children, but there can be no rationalization or justification for sending them to the fate that awaited them north of the Ohio River. The mill workers were not spies or traitors, nor did they pose a serious threat to the Federal army, particularly now that the mills were destroyed," she wrote.

            Many of the displaced workers never made it back to Georgia, marrying in the North and bearing children there. But quite a few made their way at the end of the war. Petite's extensive research turned up a number of their names, stories and photographs. At the end of the war, the Pilgrims were fortunate to return to Marietta, Georgia, on the train, but they had to walk back to what is now Oconee County and renew normal lives.  In 1866 they had a third child, George Thomas Pilgrim.  Green Pilgrim took the loyalty oath to the federal government in 1866 and farmed in the county. He was a respected citizen and was elected several times as county coroner. He died in 1893, but Nancy lived until 1931, when she died at 100.

                                                                                                        • • •
    At the ceremonies in the Huff Cemetery, the Pilgrims were honored. Trumpeter James Edwin Bush, Jr. of the 37th Regiment, Washington, GA Confederates, played "Bonnie Blue Flag" and twice played "Dixie."
   Presentations by members of the Roswell Mills Camp #1547, Sons of Confederate Veterans, and the Brig. Gen. T. R. R. Cobb Camp #97, Sons of Confederate Veterans were made. The colors were presented by the 18th Georgia  Volunteer Army Color Guard dressed in Confederate uniforms. They led the Pledge of Allegiance, and fired a salute to honor the Pilgrim family. Elaine Collier Neal, president of the Laura Rutherford Chapter, played a leading role in organizing the unusual ceremony honoring civilians and in obtaining the memorial stone for the graves of Nancy and Green Pilgrim,  survivors of the "Roswell incident." Dozens of other lovers of Civil War history helped organize the marker dedication and included cemetery officials, a minister and many members of several organizations 
   Participants and spectators ended the ceremony by joining hands and singing "Blest Be The Tie That Binds."

An Honor Guard fires a salute honoring the memory of Green and Nancy Pilgrim at ceremonies south of Watkinsville, GA on April 21, 2013. Photo by Al Hester
This old photo shows Nancy Ann Green on her 100th birthday in 1931. She died that year. She was a Civil War mill worker at the Roswell Mills near Atlanta. She and her husband and children were forced to go to Kentucky and Indiana, arrested, but never tried for treason, by the Union Army.
Leaders of the Laura Rutherford United Daughters of the Confederacy Chaper, Athens, GA, lead ceremonies at the Huff Family Cemetery. Photo by Al Hester
Ruins of the Roswell Mills in Roswell, GA. These mills were primer furnishers of cloth for Confederate armies. The mills were captured and burned in July, 1864.
Application for military headstone for Ulysses S. A. Hawkins, buried in Gospel Pilgrim Cemetery in Athens, GA. Pvt. Hawkins enlisted in the 9th Cavalry, a famous "Buffalo Soldiers" unit during the period of the Spanish-American War. (National Archives via
Sgt. Wakefield Brunt served in World War 1 in France and is buried in Gospel Pilgrim Cemetery, Athens, GA. His military headstone is partially obscured. A VFW post in Athens has taken his name. (Photo courtesy of the Wakefield Brunt VFW post)

