Saturday, August 4, 2012


Recently my mother and I visited the cemeteries where most of our family members are buried: Old Bethel Cemetery near Nauvoo, but in Winston County, Alabama; Bennett Cemetery on Lamon Chapel Road in Walker County; and the newer cemetery at New Oak Grove Freewill Baptist Church near Nauvoo.   This is the first of three posts honoring those who are buried in those three sacred places.  This post spotlights our loved ones buried at Old Bethel Cemetery.

It had been a long time since I had been to Old Bethel.  The grounds’ appearance was despairingly lacking--not well kept at all.  The old church was still standing, but an active congregation has not met there for years.  Even in the early days, I believe the building only existed as a gathering place for the first Sunday in May, better known as Decoration Day.  Decoration Day is a cultural event, characteristic of North Alabama, but not of the entire state.  As a child, I thought everyone had decoration days.  Not until I lived outside the region did I discover that that was not the case.

Those were the days.  It was a special time when the family and extended family—aunts, uncles, and cousins-- got together, dressed to the hilt with new finery, new shoes, new everything.  We remembered loved ones who had gone on before us.   But to the children, it was a celebration time—running and playing with the other cousins-- a time to have fun.  For the most part, as children, we did not have personal knowledge of those whose graves had beautiful flower arrangements placed at the foot of their headstones.  For us, it was the experience of just getting together.  It was like a reunion.  It was also an all-day singing with “dinner on the ground.”  As children, we loved the dinner part because it meant an abundance of meats, vegetables, and desserts, which we normally did not have at our daily dinner table at home.  And “the dinner on the ground” part was literally true.  The dinner was spread out on a big quilt or multiple tablecloths placed on the ground where all kinds of food were displayed, and enjoyed by all who contributed to the common spread.  It was always an unbelievable feast.

Through the years, Decoration Day, as I knew it, has  “gone with the wind.”   Many come now on the Saturday before the first Sunday in May.  There is no reunion, no seeing old acquaintances, no common meal, no singing.  Our children can only hear stories of how it was growing up during those years when we experienced Decoration Day.   Old Bethel was the first of multiple decorations we would go to as a family. As I visit the old country cemetery now, my soul cries out for those special moments from our past, which are long gone.  What a joyous time it was.  At the same time, I say, “This is the day the Lord has made.  I will rejoice and be glad in it.”

So, in my recent visit, I took pictures of the tombstones in order to have a record of our relatives’ sacred sites.  Hopefully, this pictorial record will help us remember them, and their relationship to us.

Many of my relatives buried in Old Bethel Cemetery are from my mother’s side of the family—the Manasco and Buttram families.  But for this writing, I am featuring those who are part of the Kilgore lineage through Sarah Louisa Martha Tabitha Noles —our Granny Kilgore.

Granny Kilgore’s father is Thomas Louis Noles, born October 6, 1844 in Georgia.  He died February 23, 1924, and was buried the following day at Old Bethel Cemetery.  He was the son of Samuel Noles and Sarah (“Sallie”) Robertson.  At the time of Grandpa Noles’ death, Grady Kilgore would have been 19 years old.  Sis would have been 17 years old.  Dolly would have been 16, Ruby, 12, Johnie, 10, Lois, 7, Ruth, 5, my Daddy, Cecil, almost 3, and Lorene, 2 months old.  They all were very young when he died.   Regretably, I know nothing about him.  Perhaps others who read this might have some stories that have been passed down through the family.  It would be great to know of those stories.  But I do honor Great Grandpa Noles now as I post this photograph of his  tombstone located in Old Bethel Cemetery in Winston County, Alabama.

Granny Kilgore’s mother is Martha Jane King Noles, born December 31, 1842 in Walker County, Alabama. She died December 15, 1940.  She was the daughter of William M. King and Elizabeth Rushing.  She is buried next to her husband at Old Bethel.  I honor her now as you see the photograph of her tombstone.

Thomas and Martha Jane Noles had seven children.  Of those seven, three of Granny Kilgore’s siblings are buried at Old Bethel.  

The oldest sibling buried there is Leibert “Leab” Benjamin Noles, born September 10, 1872.  He died October 29, 1955.  He was ten years older than Granny Kilgore.  L.B. married twice in his life.  His first wife was Manerva Jane (“Nervie”) Edgil whom he married May 19, 1898 in the home of Joseph Edgil, Nervie’s father. Their marriage only lasted nine years due to her early death on September 30, 1907.  L. B. remarried the following year (September 19, 1908) to Susan M. (“Maggie”) Mathews at Old Union Church in Winston Co., Alabama.  She died February 1938.  In his honor, I now display the photograph of his tombstone.

The next oldest sibling of our Granny Kilgore is Mary Emma “Mudder” Noles, born July 1876.   She died January 1, 1953.  She is almost 7 years older than Granny.  Mudder married Joseph “Jo” Morris on March 1, 1894 at her father’s home in Walker County.  Mudder’s husband, Jo, was born November 6, 1869 and died January 9, 1895, a year after their marriage.   I honor Granny’s sister now by displaying the photograph of the footstone of her grave located at Old Bethel Cemetery.

 Granny Kilgore’s other sibling who is buried at Old Bethel is her younger brother by three years, Joseph (“Joe”) John Henry Noles, born April 23, 1886 near Nauvoo, in Winston County.  Joe married Margaret Geneva Roden on December 17, 1905.   They had been married 55 years at his death, December 1, 1960.  Margaret died November 16, 1973. Both resided in Birmingham, Alabama at the time of their deaths. But both are buried at Old Bethel.  In their honor, I now display the photograph of their tombstone.

Times change and there is no going back to the way things once were.  But there is a time to reflect, to honor, and to remember.  May the legacy of those mentioned in this article live on in our lives and in the lives of our children.

Johnny Warren Kilgore


1 comment:

    I will share a thought or two on Granny's mother, who lived with them until her death. We lived in the old house that burned where we built the new house and Glen and I would go over to see Granny and her Mom. Mom dipped snuff and we would be sent into the woods to cut 'toothbrushes' from dogwood limbs. She would peel the bark back about an inch, chew the end up into a brush and then dip it into the snuff and into her mouth. It looked good until I tried it. I decided snuff was not for me.