Recently, in the news has been a sad story of a vehicle that lost
control on Jefferson Street and plowed into the cemetery there and
destroyed many grave makers, some because they are so old, it is
difficult to contact the descendents. This is not an article about right
or wrong, it just brought up a story about that cemetery.
Back in the beginnings of the 1970's, the City of Newnan was in the
process of making Bullsboro Drive to connect to the new I-85, which
ended at Palmetto at the time and did not resume again until the Alabama
Part of that process was to move part of the Cemetery to be able to
widen the road in the name of progress. It happens all the time. I think if
done with respect, it a good thing.Lord knows I would not want my dead
body keeping someone from getting to Wal-Mart on time.
The part of the cemetery that was to be moved was not just ordinary citizens
who had passed. NOOOO! It was the CONFEDERATE SOLDIERS section.
Saying that in today's climate would not even raise an eyebrow. However,
this was a time when feelings for the OLD SOUTH and all things Southern
still ran deep, very deep in Newnan, Georgia.
This was a time when most, if not all, the
hands on labor was done by the black community. Back in this era, the
Blacks were very weary and respectful of the dead. Getting Black men to
exhume a grave was tenuous at best, getting them to exhume Confederate
Soldiers, I am told, had the air electric with emotions.
ENTER THOSE DAMNED POLICE!
The City of Newnan Police Dept. was there to keep things moving along,
or so it was supposed. There were the usual curiosity seekers who tend
to get in the way, concerned citizens, and others for various reasons,
all of whom slow down the work.
Having the onlookers
sufficiently out of the way, AND out of ear shot, one particular Police
Officer decided to have some fun. The men would dig down to the
appropriate depth, usually finding nothing of the casket or skeleton,
since the bodies had been buried in wooden boxes over 100 years ago. I
am told a metal detector was used to find buttons, buckles, swords,
anything metal that could be transferred to the new resting place.
As this was the last grave, the Officer on Duty could not let the opportunity to have a little fun.
Every day at noon, work would stop for an hour for everyone to rest and
have lunch. Even the onlookers would take a break. The only one left
was the Officer on Duty to guard the open grave against an accident or
theft. The Officer on Duty decided it would be fun to play a little
trick on the grave diggers, as he knew them all and everybody worked
together. He went down the ladder, put his back-up walkie-talkie in a
paper bag and lightly covered it with dirt. He then went back up the
ladder and waited. When the men came back from lunch, they assumed their
usual duties. The lead man would go down with the small metal detector
and small hand trowel to find the objects, the second man would be half
way down the ladder to take whatever was handed to him, the third man
stood at the top of the grave to receive the items, and 3 or 4 peered in
watching and waiting until it was their turn to fill in the dirt.
Just as the lead man ran the metal detector across the hidden
walkie-talkie and a loud squeal erupted, the Police Officer spoke into
his other walkie-talkie, "Get that damn contraption out of my face Boy, I
am a Confederate General!"
I don't know if it is true or not,
but it was told that the lead man in the bottom of the grave past the
man on the ladder as he was getting out of the grave and the whole gang
ran as if their lives depended on it.
In the confusion, the
Officer went down and retrieved his radio and acted as dumbfounded as
everyone else. He said that they had to hire a whole new crew to finish
The Officer that told me that story is dead now and I
would not tell anything that he could not confirm or deny on his own.
He always said it was not him, but with that tinkle in his eyes, well, I will go to
to my grave knowing that he was the rascal that he was.