Veteran Edward D. Burns of Athens, GA was killed in action in World War 2 as a member of the 92nd Infantry Division, an all-black division. Here are division members landing in 1944 at the River Arno in north Italy, where they took many casulaties. (National Archives)
   Part 1 of this article explains that U. S. military veterans are entitled to a free headstone at the cemetery if they were honorably discharged and have no grave marker. At least 57 veterans' headstones are listed on applications from 1925 through 1963, indicating the headstones were ordered for placement in Gospel Pilgrim Cemetery, Athens, GA. This list is in Part 1 of this article.
   The Gospel Pilgrim Cemetery is at Fourth and Bray streets in East Athens and was founded as an African-American burial place in 1882. Most of its approximately 800 identified burials took place prior to the 1960s. Although the headstone applications available on are not a complete list, they do include most of the headstones erected in Gospel Pilgrim.
   The headstone applications are a rich source of genealogical and historical information, including the name of the veteran, who applied for the headstone, dates of the vet's birth and death and what was his military unit and rank. There are official lists of enlistments and casualties in National Archives files. some of these files are online and give additional information about some veterans. contains many of these records.
   Gospel Pilgrim's headstones listed on the applications haven't all been found in Gospel Pilgrim. Some probably are hidden by undergrowth or soil. Some of the marble markers are flat markers that are easily covered with soil, leaves and plants. Not all of the nine-acre cemetery has been cleared as of 2013.
   Part 2 will deal with more details about some of the veterans with military markers at Gospel Pilgrim. The markers were issued for veterans serving from the Spanish-American War period, World War 1, World War 2 and Korea. The headstone list is almost exclusively made up of male enlisted men, although one marker was given to an officer, Capt. William Walter Saphloe of Athens, of the 64th Quartermaster Battalion in World War 2.
   No women veterans are in the Gospel Pilgrim headstone applications from 1925 to 1963. Capt. Saphloe's enlistment papers indicate he joined the Army in April, 1941, in New York City, although he said he was born in Georgia. He enlisted as a private. He had four years of college and was a clerk in publishing and printing. He was divorced with no dependents. A Willie W. Sapp was one of several Sapp family members living  in Athens with Richard and Laura Livingston at 540 W. Hancock Ave. in the 1930 census.
   Capt. Saphloe of Athens was born in 1911 and died in 1948. His headstone is in the Sapp family plot. Applicant for Capt. Saphloe's headstone was Katherine Saphloe, living at 540 W. Hancock Ave.  in Athens. In the 1940 census a "Kate Sapp" is listed as a lodger at that address, but no  other Saphloe is enumerated.  Apparently Captain Saphloe changed his name from Sapp to Saphloe. He was not listed in the Athens, 1940 federal census. A photo of his grave is included with this blog. Capt Saphloe enlisted in New York City, and documents indicate he had four years of college and worked in publishing and printing.
   We find headstone applications for two black Athenians who were killed in action and buried at Gospel Pilgrim. One was PFC Edward D. Burns. He enlisted in World War 2 in 1941 and died while fighting the Germans in Italy in November, 1944. He was in Co. D of the 371st Infantry Regiment, 92nd Infantry Division, the only African-American division seeing heavy combat during World War 2. A younger brother of PFC Burns, James L. Burns, applied for Edward's headstone in 1949.  James lived at 290 Vine St. in Athens. A photo of PFC Burns' headstone may be found with this article.
   A Korean War veteran from Athens, PFC Jessie Odom, was killed in action fighting as a member of Co K, the 8th Cavalry, as a light weapons infantryman.  His death occurred on Oct. 4, 1951, in what is now North Korea. He was born Feb. 2, 1933. PFC Odom's headstone application was made by his older brother William Lanier Odom. His mother was Sarah Laster Odom. His military marker hasn't been found yet in Gospel Pilgrim Cemetery, although we know the marker was ordered.
   Many of the veterans with headstones at Gospel Pilgrim fought in World War 1 in segregated military units. Frequently their military service involved harsh labor in support groups hauling supplies and ammunition to front lines—their work was absolutely essential in supporting combat troops.
   One of the most unusual veterans receiving a headstone at Gospel Pilgrim was Ulysses S. A. Hawkins, sometimes known as Eula Hawkins. I have searched without luck to find all his military service records, but we do know he served in the famous 9th Cavalry, a regiment of the famous Buffalo Soldiers. These black soldiers fought against Indians in the West and gave a good account of themselves in the Spanish American War and the Philippine Insurrection.  Hawkins was a private in Co. G of the Ninth Cavalry Regiment.  Records available to me don't show whether he fought in Cuba or the Philippines or had duty elsewhere.
   We do know from the May, 1902, returns of the regiment that he was discharged honorably on Valentine's Day, 1902, at Fort Walla Walla, Washington. His conduct as a soldier was evaluated as "good." His widow was Mattie M. Hawkins, who received a pension for his Cavalry services.  He and his wife lived in the 500 block of Hull Street in Athens.
   The military service of African Americans from Athens was seldom a matter for big stories in the local newspapers, although we occasionally do see short articles about them. For instance, Willie Ed Binns lived with his grandparents, the Lees on Hull Street, and served in World War 1. His headstone application indicatied he served as a private in the 514th Engineers. So far I haven't found his military records, other than the headstone application, and his grave in Gospel Pilgrim has not been located. We do know he was a veteran, from a story in the April 16, 1919, issue of The Athens Banner, which follows:

"Colored Discharged Soldiers Honor Wm. Ed Binns of Athens
   Willie Ed Binns, a well known young colored man of this city who enlisted in the army during the war and who saw active service in France, died while enroute home on the high seas, and the funeral services were held at the Pierce Chapel Sunday morning at eleven o'clock.
   Over one hundred and fifty honorably discharged colored soldiers as well as the Negro Boy Scouts under command of Captain R. E. Smith acted as an honorary escort in paying respect to this young soldier."
   No cause of death on the troop ship was indicated.

   A rather mysterious veteran is Wakefield C. Brunt, a sergeant in World War I, who saw service in France, according to members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars post in Athens, named for him. An unreadable military marker is partially visible at his Gospel Pilgrim gravesite, and another plain marker is there, too. The military headstone applications for Gospel Pilgrim Cemetery  veterans' markers don't list Wakefield C. Brunt. The VFW post, however, has kindly given us a photo of him in his uniform. Some persons have indicated he died in France in the war, but his non-military tombstone indicates he died in 1927, as does his death certificate. His photo is included here.

