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dee_burris: (Default)
Monday, February 21st, 2011 08:16 pm
I've met a lot of family historians, genealogists and gravers* who grumble about large cemeteries.

You know the big honking ones with paved streets and street signs - the kind you *need* a map to get around in.

If it has more than 20,000 burials, then I call it a large cemetery.

Some of them say they find the big ones, especially the corporate big ones, cold, impersonal and dismissive.

I think those are probably really the (very small) minority of the tens of thousands of cemeteries all over this country where people are dying to help you (pun intended.)

And every once in a while, you run across a stellar operation.

I think that should be acknowledged.

*graver. Noun. A person who photographs funerary art for the sheer joy of it and is catapulted into a state of bliss when the stones are damp with a recent light rain.

Dear Board of Trustees and Staff of Elmwood...

I’ve been to Elmwood twice in the past six months. Before then, I am ashamed to say, I didn’t even know it existed.

I am a “graver.” I have loved and photographed funerary art for many years. So Elmwood should have been on my radar for that reason alone. It is a stunning presentation of funerary art that has evolved over decades, and is immaculately maintained.

I found Elmwood because I was searching for my g-g-g grandfather’s date and location of death, and his place of burial. It took me two years of looking off and on until I finally mis-spelled his surname badly enough for a Google search engine to give me some valid results.

Nathaniel C Callaway (1819-1862) went off to fight in the CSA on 6 Mar 1862. He enlisted in his home town of Arkadelphia, in Clark County, AR. His youngest child had just celebrated his fourth birthday. Nathaniel and his wife, Julia Ann, had just buried their second child nine months earlier.

And he just never came back.

None of the descendants at the annual family reunion knew when or where he died or was buried. No one’s parents knew what happened to him.

And I finally found him at Elmwood. Not only that, but one of his cousins. They were buried in the section called Confederate Soldiers Rest.

So I rounded up a Callaway cousin and we came to see.

We discovered that Nathaniel C and Levi A Callaway’s graves were not formally marked, but had the numbered concrete markers installed on all the Confederate graves in 1886. So we ordered their military markers from the VA.

And waited.

From the very beginning, our experience with Elmwood has been marvelous. We have now been to Elmwood twice, and enjoyed the hospitality and professionalism of your staff – from the front office all the way to the cemetery superintendent, Todd Fox. In addition, I’ve had perhaps a half dozen telephone conversations and email exchanges with your staff that expedited setting up a date to watch Mr. Fox install gravestones on our Callaway ancestors’ graves.

Nearly a century and a half after they died, we now have photos of their properly marked graves, in the shade of wondrous southern magnolias. I am grateful that our Callaway men who died so far from home have such a lovely resting place. Almost next to each other.

Please share this letter and my thanks and appreciation with everyone who works so hard to make Elmwood the fine cemetery it is.


Sent it by email this afternoon and the hard copy will go out in the snail mail tomorrow.
dee_burris: (Default)
Monday, February 21st, 2011 07:42 pm
The past week was a really good one for wrapping up loose ends on some of the ancestors, and getting a foothold on a couple more who have stubbornly refused to give up much detail at all in their sporadic paper trails.

In addition, I've found tantalizing little bits on a couple of people in other family trees I manage.

These are trees for some very special friends of mine, who having listened to me talk about discoveries in my family tree, have begun to reminisce about stories that came through their own families.

Usually, all it takes is for one of them to wonder aloud, I wonder if there was any truth to that... and I am ready to explain about how to start looking. These three didn't have the resources to start looking. They love the idea of having their trees online, and help me research by asking their families THOSE questions...did anyone ever mention so-and-so?

Because I'm just saying...I'll get as involved in your family history as you are.

So I have four family trees on Rootsweb that have no relationship to mine at all. Three of them are the aforementioned friends - one having a great-grandfather served with the US Colored Troops in the Civil War. Turns out his g-granddad had the same name as another man, almost exactly his age. Both men, named Orange Martin, had been slaves in Arkansas, and fought for their freedom.

It was so ironic to realize when I ripped open the envelope from NARA with Orange Martin's Civil War service record that I had the wrong one. Almost identical dates of birth, but served in different units, etc. And both lived in Arkansas.

It seemed like there was absolutely no one at all looking for the man I began to call The Other Orange Martin.

So I created that fourth tree. It has eight people in it - all of whom were identified in his military file. I keep hoping someone finds it and runs with it...and I hope they email me to say they want his records...

It may sound hokey, but when Todd Fox was preparing Nathaniel and Levi Callaway's gravesites to install their stones, and told me I could have the tops of the numbered concrete columns he took out to lay the markers...


I jumped on it.

Each was one was about 3 feet into the ground with the numbered top protruding about six inches. Nathaniel's was 102 and Levi's was 140.

Folks, that was a 125 year old concrete marker that was installed on the grave in 1886.


Right now they are on the front porch. I don't know if they will come inside (for protection from the weather in their 126th year) or stay outside.

I do know they are very heavy.

