I am frequently asked how I became interested in cemeteries. It is a story that began for me as a young child. Every year on the first Sunday in May, I traveled with my family to Bethabara Cemetery in Fayette County for Decoration Day. And every year I watched my mother and aunts place flowers at our ancestors’ graves. We would walk between rows of headstones, and I would hear my grandfather repeat the same stories about who was who and how that person fit into our family tree. Then we would stand beside the freshly decorated graves and proudly have our picture taken. Those faded photographs not only depict the evolution of the cemetery but also remind me how quickly time passes. My grandfather died in 2008 and now lies buried at Bethabara, and Decoration Day is more meaningful to me than ever before. I walk the rows with my own children, repeating the stories my grandfather entrusted to me many years ago, perpetuating my love for old cemeteries that began when I was a child.
As Alabama celebrates two hundred years of statehood, we pause and reflect on the history, people, and culture that make this state such a wonderful place to live. While most of the attention during the celebration is placed on major social, technological, and historical events and places, we must also consider the early development and pioneer spirit of our state as well as the enduring diversity and tranquil beauty of the natural landscape.
Although Catholicism’s presence in the South dates to the colonial era, by the nineteenth century Catholics were few and far between in most parts of the region, especially in rural areas, so much so that the church hierarchy sent priests to its southern parishes every few years to remind scattered parishioners of the importance of continued devotion. In the first half of the twentieth century, however, Catholics in the South began to evangelize, turning their attention to non-Catholics for conversion and recruiting a lay apostolate willing both to share its faith and to serve the poor and abandoned.
Have you ever wanted your house, or even your whole neighborhood, recognized for its unique, quaint character? Is there a landmark in your community, like an old school, that should be repurposed? Are you interested in preserving your town’s historic commercial core? Th e National Register of Historic Places (National Register) can be an invaluable first step in achieving any of these goals, but winding your way through the nomination process can be confusing and frustrating. It involves the completion of complex federal forms and coordination between you, often a consultant, and state and federal personnel—but persistence can ultimately pay off in a number of ways.
From the Vault
Read complete classic articles and departments featured in Alabama Heritage magazine in the past 30 years of publishing. You'll find in-depth features along with quirky and fun departments that cover the people, places, and events that make our state great!