     It becomes obvious that  Athens African Americans fought hard to defend their country, even when the military units were segregated, as was life at home. The defense forces weren't integrated until 1948, but many thousands of African American found ways to fight the nation's wars long before that.

This marble military marker indicates PFC Edward D. Burns died in combat in 1944. His division, the 92nd Infantry Div., was the only black division to see combat as a large unit in World War 2. (Photo by Al Hester)
This flat marble marker is for Capt. William W. Saphloe, who is buried with the Sapp family members in Gospel Pilgrim Cemetery, Athens, GA. He was in a Quartermaster Battalion. (Photo by Al Hester)
An example of an Application for Headstone for an honorably discharged Spanish American War veteran from Athens, GA, from the U. S. War Dept.
By Al Hester
            Gospel Pilgrim Cemetery, an African-American cemetery in Athens, Georgia, contains the graves of many black veterans who served their country from the Civil War, the Spanish-American War period, World War I, World War II to later combat periods.
More than 50 Athens African Americans are buried in Gospel Pilgrim with military markers for their honorable service in the U. S. military. Many served in the segregated armed forces before integration took place in World War II.            

            Gospel Pilgrim was founded as a beautiful cemetery for African Americans in 1882 and contains some 3,500 graves. Of this number about 800 or so have been identified.  Most are unmarked. The cemetery is at Fourth and Bray streets in East Athens, near Springfield Baptist Church. It is under the administration of the East Athens Development Corporation, Inc., Winston Heard, director.

  , one of the best-known genealogical services online, now has placed on the Web the applications for military headstones between the years of about 1925 through 1963. These applications offer families trying to trace their history important information about the military service and genealogical facts of their ancestors. The nation furnishes free official military head stones to honorably discharged veterans who have no private markers on their graves. Once you find your veteran ancestor received a headstone, you can use the information to trace his military career, frequently with the name of unit served in. This can lead to finding out pension information and sometimes a wealth of service record data.

            The Georgia online applications show that the marble markers were prepared at Tate, Georgia, from native Georgia marble. Although the application files are not nearly complete, the records online cover the most active burial periods in Gospel Pilgrim's history. Few burials were made at Gospel Pilgrim after the 1960's.  Online applications also cover the same time period for many other Athens cemeteries where headstones were furnished. For African-American families, the applications for headstones in Brooklyn Cemetery, another African-American cemetery in Athens, match Gospel Pilgrim's listings in genealogical value.

            The headstone listings, however, DO NOT contain the specific location of burial in the cemetery. The author of this article has a spreadsheet of all identified graves at Gospel Pilgrim. Please, note, however, that not all veterans' graves with headstones have been found at Gospel Pilgrim. About a quarter of the cemetery is still uncleared, and other markers may have been knocked over or covered with shrubs or soil. I'll be happy to run a check for you if you want information on a grave location at Gospel Pilgrim, or if you wish to visit an ancestor's site.  This information is also available online at If you have a veteran relative who served honorably in the services, he or she may still be eligible for a beautiful government-furnished military marker. These markers come as flat marble or bronze varieties. Funeral homes or veterans' groups can give details, or look on the Web for military headstone application instructions. The markers are free.

            Information on the applications include the unit of military service, birth and death dates, when the headstones were furnished and where they were to be installed. The headstones themselves give brief information including the name of the deceased veteran, type of service and a symbol of what religious affiliation the person had.  The applications also give the name of the family member applying for the headstone and their address. If you want to find out whether your Athens veteran ancestor got a headstone, applications from 1925-1963 may be viewed online at,+Clarke,+Georgia,+USA&msdpn=18082&msdpn_PInfo=8-|0|1652393|0|2|3245|13|0|634|18082|0|&uidh=ca9&gl=&gst=&hc=50&

(The above website address was accurate as of March, 2013.) furnishes service by subscription, but you can use it free at many libraries.

If you want to check on headstone applications in other areas, you can specify the cemetery location and get a listing for areas desired other than Gospel Pilgrim.

What follows is a list of the veterans buried with headstones from 1925 to 1963 at Gospel Pilgrim Cemetery, their name, date of birth and death and military unit and the war in which they served. If there is an asterisk by the name, it means the veteran's grave hasn't been found yet at Gospel Pilgrim, but the burial should have taken place there. There are a few military headstones at Gospel Pilgrim without supporting application records online. These applications may have been made outside the 1925-63 period.

Part 2 of this blog will go into detail about some of the more unusual or interesting facts obtained from studying the headstone applications at Gospel Pilgrim Cemetery.

