Not forgotten: Volunteers clean up Jonesville Cemetery
by Marcus E. Howard
February 20, 2011 12:00 AM | 5266 views | 1 1 comments | 20 20 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Master Sgt. Felicia Bryant loads up a wheelbarrow with brush and limbs from the Jonesville cemetery Saturday. <br> Photo by Todd Hull
Master Sgt. Felicia Bryant loads up a wheelbarrow with brush and limbs from the Jonesville cemetery Saturday.
Photo by Todd Hull
MARIETTA - About 50 people gathered on Saturday to clean up a graveyard where freed slaves are buried, known as Jonesville Cemetery, which is located inside the boundaries of Dobbins Air Reserve Base.

The cemetery was created in the mid- to late-1800s and belonged to Jonesville, a once active black community in Cobb County until it was shuttered in 1942. While the community moved on, the cemetery remained and has been left dormant in recent years, which has allowed weeds and snakes to make their home next to headstones.

The last time the cemetery was cleaned was a decade ago, according to Dobbins. So members of Dobbin's Top 3 organization, composed of the top three enlisted ranks, and the 94th Airlift Wing Human Resources Development Council recruited volunteers from Dobbins and Mt. Sinai Baptist Church to help clean up and restore the cemetery.

Mt. Sinai is said to be the oldest black Baptist church in Cobb. It was founded in 1864 in Jonesville.

"It's been a long time since it's been touched," said 94th Airlift Wing Capt. Darrell Bogan of the cemetery. "Dobbins does not own the property but it's befitting that it's kind of protecting it. And it's part of our community outreach to get out here and clean the cemetery."

In fact, volunteers from Dobbins were the last people to clean up Jonesville Cemetery in July 2001.

At least 36 graves were located Saturday in the roughly 1-acre cemetery, said Mike Jones of the Cobb Cemetery Commission, who first learned of the cemetery in the 1980s.

Most are unmarked, but a few have headstones or fieldstones, such as one that belongs to Rebecca Beford, who was born a month after the end of the Civil War on May 11, 1865 and died on Dec. 20, 1908.

According to Jones, a few of those who were buried were born slaves and later became free. But many of the buried were probably poor farmers who couldn't afford the expense of a headstone, he said.

"There's still so many unanswered questions," Jones said.

In its heyday, Jonesville is said to have had its own postmaster and police officer, in addition to Mt. Sinai.

With the advent of World War II and the building of the Bell bomber plant, Cobb County purchased the land encompassing Jonesville and relocated its residents, according to Dobbins. In the late 1930s, Rickenbacker Field was first built near the site. Dobbins and Lockheed Martin later followed.

However, the cemetery was not relocated.

While Mt. Sinai is believed to own a portion of the cemetery, it is unknown who actually owns the rest of it.

"We're still doing some deed searches," Jones said. "Right now, we're just treating it as an abandoned cemetery."

When Jonesville residents were pushed off the land to make way for the aircraft plant, they took their wooden church with them piece by piece and re-erected it on Woods Drive near Lemon Street in the early 1940s. Some Mt. Sinai members who volunteered to clean up earlier on Saturday were seen with tears in their eyes.

Kathy Veit, 66, of Smyrna, was one of the few civilians without a connection to Mt. Sinai, who volunteered to restore Jonesville Cemetery. She said she learned about the cleanup from an associate.

"I love history," said Veit while removing weeds. "What I am curious about is what are they going to do ultimately with access?"

Jones said those with a family member buried in Jonesville Cemetery should contact Dobbins to arrange access to the cemetery.

Because the federal government does not own the cemetery, no federal money was used for the cleanup, according to Dobbins.

Volunteers worked from 9 a.m. until around 4 p.m. Saturday. They plan to continue the cleanup today. Another work weekend is scheduled for March 19 and 20.
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Brad from Florida
February 21, 2011
A good article. Please follow up and tell us more about the cemetery cleaning project. How could other civilians participate?
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