I hope I'm closing in on Margaret Ann Tipps (who married John Dillehay, then John Coffman and finally John Lockhead). If so, I'll probably be posting the saga of a woman who soldiered on against some pretty tough odds. They called her Molly.

Sounds like one of her kids kinda acted up, too. Wonder what it was like to deal with a teenager in the 1880's? At least you didn't have to worry about them wrecking the car.

And yeah, I'm wondering what was up with all Molly's Johns...

I've had my windows open for 4 days now. It has been very mild, and very humid.

And it's kind of weird to go out to my table on the porch with my laptop and not even need a sweater this time of year. But this is the south.

So I just cracked up when I finally figured something out.

I figured out why I had not been able to find the cemetery where Molly Tipps was buried. Everyone remembered being told she was buried in Blues Chapel Cemetery in White County.

Except there was no such cemetery, and I couldn't find anything that said in the olden days we called it that.

I went back and took a look at the 1930 census, when Molly was living with her son and his family in Grubbs, Jackson County, AR.

That's *real* close to White County. Molly died in 1937.

And guess what?

There's a Ballews Chapel Cemetery in Grubbs, right behind the Ballews Chapel Southern Baptist Church.


I love it when our Southern accents get in our way.

'Cause you can usually get around that.

The journey is good.
dee_burris: (Default)
Saturday, February 19th, 2011 06:28 pm
I have "the book" written by John W Cothern called Confederates of Elmwood, and am happy to do look-ups for anyone. Just leave a comment to this entry or this one, and I will reply.
dee_burris: (Default)
Saturday, February 19th, 2011 04:06 pm
I have a list in one of the genealogy folders on my computer.

It contains the names and burial locations of some of my relatives whose graves are unmarked.

That list bothers me. I'm doing my best to get rid of all the names on it.

Two of the names fell off the list today.

Nathaniel C Callaway - my g-g-g-grandfather, and Levi A Callaway, his cousin.

They are buried in Confederate Soldiers Rest in Elmwood Cemetery in Memphis.

My Callaway cousin, Joe, went with me to deliver the stones and watch them being set.



Todd Fox, the cemetery superintendent who set the stones for us, gave me the tops of the 125 year-old numbered concrete markers from the graves. Nathaniel's was 102, Levi's 140.

Two down - four to go.

Unless I find more...
dee_burris: (Default)
Monday, January 24th, 2011 10:51 am
Got the call on my drive into the office this morning from UPS freight.

Tomorrow, they will deliver VA gravestones for my Callaway kin buried at Elmwood Cemetery in Memphis.

I was so excited. Called my Callaway cousin (and partner in crime) in Clark County.

We're putting our heads together for a good time to take the stones to the cemetery and watch them being set. Western Tennessee will be hit by snow this week, so it will have to be later.

Then, we will get our photos...
dee_burris: (Default)
Sunday, November 21st, 2010 11:13 am

I took photos of 55 Confederate soldiers' gravestones while I was at the cemetery.

That is just a fraction of the more than 1,300 Confederate soldiers and veterans buried in the cemetery, with over 1,000 of those graves in the Fowler section of the cemetery known as Confederate Soldiers Rest.

Many of those graves remain without a military marker, but 945 do have a numbered concrete markers placed there by the Confederate Historical Association in 1886.

Included in this entry are the 55 photos I took, along with a brief transcription of the information on the stone, so that people searching for any of these soldiers might be able to find them when using Google or other search engines.

If your relative is among these 55 men, and you want the photo of the gravestone for your own personal genealogy or family records, I am expressly waiving copyright on the photos used for that purpose. Just right click and save the photo to your computer. I retain copyright for any photos that someone might want to use for a commercial purpose.

In other words, if you want to make money off the deal, we will have to get all formal with a written agreement about that.

While I was at Elmwood, I purchased a copy of John W Cothern's book, Confederates of Elmwood, which was carefully researched over a number of years. It has additional information about each of the soldiers, and I can do look-ups for anyone who thinks his or her Confederate soldier relative may be buried at Elmwood. Leave a comment with your request and I will reply to your comment here.

Click here for photos... )
dee_burris: (Default)
Saturday, November 20th, 2010 07:15 pm

I wanted to go to Elmwood ever since I found out last summer that my g-g-g-grandfather, Nathaniel C Callaway, was buried there, in the section called Confederate Soldiers Rest.

This week, one of my newly found Callaway cousins and I had a Nike moment, and said let's just do it.

So we went today.

We found Nathaniel's grave, with the help of a map with tiny little plot numbers on it, and a very enthusiastic office staffer with a magnifying glass. We also found Levi Callaway's grave - he was a fourth cousin to Nathaniel.

Neither grave was marked, apart from the little concrete markers with the plot numbers, 652 and 140, on them. But now we know where they are, and we can order markers from the government, pay the cemetery to set the stones, and then get our photos.

Elmwood is on the National Register of Historic Places. It is huge, and tours are given by advance request for groups of ten or more. You can take an audio driving tour solo, but we just decided to meander on our own.


I took 202 photos. It was very hard for me to pare down the number to post.

Click here to see 30 more... )