Cahawba restores cemetery

Published 8:24 pm Wednesday, September 16, 2015

A gravestone in the Capital Cemetery at Old Cahawba Archeological Park will soon be repaired.

A gravestone in the Capital Cemetery at Old Cahawba Archeological Park will soon be repaired.

For site director Linda Derry Old Cahawba Archeological Park is more than a park, it’s a magical place filled overflowing with history.

With Alabama’s bicentennial less than five years away, the park is making repairs to some of its most treasured items, many of which were around when Cahawba was the state’s first capital from 1820 through 1826.

The park recently received a $10,000 grant in honor of the bicentennial so do some work to the cemeteries.

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“We had to use most of it to do ground penetrating radar to establish boundaries, which is not anything visual that you can share with people, we just know more about the cemetery,” Derry said. “We had a little bit of money left, so the Office of Archeological Research, who did the ground penetrating radar for us at the University of Alabama, said, ‘well we’ll help you. We’ll subcontract somebody so you can get some stones restored.’”

According to Derry, many gravestones were broken and vandalized in the 1960s, and repairing them is something that she has wanted to do for many years.

“This is something from the day I got here I wanted to focus on, but we got pulled out of it because we had the opportunity to acquire land, which is so important, so we had to focus on that as fundraising,” Derry said.

“That’s the thing that’s most close to the people. You can see a structure, but the stories you can find out with the tombstone with peoples’ name or whatever, it really drives home that these were real people.”

Derry said Bobbie Johnson and Thomas Sharpe with a monument company out of Montgomery were on the grounds Wednesday picking out stones to repair.

“I thought all I could afford was four,” Derry said. “From the moment they showed up here, they said, ‘this is a wonderful place’ and as we took them to the cemeteries and explained the history of peoples’ story, they got more drawn in.”

Derry said she had four stones picked out for them to take and restore, but Johnson insisted on working on more.

“She’s going to do those just as a donation to the park,” Derry said. “It’s like a dream that I’ve had for a very long time coming true.”

Derry said the stones will be picked up Thursday and should be finished before the month is up.