FLORENCE — A quick look at some of the aging and makeshift tombstones in the Armstead Cemetery is a hint at the history of the hallowed ground.
“It goes back to slavery, back before the Civil War,” said Jessie Smith, a member of the Armstead Cemetery Association. “The cemetery came from the slave master. He donated the land for the slaves to be buried.”
The association worked for the last two to three years, cleaning the cemetery and reclaiming it.
Smith said there are more than 100 graves in the cemetery, and the group has found 48 graves that are unmarked.
“Many just have old rocks for headstones,” Smith said. “A friend had given me some cut stones and we are going to put a stone with a cross on it at all of the unmarked graves.”
The group learned that a gravel county road, Armstead Cemetery Road, is on top of some graves.
“The road actually goes through the cemetery (from Lauderdale 282 to Lauderdale 200),” said Lauderdale County Engineer Ken Allamel. “We have maintained the road for years. There are graves on each side of the road.”
County officials said as workers continued to maintain the roadway, the unmarked graves were taken into part of the roadway.
After being notified of this by members of the cemetery association, the commission in November authorized Allamel to begin taking the necessary steps to vacate the road, which means the county would no longer be involved in the road’s upkeep and would turn it over to the cemetery association.
Allamel said the county would be vacating about 300-350 feet of the roadway through the cemetery. He said his office has finalized the legal description of the road and has turned it over to the county attorney, Chris Smith, to review before it is brought to the commission.
He said he visited the area as well as talked with adjoining landowners, who do not object to the county vacating the portion of the roadway in question.
“After going out there and seeing the situation, I believe the road is on top of some of the old graves,” Smith said.
He said his intentions are to have the necessary paperwork ready for the commission to discuss at its Jan. 14 commission meeting, if not sooner.
Tom Smith can be reached at 256-740-5757 or tom.smith@TimesDaily.com.