Veterans Buried with Military Headstones, Gospel Pilgrim and Hillcrest Cemetery, Athens, GA

Name                                                      Birth                                    Death                                    Military Unit                                          War

Armour, Edward R.*                           1909                                     1952                                    Pvt 774th AirMaterielSquadron         WW2                 
Armour, Willie B.*                               1909                                     1957                                    3707thAAF Base Unit, Army              WW2

Austin, Henry L.                                    ?                                          1940                                    Pvt 157 Depot Brig.                               WW1                                  
Barksdale, Andrew D.                         ?                                          1933                                    317 Supply Bn.                                       WW1  Binns, William Ed*                                ?                                          1919                                    Pvt 514th Engrs.                                    WW1                  
Bolton, Clark                                        1919                                     1950                                    Pvt US Army, Unassigned                  WW2                   
Bolton, Earl*                                         1921                                    1955                                     Tec5 4368QMBakeryCo.(Mobile)      WW1 
Bonner, John*                                     1901                                     1944                                    Pvt, CoB 2ndReserveTrainingBn      WW1   
Brunt, Wakefield                                 1893                                     1927                                    Sgt. Army (Mil. Mrkr unreadable)      WW1           Burns, Edward D.                               1917                                     1944                                     CoD371stInfRegt, 92InfDiv                WW2

Campbell, John B.                              1877                                      1944                                     U.S. Volunteer Inf.                                WW1
Campbell, Miller L.                               ?                                           1936                                     Pvt. 101 Hosp. Corps                          WW1
Collins, Isaac                                       1876                                     1927                                      Draft Reg. exists, no othr record   WW1             
Davenport, Arthe(u)r*                       1916                                     1959                                      PfcCoA1813EngrsAvn Bn                WW2                
Davis, Clifford L*.                                 ?                                          1920                                      Pvt 157DepotBri.,Army                      WW1

Gilbert, Robert                                     1890                                    1953                                       Pvt Co C 157thDepBrig                     WW1
Greene, Augustus C.                         1909                                     1941                                      Sgt. Maj. US Army                               WW2
Harden, Edgar                                     1892                                     1954                                      Cpl. Co D 346 Svc Bn                         WW1

Hawkins, Ulysses S. A.*                   1875                                     1914                                      PvtCoG, U.S.9thCavalry       Span.Amer.
Hicks, Charles [note]                        1841                                     1916                                      Pvt 138thRegtCol.Troops           Civil War               Hill, Marion A.*                                     1917                                    1955                                      Tch5, Port Co,TransCor                     WW2 Hill, William Walter*                            1882                                    1947                                      Pvt44TransBn, 157Brig.,
                                                                                                                                                              63rd Pioneer Inf.                                  WW1

Jordan, William P.                                1914                                   1954                                       Tch5 271st PortCo Army                  WW1
Lumpkin, Daniel                                     ?                                        1927                                       Cpl 12thCo ForestEngrs                    WW1
Maddox, Frank                                    1896                                    1944                                        Pvt. 157th DepotBrig.                        WW1
Marable, John                                         ?                                       1955                                        811th Pioneer Inf.                                WW1             
Milner, Ellis*                                        1892                                    1962                                         PvtCoB403rdLaborBn                      WW1
Mines, John, Jr.*                                1917                                    1945                                         Pvt., 297PortCo TC                            WW2
Moore, Jesse B.                                 1891                                    1962                                         Cpl. CoD 315 Svc Bn                         WW1
Morton, Charlie C.                               1895                                   1948                                       MedDepBase2CampHosp                WW1
Morton, Frank B.*                                   ?                                       1934                                       Sgt, 157thDepotBrigade                    WW1
Milner, Ellis*                                         1892                                   1962                                        PvtCoB403rdLaborBn                       WW1
Mines, John, Jr.*                                 1917                                   1945                                         Pvt., 297PortCo TC                            WW2
Newings, John Evin                           1932                                   1956                                         Pvt. US Army                                     Korea

Odom, Jesse*                                      1933                                   1951                                         PFC(KIA)CoK 8thCavReg             Korea   
Owens, Alphonso A.                          1900                                   1930                                         Pvt. SATC Meharry Med                   WW1
Owens, Jesse                                        ?                                        1930                                        Pvt. 403rd Labor Bn                           WW1

