Cemetery records being restored

Published 10:57 pm Tuesday, May 18, 2010

It takes many hands to improve a town.

In Marion, there are 106 hands working to preserve and improve the county seat of Perry County.

Fifty-three students, interns and teachers from the University of Alabama’s Honors Fellowship program have come to do a variety of jobs, including catalog the main cemetery.

Email newsletter signup

“When we came to look at the site, we saw that all these graves are here,” said Jake Appelbaum, a marketing student at the University of Alabama. “But there was no solid database, map or anything.”

Appelbaum said that there was a need to catalog the site.

“Some of the families you see here come from all over,” Appelbaum said. “And people don’t know how to find their relatives here. So we saw that as a major issue.”

The students have been busy for the past two days walking the grounds and recording the names on each grave, even though not all are readable.

“There are some really thin tombstones that have been eroded by the weather,” said Sam Kirby, another Honors Fellow. “So sometimes you have to feel out the letters on them, and some are just completely unreadable. Not a lot, but maybe a handful.”

The historical society of Perry County will also benefit from the work.

“People call often call us trying to run down relatives for a family tree,” said former historical society president Dr. Paul Ritzer. “The students’ work will allow us another way to help them.”

Ritzer said that because of the different schools in the area, teachers who came from other states would stay in Marion until they died.

“We have relatives that are trying to trace the teachers who are buried here,” said Ritzer.

For the Fellows, the work has been educational too.

“One of the sites is of a slave named Harry that was a worker at Howard or Judson College at the time,” said Appelbaum. “During a fire, Harry was able to save 10 students. They have a monument here to Harry and the students of Judson are taught about him.”

Appelbaum said that after all of the names are cataloged, the next step would be to make physical maps of the gravesite.

“The first thing is we want to have maps here at the graveyard,” said Appelbaum. “The second thing we want to do is try to help secure grants for the Perry County Historical Society. The third thing, and one of the coolest things, is we want to link the gravesite and hopefully have geo-mapping.”