Monday, May 28, 2012

Trip to the Cemetery Pasture & some things I want to remember

The other night Kyle took us on a tour of some of the pastures on the ranch. It truly is a beautiful place in a very different way than I have ever experienced. And even though it was very hot we had a wonderful time.

One of the most interesting realizations is that we live on a piece of American History. Now, I don't know the whole story or how it fits into the grand scheme of things, but I find it fascinating nonetheless. Before I could write this story I did do a little research to confirm and understand our findings.

The story as we have been told goes something like this:
Before we were here, The ranch property was part of a large plantation. For whatever reason the land was reclaimed by the forest and then later logged. The logged land was later purchased by the Barnes, the cleared portions cultivated into pasture land for the cattle and the ranch was born.

But ever since this tour and because of what we were shown, I have been wondering and trying to imagine what this place 160+ years ago might have been like. What kind of plantation was it?  That is really up to the imagination. But, common crops of the 1800's were: Peanut, cotton, corn, beans, tobacco, etc...
And as you would expect to know there was a plantation owner who also apparently owned some slaves.
Knowing this has had my imagination running wild for the past couple of days. I wonder what kind of person the Planter (that is a plantation owner) was? Was he a hard man, as I have been conditioned to believe any person would be in order to "own" another human being? Or perhaps he was a family man who just followed with the common practice of his culture at the time. Was he well off, or poor to start? What was his family like? Did he have children? Was he kind to the people who worked for him? What were the slaves like? Understanding of their circumstances? Frustrated? Confused? Fearful? Happy? Could they really have moments of joy? Were they Christian? Did they try to live out what the scriptures teach about slaves obeying their masters? Or did they hold to another belief systems? In my research I read that though many were Christian, many were also Muslim or held to beliefs of their African Culture.
So what you may wonder stirred up so many questions while touring some pastures?
Kyle took us to two pastures, in among a thicket of gum trees, pine and oak is a cemetery. This cemetery had three distinct graves. They were very monument like in appearance. One almost like a elongated pyramid made out of crumbling bricks. The other two were also built up on the ground with large flat stones. Each had a large headstone, though only one was fully intact. There were also a few smaller headstones laying around with just initials on them. All were very weather worn and difficult if not impossible to read.  
There was only one headstone that was complete. By tracing the worn letters with my fingers, I think it said: Sarah  Morris, one date was 1852. But this is just a best guess. The other headstones where too broken and worn to figure anything out on them.
Because of the ornate nature of the graves it has been assumed that this cemetery was for the Plantation owner and his family.

We continued on our tour, checking calves and cows, enjoying the sunny hot evening.

The last pasture Kyle took us to had no cows in least at the moment. Ahead of us on top of the hill is a large grove of trees. This pasture is known as the Cemetery Pasture.

We stopped near the grove and began walking. Within the trees it was cool and the earth was turned from cattle who had shaded up there a few weeks earlier. Every so often you would see small stones buried into the ground with another in direct line a few feet away. The feeling of this cemetery was very different from the one we had seen just a short while before and one might have even missed its existence had we not known it was there. This is the place of an old slaves cemetery.

It is extremely difficult for me to grasp this place as a part of our countries history. And yet to see it and learn about it makes it very dear and real. Because I was uncertain if this could really be a slave cemetery I did some research. this cemetery matched anthropological descriptions almost exactly. Right down to the types of markers used, and orientation of the graves. One of the most interesting things to notice is that in this cemetery there are head and foot markers. Many of the stones appeared to have some shape to them, with squared or rounded edges.

The cemetery was also very organized with all the markers in a East to West line. I learned that when buried it was important that the body of the person face East. There where two main schools of belief for burring a person this way. One was that a slave should not  have to turn around when the Angel Gabriel blew the trumpet for the sunrise. The other belief is that the person should face Africa.
I learned that Slave funerals were very important affairs held mostly at night or on Sundays, probably because this was the only time available. It was common for cemeteries to be on discarded land such as brush thickets, or forests and even in live stock pastures. There was so much more I learned but, this post is stretching on as it is. If you are curious you can read some more here.

This brief glimpse into history has made me appreciate this place on a whole new level. I hope that I will remember all I am learning about the South. It is a place with a rich history, and a people who are proud of their heritage for reasons you may not expect (But that is a whole other post.) And though Colton and Alex enjoyed this grave hunt, I could not find it in myself to explain the intricacies and the depth of what these places mean. But, my hope is by writing this now, I will remember and someday wherever we are I can tell him we were here. And in part this is their history too.

1 comment:

  1. Wow! Fascinating, disturbing, amazing history... your journey unfolds in so many new directions. Glad you are getting a chance to explore, learn, and discover!