Patrick, Lyon                                        1907                                   1952                                        Pfc. 403rd Res Labor Bn                  WW1
Payne, Henry Jr.*                               1919                                   1946                                         Pfc953AAFBaseUnit                         WW2
Pitt(s), Willie                                            ?                                       1946                                         Pvt. 157th Depot Brig.                       WW1
Poyner, Thomas                                  1896                                   1967                                         Bugler?, 315thLaborBn                    WW1
Reid, Willie                                            1894                                   1938                                         QtrmasterCorps                                 WW1
Rucker, Monroe                                     ?                                       1919                                          Pvt. 530th Engrs.                               WW1
Sanders, Edward O.*                            ?                                        1921                                          Pvt. 55th Depot Brig.                        WW1
Saphloe, William W.*                           1911                                  1948                                          Capt. 64thQMBnGermany               WW2
Shanks, Otis                                           ?                                        1957                                         Cook, 15th Depot Brig.                     WW1
Shaw, Willie A.*                                      ?                                        1927                                         48thCo 157DepotBrig.                      WW1
Smith, Robert                                         ?                                        1925?                                       313th Svc Bn.                                     WW1
Stanton, Curtis W.*                              1911                                  1956                                          No headstone application             Korea    
Stephens, Peyton S.                            1911                                  1958                                          Sgt. Hq41stEngr. Regt.                    WW2
Stewart, Vance W.*                              1906                                   1960                                         Tch5, 213PortCo. Army                  WW2
Stovall, Claude                                     1912                                   1949                                          Pfc. Qtrmstr Corps                          WW2
Strickland, George H.                         1908                                   1954                                          Army, no headstone rec.                WW2
Strickland, John A.*                              ?                                        1919                                          Pvt45thCo 12Bn157Dep                 WW1
Tate, Son*                                                ?                                        1940                                           Pvt842ndCo845thRegt                  WW1
Terrell, Burnett                                      ?                                         1944                                           Sgt. 3768 QM Trk Co.                     WW2
Willingham, Frank*                               ?                                         1934                                           PvtCoD3085Bn                                WW1 Winkfield, Walter P.                               ?                                        1932                                           Pvt. 304 Svc Bn. QMC                    WW1
Wood, Miles                                          1888                                   1947                                           Pioneer Inf.                                        WW1

*Burial site in Gospel Pilgrim not yet found.
Hicks note: Descendants expected to apply for military marker.
General Note: A few of these burials are in Hillcrest Cem., adjacent to Gospel Pilgrim Cem., on the side by the apartment complex on 4th St.

This painting by Laura Era shows Lincoln reading the Emancipation Proclamation with members of his cabinet and Anna Ella Carroll occupying one chair. Artist Era was commissioned to re-do the original painting by Francis B. Carpenter which showed one chair empty. There is evidence that Carroll aided Lincoln in war activities. It is thought that her chair was left empty, but with an identifying map and case used by Carroll. We can speculate it would have been impolitic to show Lincoln being advised by a woman. For more on this intriguing and vital story, see information online at the Maryland Women's Hall of Fame.
The 150th Anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation is Jan. 1, 2013


   As 2013 begins in Athens, Georgia, there are Watch Night church services where the Emancipation Proclamation is read and celebrated. African Americans don't forget what happened 150 years ago. Thousands commemorate the Emancipation Proclamation throughout the country.  Other African Americans, however, celebrate a traditional New Year's Eve Watch Night religious service without delving into the Civil War past, preferring to look toward the future of the New Year.

   As early as Fall, 1862, Athens residents black and white, knew Lincoln was moving toward an Emancipation Proclamation. The world's press carried stories about the proclamation freeing the slaves. Apparently, however, little direct mention was made about emancipation in the Athens area in white-controlled newspapers. A digitized search of the years of newspaper files immediately before and after the Emancipation Proclamation's Jan. 1, 1863, date found only a few articles discussing the Emancipation Proclamation in the Athens press. These articles seem selected to reflect disapproval of the Proclamation in various foreign and non-Georgia papers and didn't put in writing the Proclamation's contents.  

   A leading Athens citizen, Augustus Longstreet Hull, however, confirmed the town's knowledge about coming emancipation in his basic history, Annals of Athens, Georgia, 1801-1901. Hull treats the matter at some length and will be discussed later.

   Today is the day we note Abraham Lincoln's signing and release of his Emancipation Proclamation to free Confederate slaves. With the release of the proclamation, the Civil War became unabashedly the instrument to liberate the country's four million slaves, although this process wouldn't be completed until the 13th Amendment to the U. S. Constitution went into effect in December, 1865. More than two bloody years of fighting still remained before the South surrendered. The Emancipation Proclamation could not free millions of slaves until the Union Army wrested a victory and controlled the entire South.

   Lincoln, after much struggle with himself, finally realized that freeing the slaves was absolutely necessary as an action by the nation's commander-in-chief to win the war. He had delicately edged around the question of immediate and non-compensated freedom for slaves for several years, as he tried to woo the Border States and the Confederate South to give up on slavery. Finally he knew that no diplomatic or soft-handed effort was going to give him victory as commander-in-chief. He also needed African-American soldiers, and the Proclamation embraced this need. More than 200,000 black soldiers did join the ranks of the Union Army before the Civil War ended and aided greatly.

   Eric Foner, a highly noted Civil War, Reconstruction and Lincoln historian, discusses Lincoln's anguish wrestling with the questions of slavery and freedom in his noteworthy book, The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery.

   "One hundred and fifty years ago, on Jan. 1, 1863, Abraham Lincoln presided over the annual White House New Year's reception. Late that afternoon, he retired to his study to sign the Emancipation Proclamation," Foner wrote today in an op-ed piece in the New York Times.

   "When he took up his pen, his hand was shaking from exhaustion. Briefly, he paused—'I do not want it to appear as if I hesitated,' he remarked. Then Lincoln affixed a firm signature to the document," Foner writes.

