Saturday morning was one of those times that make me really like my job.
Readers will recall last Monday when we reported on the sad condition of an ancient cemetery tucked behind a strip mall on Buena Vista Road. Jeffrey Nix had called me about it because some of his ancestors are buried there and the place had become terribly overgrown, to the point that it wasn't even recognizable as a cemetery.
I met Nix out there and we walked around the place, but couldn't walk into it more than a few feet because of the amount of scrub brush, weeds and vines. He showed me the graves of his great-great grandparents and one of their sons who'd been executed as a double murderer.
The elder Nix was a Civil War veteran and a prominent Mason, distinctions that would soon make a huge difference in the place.
Saturday morning about 10:30, members of the Sons of Confederate Veterans and two local Masonic lodges (Midland Lodge No. 144 and Mt. Hermon Lodge No. 304) showed up to help clean up the cemetery. In all, 25-30 people had showed up to help out.
Nix's health wouldn't allow him to join the work, but he sat, visibly moved, on the bed of a pickup, watching the workers hack away at the brush trim several cedars and clear away the other scrub.
"I'm flabbergasted," Nix said, his voice breaking a few times. "I just don't know what to say. There are no words."
The ages of the workers seemed to range from about 7 to about 70, with most solidly in the middle of that span.
"It does my heart good to see the little ones over there," Nix said.
By the time they were done for the day, about half of the plot had been cleared to the point that you could stroll through it under a high canopy of branches, many of them cedars. (There are no marked graves on the other side of the plot.)
Fallen or leaning grave markers had been righted and what had first been mistaken for an old pile of bricks was identified as the grave of A. Odom, 1784-1860, the plot's oldest known resident.
A pile of vegetation beside the plot had steadily grown to be six feet tall in places, maybe that deep and 20-25 feet long.
One of the visitors to the event was neither a Mason nor with the SCV. He was John Mallory Land, who is with the Chattahoochee Valley Cemeteries Society. He saw last week's column and then learned about the cleanup.
Folks, this guy knows more about cemeteries in this and surrounding counties than anyone I've ever come across.
Land said there are more cemeteries like the Nix Cemetery than most people would guess. Besides the four municipal cemeteries -- Linwood, Riverdale, Porterdale and East Porterdale -- and the so-called "perpetual care" cemeteries like Park Hill and Green Acres, he knows of about 85 other cemeteries in the county.
Some are well taken care of by families or churches or some group that has adopted them. But too many of them are forgotten and terribly overgrown, as was the Nix Cemetery. Some have just a few graves; some have hundreds.
Many, many others have likely been built over or paved over, he said.
State law allows cities or counties to maintain such cemeteries, but it does not compel them to. And even a devoted cemetery advocate such as Land concedes that the task would be too much even for the city government to undertake, even with prison labor.
If you're interested in helping to do something about that, or if you're just interested in cemeteries, go to www.chattahoocheevalleycemeteries.org.
Finally, on behalf of Nix, his ancestors and the entire staff here at Inquirer Central, thanks to the Sons of Confederate Veterans, Camp 517, and the Midland and Mt. Hermon Masonic Lodges, thanks.
-- Seen something that needs repair? Contact me at 706-571-8570 or mowen@ledger-enquirer.