Volunteers Clean Up Tuscaloosa’s Oldest Cemetery
Several Tuscaloosa organizations and volunteers came together early Thursday morning to clean up the oldest cemetery in the Druid City.
Members of the Tuscaloosa County Historical Preservation Society, Tuscaloosa Daughters of the American Revolution, and the Alabama Cemetery Preservation Alliance spent the day cleaning graves in Greenwood Cemetery.
Greenwood will turn 200 years old this September and serves as the final resting place for more than 1,500 people. It's located on Stillman Boulevard off Lurleen Wallace Boulevard, across from First African Baptist Church in downtown Tuscaloosa.
"There's so much Tuscaloosa and Alabama history hidden here," said Becky Davenport, Committee Chair for DAR Chief Tuscaloosa Chapter Cemetery Preservation Committee.
At least five Revolutionary soldiers are buried in the cemetery. Several key figures in Tuscaloosa's history can also be found there: former mayors, Tuscaloosa's first probate judge and more modern figures like Reverend Charles Stillman, the founder of Stillman College.
Davenport and her group of volunteers regularly come out to Greenwood, at least once a month, to do regular cleaning. Thursday, though, nearly 30 volunteers showed up to learn from Johnathan Appell, a professional gravestone preservationist, how to properly restore damaged graves.
Afterward, Davenport oversaw the volunteers as they split up to practice what they learned.
Davenport said Appell travels across the country teaching regular lessons and held Tuscaloosa's first cemetery cleanup workshop last September. She said volunteers there loved the experience and were thrilled to have him back.
"We asked him to come back because there's so much work to be done," Davenport said.
Davenport said she hopes in the future, Tuscaloosa has a dedicated foundation to preserving cemeteries and other historic markers.
"We are trying to get Greenwood Cemetery in the community, and it's working," Davenport said. "It's unbelievable what the City of Tuscaloosa is doing right now about taking care of the grounds. Lots of people are trying to help us improve here."