   "In essence, Lincoln asked the nation to confront unblinkingly the legacy of slavery. What were the requirements of justice in the face of this reality? What would be necessary to enable former slaves and their descendants to enjoy fully the pursuit of happiness?  Lincoln did not live to provide an answer. A century and a half later, we have yet to do so," he writes.

   Obviously Athens residents knew that Lincoln had written a preliminary emancipation proclamation, but had not officially released it. For example, in its Oct. 29, 1862, issue,  the Athens Southern Watchman without any comment passed on a story from England, relayed from the London Times but obviously quoting the foreign item with approval:

   "The London Times says that the emancipation proclamation of Lincoln is a political concession of the Abolitionists, that when the Union existed the Constitution gave no right to the President or Congress to free the slaves. Emancipation was the bolt in the hands of the President to destroy the social organization of the South—a blow which Lincoln has assumed the right to launch, without the power to enforce his decrees. The North must conquer every square mile of the South before it can make the proclamation of more effect than merely a waste of paper."

   In the same issue of the Southern Watchman, another item running in the London Post, was repeated: "The London Post says: It is not easy to estimate how utterly contemtible [sic] a government must have become which could sanction, with its approval, such insensate trash."

   The Watchman ran a third article in its Nov. 26, 1862, issue, upholding the freedom of expression of a Missouri judge, who was arrested for questioning the wisdom of the preliminary emancipation proclamation. The Watchman showed its anger with the judge's arrest under a headline "More Specimens of Freedom under Lincoln Rule." Several articles published in the Athens papers after Jan. 1, 1863, followed the technique of quoting disapproval of the Proclamation abroad and in the North.

   Hull in his Annals wrote that the preliminary emancipation proclamation, which Lincoln composed in September, 1862, after the Battle of Antietam, was not kept secret.  We know that Lincoln was advised not to release the proclamation until a more opportune time. Several newspapers wrote articles about this preliminary document.

   "The emancipation proclamation of Mr. Lincoln had no effect on the [Athens] negroes at the time, although they were generally told of it," Hull wrote, discussing the Jan. 1, 1863, proclamation.

   As the Union Army conquered and occupied Georgia in 1864 and 1865, Georgia slaves began to exercise their freedom. They already knew that it existed on paper, but only armed might of the Union Army made possible the beginning of their emancipation. Many joined the Union army marching through Georgia.

   Hull recounted the breakdown in Athens society: "After the surrender of General [Joseph] Johnston there came a brigade of Federal cavalry in search of Mr. [Jefferson] Davis. It was the signal for the disruption of the old regime." By May, 1865, federal troops occupied Athens.

   Hull wrote that his father ". . . called up the hands on the plantation and told them they were now free and must take care of themselves; if they chose they might remain on the place until they should decide what to do. The effect was curious. The younger men left at once to enjoy their new-found freedom with a happy-go-lucky lack of forethought, not knowing where they were to get their suppers. The men with families remained."

   The Jan. 1, 1863, Emancipation Proclamation formally proclaimed "the freedom of all slaves held in areas still in revolt," the National Archives said in opening its special 150th anniversary of the proclamation on New Year's Eve. "The issuance of this Proclamation clarified and strengthened the position of the Union government, decreased the likelihood of European support of the Confederacy and, as the Union armies extended their occupation of the southern states, brought freedom to the slaves in those states."

This rather dramatic illustration shows a black Union soldier reading the Emancipation Proclamation to an African-American family in 1863.

By Al Hester, PhD


Finding Information about ex-slaves is hard work.  Many who visit this site on the Web know from personal experience that their efforts are frequently frustrating and time-consuming.  The major difficulties include the lack of listing slaves' names in the U. S. federal censuses from 1790 through 1860. Between 1790 and 1840 only the white heads of households were listed by name.  Beginning with the 1850 census, all white individuals as well as minorities including Chinese, Latinos, and American Indians were enumerated by name. It was only after Emancipation, that African Americans were enumerated by name. They were also counted as being "black" or "mulatto."

Some genealogical searchers are lucky enough to find slaves listed in private records, such as plantation inventories, probate documents of slave owners, or bills of sale or wills of white owners. Newspaper advertisements often included the names of runaway slaves or sales of slaves. Frequently, only the first names of slaves were mentioned.

After slaves became free, other records began mentioning them, frequently giving valuable information about African Americans after the Civil War, during the 1860's and 1870's during Reconstruction came into being.  One of the most useful records giving family information about former slaves are the lists of deposit applications for African Americans wanting to start savings accounts with the Freedman's Savings Bank, a government effort to encourage saving.  These records are on-line at, the well known genealogy and history site. See › SearchTax, Criminal, Land & Wills.. It is freely available at many libraries and for a subscription fee for use by individuals at home. The site also has Freedmen's Bureau field office records, which contain thousands of the names of newly freed slaves (see link above). These records are also available on microfilm at the Athens Regional Library.

