If you read yesterdays post then I can jump right in. If you didn’t you might want to back track just a bit…
So I see a table with what appears to have “stuff” on it. And a fence. And I’m certain we are doomed for trespassing but for some crazy reason I keep going, determined that if we made it this far by god we are going to figure out what is up there.
And it’s a graveyard. The shapes pretty much immediately registered with me as I used to do a lot of haunting cemeteries in my younger days. I’ve always been in love with the mix of ruin and hope. The tombstone art and words always enthralled me. And also I just love history and peoples lives. Going to a cemetery gives you a pretty good idea about an old town and their people. Sometimes they offer up nothing, but sometimes they have quite a story to tell.
This one definitely made me want to learn more about the area and I intend to. Maybe a few visits to some historical societies and the downtown library will help me flesh out the lives these people lived. What I do know about them is this- the Nichols Cemetery has been designated a historical cemetery by the Jefferson County Historical Commission and was founded in 1831. I know there are a few different family names in the cemeteries but they seem to be centered around just a few names. They owned slaves and some of the slaves graves are marked. But I wonder- where were their houses? What did they do? Were they affluent? Had they been here long in Alabama? Could I find any trace of their lives in these woods if I knew where their homestead, barns, fields, etc. had been? Are any of their descendants still here? Amidst all this time spent wondering about the people and land I made time to admire the mountains around us. From the cemetery top you pretty much have a three sided view of a ring of mountains. The land appears to have been clear cut at some time so there’s a certain emptiness and sadness to the desecration that stares up from the valley. But there is still a beauty in it, for instance when the three white tail deer fled as we came up the hill. Life still thrives around this cemetery.
The table was a traditional kind you might see in older cemeteries usually under an open sided shed/roof area used to picnic or by visitors in different ways. I’ve been to one old Alabama cemetery that pretty much had a building the size of a barn, enclosed on two of the sides and up to about waist high with a wall. It was the weirdest largest picnic/resting area in a graveyard I’d seen but I guess it certainly protected you from the elements!
This would be an excellent place to hike to and explore. We intend to go back and go down some of the four wheeler and horse trails leading off into the clear cut area (now overgrown with brush and small trees, but the travel ways are kept pretty clear by traffic apparently). We also took some time to go down another main road (unpaved) that led to an old house site and I located the trash pit. If you can find the trash pit (often a short ways back from the house, many times down a slope where they’d throw out anything that couldn’t be burned or reused) you can learn a mighty chunk about that homesite. I guess that the time the trash quit accumulating was in the 60s or early 70s but I really need to go back and take some pictures and write down some names of products/advertising to know for sure.
Believe it or not, finding where the outhouse used to be is also a gold mine. I mean, think about it- you’re out there for a while. People often brought and dropped or left things while out there. For instance glass bottles, oil lamps, flasks and pretty much anything that could fit into and fall out of a pocket. After all would you have tried to retrieve it??? Metal detector enthusiasts (as I used to be!) know this trick about looking for outhouses. I doubt I’ll be treasure hunting on our next trip- mostly just curious about the layout of the outbuildings so maybe I’ll try to find that next time too 🙂
So back to the trash… There was a lot of broken glass so I’ve got to either get boots for Whiskey or start bringing a tie out for just such a digging occasion. I recommend that every person who hikes with their dogs thoroughly check out their dogs pads and feet for anything that might have injured or traveled home with their dog. We were really lucky we got out of that pit (it was really big once we realized we were in the middle of it) without any sliced dog pads.
By that point the trail had narrowed down to a single track trail. We turned around reluctantly and headed back. But next time we are going to go further, hopefully aided and abetted by my ability to wrangle up some maps and historical info on the area. Lastly, you should know that the area leading to the cemetery reportedly belongs to the Birmingham Water Works. I haven’t pin pointed an authoritative source on this yet but since it runs along and near Lake Purdy this certainly does make sense. So far I’ve found one website and one person who states this is true. If anyone has any further information or leads on this area and it’s historical significance and people please email me or let me know!
USGenWeb Archives information on Nichols Cemetery including those interred
Tracking Your Roots website, includes directions and list of those interred
An article on locating trash pits
Given this place’s close proximity to Leeds and Hwy 119 I can’t help but wonder if the stage coach ran near it and if these people came in on it, or had anything to do with the stage coach road that ran down 119. To read more about the old road visit Leeds site and scroll down to page 8.