Museum staff cleans cemetery

Published 11:30 am Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Jordan Rushing, an employee of the Old Court House Museum, pulls vines from the fenceline at Pettit Cemetery.

Jordan Rushing, an employee of the Old Court House Museum, pulls vines from the fenceline at Pettit Cemetery.

Pettit Cemetery receives few visitors besides those carrying chainsaws and weed trimmers.

The cemetery, which is the final resting place for member of the family of one of Warren County’s earliest settlers, is tucked into the woods on a ridge beside a home off Dudley Road near where Absalom Pettit built his home in 1824. On Saturday, before staff from the Old Court House Museum chopped though the brush, it was hard to distinguish from the woods that surround it.

“We talked to probably four to six local people who lived there and they had heard about it, but they had never seen it,” said Bubba Bolm, curator of the museum. “On a fairly regular basis we go out and clean the cemetery like we did this weekend. Without anybody taking care of these places, being out in the woods like they are they deteriorate very fast. Nature takes them over.”

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The cemetery was fairly overgrown and full of all sort of insects, including wolf spiders about as big around as a baseball, said Jordan Rushing, a historian at the museum.

“The first thing I noticed was the amount of spider webs hanging from the moss,” Rushing said.

After the dense mass of vines and saplings was trimmed back, the museum placed a new market at Absalom Pettit’s grave.

“Part of the service that the historical society has performed over the years is cemetery cleanup in historical cemeteries around the area, among them Hopewell and Asberry,” said Bolm said.

The chopping, trimming, pulling of vines and fending off of biting bugs is part of a project of cleaning neglected historical cemeteries around the county by the Warren County Historical Society, which operates the museum.

“They’re taken over by nature. They’re taken over by subdivisions,” Bolm said. “We’d like to be able to take care of all the cemeteries, but we don’t have the money or manpower to do that.”

The Pettit cemetery is one of a few that are cared for though donations to the museum. Cecil W. Hannaford of Dunwoody, Ga., left an endowment to the museum to care for the cemetery that is the final resting place for his wife’s ancestors.

“The service we are trying to provide is to keep Pettit cemetery like it is and safe for future generations,” Bolm said.

Absalom Pettit was born in Virginia in 1798, he was married three times had had more than 20 children, according to genealogical records. He died in October 1878 during the height of the Yellow Fever epidemic in Mississippi.

“If Absalom had 20 children, there’s bound to be a lot of family out there and eventually his relatives will seek out the cemetery I would think,” Bolm said.