Tax records also are of some help in tracing the lives of former slaves and are available in the Georgia State Archives (it will be open two days a week to the public. Check the Archives site before going.) and in most Georgia counties. Marriage, probate and will records also are readily available at the court house in most counties.

But Athens area readers may also want to know where their ex-slave ancestors are buried in the local Athens area and their birth and death dates.  Black cemeteries are especially sources of information inscribed on tombstones of ex-slaves. Sometimes finding out the birth dates or death dates of the African Americans you are researching can lead to finding many other pieces of information.  Military records on-line at and elsewhere on the Web can be very helpful. Often, the entire military service records can be ordered from the National Archives in Washington, with indexes often published on-line by Ancestry. com or other genealogical sites. Some Georgia ex-slaves left slavery to enlist in the Union Army, especially as Gen. W. T. Sherman marched from Atlanta to the Sea. Hundreds of Georgia slaves also enlisted in newly formed black regiments in the wake of Union Gen. James Wilson's large, destructive cavalry raid from Atlanta to Macon in spring 1865.

In my work as history and research chairperson for the Gospel Pilgrim cemetery at Fourth and Bray Streets in East Athens, I have put together what may be a useful list for local Athens residents who are researching their ex-slave ancestors.

The cemetery was founded in 1882 as a 9-acre cemetery by the Gospel Pilgrim Society and contains graves of perhaps 3,500 African Americans.  Of this number, the majority of graves are unmarked, and we don't know who is buried in these graves. The list of burials and lots was lost many years ago. There are about 800 graves of African Americans, however, which are identified by a readable marker.

Among the identified graves, or from information given to us mentioning Gospel Pilgrim as a burial site, there are more than 100 graves we know are of ex-slaves. In several cases I have been happy to help African Americans or interested white persons find the graves of a specified person in whom they were interested. We have a rough spread sheet with as much information as possible on the graves with identification at Gospel Pilgrim, and I am glad to "look up" persons sought by descendants or friends. We hope to have soon an on-line spreadsheet of the known burials—a spreadsheet which will be searchable by first or last names. When this Web site for Gospel Pilgrim goes on-line, I'll mention it and link to it on this site.

Below is the list of African Americans ex-slaves buried at Gospel Pilgrim. This list includes the best birthdates and death dates we can find. Many times, especially among ex-slaves, they simply didn't know for sure when they were born.  Once you know their birthdates and death dates, you can frequently find more information, for example if these ex-slaves lived to be recorded in post-Civil War censuses, wills, deeds, or tax records.

In a handful of cases on this list, you will see an asterisk by the specific death date. This calls attention to an online image of a death certificate from the site begun by the Georgia State Archives and Secretary of State. Currently it is searchable for the years from the beginning of compulsory birth and death registrations, 1919 through about 1927.  If this site is malfunctioning, this information is also available at Family on the Web.


Name                                      Born                          Died

 Adams, Charlton                  1856 or 57                  ?

Adams, Obadiah, Rev.        2-13-1828                  11-19-1892

Adams, Mrs. Mete?              856 or 57                    3-31-1903

Allen, Gwen [Owen?]           Dec. 1829                  12-28-1900

Austin, Nicey                         1843                            1935

Bacon, Edward                     12-25-1854               12-13-1906

Bacon, Marenia                    10-17-1849               11-27-1917

Bacon, Mary                          10-17-1849                11-27-1917

Bass, E. W.                             8-23-1860                 6-20-1903

Barker[?], Sam[?]                  1847[?]                       Jan. 1927[?]

Bates, William                        1865                           1942

Billups, Betty McRee             1860                           1938

Brown[?]                                   1862                          1942

Brydie, Camilla                        1851[?]                        ?

Brydie, Daniel H.                     1829                           1894

Carey, Fannie L.                        7-8-1854                 12-9-1938

Cox, Mrs. Mollie                        1863                          12-3-1935

Davis, C.[?] H.                            7-8-1845                   6-11-1895

Davis, Madison                          1833                          1902

Davis, Minnie H.[?]                    1859                            1940 or 1950?

Deadwyler, Mattie                      1844                            1935[?]

Derricotte, Bernard[?]                1858                            1890

Derricotte, Charlotte L.             4-13-1863                  11-5-1927*

Derricotte, Edward                    1863                            1927

Derricotte, Isaac Thomas        1860?                          1951?

Derricotte, Laura B.                  1865?                           1951

Derricotte, Randle                    3-8-1812                      ?

