Waters tells stories of cemeteries

Published 10:30 am Friday, August 2, 2019

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Last fall, she took local history enthusiasts on what proved to be a series of highly popular walking tours of several Greenville and Butler County cemeteries. Last Sunday afternoon, Mollie Waters provided listeners with a virtual tour of cemeteries across Butler County in the cool comfort of Greenville’s City Hall.

Waters has long been interested in visiting the county’s final resting places.

“Since I was a little girl, cemeteries have been part of my life,” she said. “My grandfather would take us to different ones throughout the county each Sunday. He worked in the funeral business and knew about the different types of graves, and he knew many of the people he had helped to bury. He shared their stories and I found it fascinating.”

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As part of the Alabama Bicentennial Celebration, Waters, in conjunction with the Butler County Historical and Genealogical Society’s quarterly meeting, presented her virtual cemetery tour, “Butler County Cemeteries: Architecture, Symbols and Stories,” via a PowerPoint presentation.

The educator and published writer, who is also vice president of the local historical society, shared gravesites both ornate and simple, large and small; some, easy to find and others, hidden away in the woods, waiting to be discovered.

“We have many cemeteries in Butler County, including some that are very small and only have a few graves in them,” Waters said. “In fact, there is one just off Highway 185 North heading out to Sherling Lake. It’s the Lloyd Cemetery, which is the final resting place of Rev. Benjamin Lloyd, who compiled a hymnal that is still in use today by many Primitive Baptist churches.”

One of those smaller cemeteries that is mostly hidden is Wren Cemetery, located in the woods off Highway 10 East heading towards Luverne. While you can see a monument with the name of the cemetery pretty easily, it requires a walk into the woods to actually discover the graves.

Waters describes the little cemetery as overgrown with only fractured pieces of what were probably once grave markers left to examine. She also recommends visiting Wren Cemetery in the winter, as she did, to avoid snakes.

“I still managed to come out of the woods with a tick, though,” Waters admitted.

Magnolia and Pioneer cemeteries, two of the largest and oldest cemeteries in Greenville, were both featured on last year’s walking tours. Waters shared some stories about each place with her audience on Sunday, showing some of their most distinctive mausoleums, grave architecture and interesting tidbits about some of the more prominent citizens buried within their boundaries.

“One of the most interesting things to me about Magnolia and Pioneer cemeteries is that many of Greenville’s most prominent citizens are buried in them, including John Buckner Little, who wrote ‘Little’s History of Butler County,’” Waters said.

Among other cemeteries visited during Waters’ virtual tour were  Kettler, Fort Dale, Pleasant Home Church of Christ, Kingsbury, Middleton, Crenshaw, Antioch East Baptist, Shiloh Primitive Baptist, Shackleville Baptist and Pleasant Home cemeteries.

Waters is not done with her cemetery explorations. One day, she hopes to write a book about this fascinating part of the county’s history, saying, “It’s definitely a goal for the future.”