Monthly Archives July 2016

Volunteers with Shadow Lawn Cemetery plan museum, memorial

A volunteer mows the grass at Shadow Lawn Memorial Gardens and Cemetery (Source: Lydia Hu / WBRC)
Tomb of Benjamin Hardman (Source: Lydia Hu / WBRC)
Tomb of Benjamin Hardman (Source: Lydia Hu / WBRC)
Tomb of DT Shields (Source: Lydia Hu / WBRC)
Tomb of DT Shields (Source: Lydia Hu / WBRC)

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) – Wednesday marked the twentieth time the grass has been cut in the past year at Shadow Lawn Memorial Gardens and Cemetery.

A volunteer weaving the gasoline tractor through the gravestones said it would take eight days to cover the 40 acres.

This volunteer is part of a small group that makes up the Shadow Lawn Memorial Gardens Maintenance and Perpetual Care Association. He works to preserve the cemetery and to study the family history and genealogy of the people who lie there.

Founded in 1889 for a dollar, the cemetery was intended for African Americans who could not afford a proper burial.

Over fifteen years ago, dozens of people protested at Shadow Lawn about the conditions at the cemetery. The owners subsequently declared bankruptcy and left the cemetery without a guard.

John Lanier, one of the Association’s volunteers, says several members of his family are buried at Shadow Lawn, including his father and mother. Although the Lanier family plot was purchased for 24 people, half of the plots are occupied by foreigners.

“We thought, ‘This can’t happen. When did that happen? When did they bury people in this section?’”, Recalls Lanier.

Without a cemetery keeper, Lanier is committed to taking care of his family’s graves. And the plots intended for his family but occupied by strangers. And, also, all the other 40,000 graves on the cemetery grounds.

“There should be no doubt that your final resting place will be taken care of,” Lanier said.

He calls it a “labor of love”. The retired government worker, who returned to Birmingham after four decades in Washington, DC, says he never dreamed he would step into running the cemetery.

“Why am I doing this?” Lanier wondered. He has been volunteering for ten years.

“I love to play golf, I love to travel,” he said. “But it’s like a feeling of… it’s an obligation in a way even though we’re all volunteers. I just believe the Lord sends people, puts you in a certain place at a certain time, to do a certain thing. “

Lanier, who studied genealogy at the National Archives in Washington, DC, researched many people buried at Shadow Lawn.

Near the gated entrance, Lanier stops at the grave of Benjamin Hardman, a Spanish-American War veteran from Tallapoosa, Alabama.

“This guy had a brilliant military record,” Lanier said. “His commander said he was smart.

Hardman was wounded in the war when he was shot in the wrist.

It’s a short walk from a small gravestone for DT Sheilds.

“He’s the great-great, maybe the third grandfather of Mrs. Michelle Obama from her mother’s side of the family,” Lanier said. “He was a founding member of Trinity Baptist Church.”

Nelson Sturdivant, a man born into slavery in Dallas County, near Selma, Alabama, rests at the perimeter of the cemetery. The marker indicates that Sturdivant was born in 1853, but Lanier says his research suggests he was born in 1855.

“He married in 1874 and he and his wife had four children,” Lanier explained, standing next to the deteriorating gravestone. Unlike most granite headstones, the maker of Sturdivant is made from a composite of granite and concrete.

“We have kids from local schools who need to know this,” Lanier says of all the gravestones and the history he’s researched. “There is a lot of history in this cemetery, despite some overgrown areas there is so much history about mostly African Americans and that puts it in context.”

The Association earns interest on a state-mandated investment account, which is used for upkeep and maintenance. Lanier says that typically totals less than $ 10,000 each year, an amount that doesn’t even cover lawn maintenance.

Lanier hopes to be able to raise funds to take better care of the cemetery and create a small permanent museum open to the public. He says that as 501 (c) (13) every dollar goes towards the upkeep, operation and management of the cemetery. Lanier is not paid.

“We will need funding, funding for various purposes. Of course, we want to maintain the grounds. Of course, we want to eventually move forward with a memorial, with a museum. We want this museum to make this place even more alive, ”he said.

“There is a legacy that must be preserved here,” Lanier said, looking at the cemetery.

Read a copy of the 1889 act for Shadow Lawn below:

Copyright 2016 WBRC. All rights reserved.


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Without upgrades, a woman will move her twin sister’s grave from Shadow Lawn cemetery

Source: WBRC video
Source: WBRC video
Source: WBRC video
Source: WBRC video
Source: WBRC video

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) – On a hot Friday afternoon, Ja’Mesha McClellan searched for her sister’s gravestone at the Shadow Lawn Memorial Gardens and Cemetery.

Holding old photos of the engraver, she guided her search by looking for gravestones and prominent shrubs nearby.

Eventually, she found him and fell to her knees to repel the weeds that had invaded the small stone carved with her sister’s name, Car’Nesha.

“I always talk about my sister because I wish I could have met her. I write books about her. I think about her every day. She was my imaginary friend growing up. I used to him. talk and everything, ”McClellan said. Over 23 years ago, her sister passed away at just one month old.

McClellan has visited Car’Nesha’s grave all his life. Lately, she has considered moving the grave to another cemetery.

“I hate to see the cemetery like this,” McClellan said. “The grass is tall. They have holes in the grass. You are afraid to step into something. Some tombstones are removed.”

McClellan thinks his sister and the others buried at Shadow Lawn deserve better.

“This should be a big problem in our community,” she said.

John Lanier, treasurer of the non-profit organization that manages the upkeep and care of the cemetery, said others have already paid to move the graves at Shadow Lawn.

Lanier says the association is struggling to maintain the 40 acres of land on less than ten thousand dollars a year. This money comes from a few donations and interest earned on a state-mandated cemetery investment account.

McClellan says she would consider donating money to upgrade Shadow Lawn, instead of moving the grave, if she was confident the donation would be spent on upgrades.

According to Lanier, 100 percent of donations go to administrative costs and maintenance. No staff member is paid for their cemetery maintenance work.

The association is considering submitting a request for financial aid to Birmingham City Council.

“Just know that I wished and prayed that they could do a lot better for you all,” McClellan whispered into his sister’s gravestone. “I really hate it. May you rest in peace.”

Copyright 2016 WBRC. All rights reserved.


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