Derricotte, Savannah              11-17-1852                   9-25-1900

Dillard, William                         1838?                            6-7-1908

Downer, G. T.                            1862                              2-2-1915

Drake, Laura L. T.                     1862                              5-24-1905

Dukes, Mary                              1833 or 1843               1908

Favors, Tom                               1806                              1931

Fields, Eldon                              1849                               1-29-1925*

Fields, Susie                               1859[?]                          9-29-1927*

Fisher, Lula                                 1859                              1904

Foster, Emma Shropshire        5-20-1860                     1-6-1949

Gilham, Laura                            1863                               1943

Harris, Elizabeth (Lizzie)          8-10-1857                     1920*

Harris, Henrietta                         1857                               1932

Harris, Robert                             1836                               8-6-1914

Hawkins, Ida                               5-12-1861                     3-11-1909

Hawkins, S. H.                            1859                               1937

Heard, --et                                   1832?                            8-28-1890

Heard, Bartlett                             1832                             7-26-1890

Heard, J.  A.[?]                             1855                             1908

Heard, J. H.                                  6-6-1855                      12-30-1908

Heard, Mattie                               Oct., 1865                     11-13-1943

Heard, William                            Apr. 1865                       9-26-1939

Hicks, Charles                             1841                              12-8-1916

Holt, Carolyn                               1-21-1839 or 49           10-8-1902

Houston, Charlie                        1858                               10-29-1942

Hudson, Charlie                           858?                             10-29-1942

Hunter, Richard                           1857                               1929

Jackson, Alfred                           10-5-1824                       2-14-1884

Jackson, Louisa                           12-9-1825                     11-3-1895

Johnson, Alice V.                          1857                               4-4-1918

Johnson, W. D., Rev.                   1842                               4-1-1909

Jones, ---                                         1814                              1903

Jones, Georgia                             2-7-1849                       12-9-1923

Jones, John W.                             1832?]                           1917

Jones, Louisa Beale, Mrs.          1854                              10-11-1910

Jones, Luvenia                              3-20-1852                  9-14-1922*

Jones, Tena, Mrs.                         1843 or 1848             1888

Jones, Lula, Mrs.                           3-18-1859                 4-3-1930

Jones, Sallie, Mrs.                        1860                             7-25-1885

Jones, Thomas                              1825                            10-13-1900

Jones, Vinnie                                12-25-1825                 11-7-1887

Jones, W. A.                                   1855                             11-5-1905

Jones, W. A., Jr.                            1855                             1905

Jones, Willis A. Sr., Rev.             2-28-1814                     3-3-1913

Lawrence, Carrie                          Aug. 1850                  12-15-1924

Livingston, Emmaline                  1828                             1912

Mack, Charlotte M. or H.             1862                              1933

Mack, John R.                               1856                              1918

Mason, Mattie Shaw                     Apr.  1854                    ?

McCleskley, Edward                   1865                              1932

McClesky, James                         1857                              1944

McCray, Laura                               6-7-1818                      12-5-1913

McQueen, Amanda                       3-26-1858                   12-31-1916

McQueen, W. M.                             11-15-1850                 3-19-1905

McRee, Edward                              1860                             1955

Morton, Amanda                             1850                             1885

Morton, Elizabeth, Mrs.                  1834                             1885

Morton, Elizabeth                           1836                               1-10-1886?

Morton, Monroe B.                        1855                                  1919*

Morton, Tallulah                            1862 or 1867?                 1941

Nesbitt, John                                  1853                                  10-13-1895

Owens, Isabella                              1859                                11-8-1919*

Pinckney, Mrs. Hopie                  1862                                    1888

Pledger, William  A.                      1849 or 1850?                  1-8-1904

Pope, Celie                                    1780?                                 1895

Powers, Armstead D.                  11-24-1834                         ?

Powers, Harriet                            12-9-1837[?]                       ?

Pure, Mrs. Ossie                           1857                                    1925

Randolph, Susan                           1854                                  1929

Reid, Lorenzo W.                            1863                                  1947

Rhodes,  Bessie                              1865                                 1935

Sanders-McGee, Sarah                 1854                                  7-21-1934

Scott, Samuel S.                             1862?                                ?

Sheppard, Anna M. H.                  8-17-1862                         4-25-1885

Smith, Candace C. Wiley              1845                                   1929

Smith, Martha                                 1864                                     5-30-1922*

Spaulding, Amanda McQueen   1858                                     1916

Stephens, Mrs. Nancy                  1856                                      ?

Stephens, Oliver                            1849                                    9-8-1880

Stevens, Julia                                1844                                    1941

Virgil, Emma                                  1860                                     1944

W. J., Mr.                                         1855?                                   1932

Whitfield, W. M.                              1865                                    1939

Williams, Harriet                            10-11-1853                         2-24-1930

Williams, Jane                                1837                                    1-13-1891

Wiley, Candace                              1845                                     1929

Young, Agnes, Mrs.                        March 1837                        1-10-1898

114 Total slaves in G. P. + many, many more in unmarked graves or in uncleared portions of the cemetery.
Dates with question marks indicate difficulties in reading the date on the tombstone.

Below is an example of the death certificate of Charlotte L. Derricotte of Athens, Georgia.  In addition to date and cause of death, we also find the name of her spouse, her age, her occupation [cateress], her address where she died, where she was born, and the names of her father and mother--a rich bonanza for her descendants.