Bailey Cemetery gets facelift from students

Published 3:36 pm Monday, June 27, 2011

Charles Thomas, center, of Eagle Eye Masonry, Pinson, is a member of the Alabama Cemetery Preservation Alliance and an expert on repairing tombstones. Thomas demonstrates a cleaning method of water, brush and sponge, which the students then put to use on more than 20 tombstones. (Contributed)


HARPERSVILLE – Eighty rising high school seniors from across the state pulled on gardening gloves and donned scrub brushes to give the historic Bailey Cemetery near Harpersville a facelift on June 25.

The cemetery, which is located four miles east of Harpersville and near the intersection of Shelby County 85 and Shelby County 62, holds tombstone markers with death years from as early as 1840. Krissie Jo Masters and her father, Junior, own the property where the cemetery is located, said Judy Naugle, president of Vincent Historical and Environmental Society (VHES).

Many of the graves are unmarked and hold black slaves or former slaves who resided in the area shortly after the War of 1812. Many birthdates on the markers date back to 1775-1796, approximately the time of the American Revolution, according to Glenn Nivens, president of the Alabama Cemetery Preservation Alliance.

Naugle said she visited Albert Datcher, a local historian, to speak with him about history, and she learned one of the graves holds an ancestor of Datcher’s. In addition to slaves, other graves hold American Indians, plantation owners and military people, she said.

After learning of the cemetery’s historical significance from Nivens, VHES member Anne Gibbons contacted her friend, Dr. Carolyn Satterfield, the founder of Alabama Governor’s School (AGS), and asked if Satterfield would be interested in having students assist in the cemetery’s clean up. As a result, 80 students from Alabama Governor’s School participated in the clean-up project.

The 2011 AGS has students from 23 counties and 46 high schools across the state. The students have an average GPA of 4.17 and average SAT score of 1950. In addition to completing a work project each year, the two-week AGS program at Samford University gives the students opportunities to learn specialized areas of education from June 19 through July 1.

“We have been doing service projects for a great number of years. We are pleased to give back,” Satterfield said. “I was with them in the cemetery, and we’ve had a lot of fun doing things together.”

The students learned how to properly restore and care for historic gravesites from Ted Urquhart of the Alabama Cemetery Preservation Alliance and Charles Thomas, who owns Eagle Eye Masonry in Pinson.

“It was a marvelous, marvelous day for Shelby County,” Gibbons said. “People came and brought rakes. They worked. I’ve never seen people work like they did. The students were fabulous.”

The VHES is planning future clean-up days for the Bailey Cemetery. For more information, contact Judy Naugle at 281-2711.