2009: Mr. Burnett agrees to take me and my friends to Hester Cemetery, in the country between Lenox and Eldorado.
The father of my friend Mary, Mr. Burnett is a handsome elderly man. He lives in Eldorado, not too far from the cemetery, in a lovely country home that makes me think of homemade cakes and hot coffee, his yard a testament to his or his wife’s green thumb. I believe he went to school with my mother when she attended Eldorado School. I make a note to ask my mother about him when I see her again.
The reason I’m here is because of the slave graves. Knowing my passion for grave hunting, and hearing that I was especially interested in slave graves, Mary mentioned the graves to my friend Licia, and Licia told me. Once I heard that Mary’s father could take me to some slave graves, I asked Licia to take me to see Mary at the hair salon where she was cutting hair. It couldn’t wait! Licia has been one of my partners in grave hunting for some time. She was always ready to go traipsing through the past with me.
When we arrived at the hair salon, Mary stopped work and called her father. He agreed to escort us to Hester Cemetery.
And that’s why we are here in this cemetery today, a field scattered with graves, headstones, and tall weeds.
I’m surprised to see the same style of wooden markers used to identify the graves of slaves in McMillan Cemetery were used on slaves’ graves here. Identical!
If only we had records of the names! That’s what I want. I think of these slaves. Mothers. Fathers. Babies. Children. People who loved and laughed and hurt and helped raise many white children, nursing them, caring for them through their illnesses, even helping to bring them into this world. People who were bought and sold and separated from family members. People who had nothing to call their own except those spiritual things living in their hearts. And yet, they were buried with no inscription. No headstone. No records of their lives.
There is no way to honor them; I can only record what I discover.
***The Hester family left about 120 acres of land to their slaves. It was certainly unusual for a family to give so much to their slaves.
Brenda Sutton Rose is the author of Dogwood Blues.
ABOUT DOGWOOD BLUES
Change has come to Dogwood, Georgia, dividing the town, friends against friends, neighbors against neighbors. With the liquor referendum on the ballot, signs, declaring VOTE YES, others declaring VOTE NO, many signs as tall as billboards, pop up in yards throughout the city limits. All of Dogwood has an opinion. And the local newspaper, Dogwood News, reports it all.
When Boone Marshall , a blues musician who inherits the family farm after his father’s death, brings home a new bride not long after his first wife’s suicide, Nell Sauls, the town busybody, goes bat crazy spreading rumors that have no substance. And when Kevin Kilmer, award-winning author, moves back to Dogwood, the town where he’d grown up, and brings with him a husband, Nell makes it her business to drop gossip like bird poop up and down the historic district.
Compared to Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe, to Cold Sassy Tree, and to the movie Steel Magnolias, Dogwood Blues is as southern and true as a story can be.
DOGWOOD BLUES by Brenda Sutton Rose was nominated for a 2015 Georgia Author of the Year Award for First Novel. She has been the guest at numerous books clubs that chose Dogwood Blues as their book for the month. She has taught writing workshops at conferences for new and upcoming writers. Click here to purchase Dogwood Blues.