Long Lost, But Not Forgotten, Family Cemetery
Updated: Jun 18, 2019
I have been hearing about the Allred Family Cemetery since I was a teenager. My dad, Bill Cowart, told my brother, Steve, and me about it for years and we begged him to take us there. My GGG grandmother, Charlotte Allred Cowart, was buried there in 1840 (malaria) and my GGG grandfather, James Cowart, in 1846 (spider bite). They moved to Pike County, AL with their extended families in 1839. This land was no longer owned by our family and Dad wasn't sure who to track down to ask for permission to gain entrance. So after years of asking, I finally just said, "I'll just do it myself!" And I did! It is approximately 1000 acres and is owned by a forestry company and leased as hunting land. I managed to track down the realtor in Troy and she got permission from the owner for us to visit. She asked if I was interested in buying the land for $4 million. I politely declined.
The Allred House & Cemetery is on record with the Alabama Historical Commission as the Allred House & Cemetery. Few folks who are actually still alive knew where the cemetery was located, but thank goodness my Aunt Mora had been there within the last 15 years and my dad last visited in 1996. The gate was locked so we couldn't get our truck in to drive on the road, so my dad and Aunt Mora waited at the gate and off I went on a dirt road with my 11-year-son Jack and our puppy, Bandit! I was determined to find this place!
Our expedition was outfitted with 1 bottle of water, a cell phone and these cryptic clues:
1) It is on land that has never been clear cut
2) It is near the dirt road, but on a sharp curve where there is a steep bank on the opposite side
3) It's more or less southeast from the road
4) There used to be an old hog wire fence surrounding part of the cemetery and there is a
small iron fence inside with a couple of graves within
5) You will not be able to see it from the road. (What?!?!)
Off we went walking on these logging roads with our bright orange hats, in case any hunters were out there. As we walked and walked and walked, I set off through the bushes to areas I thought looked promising. Nothing! I called back to Dad to get some directions and he said keep taking the left fork every time. This wasn't going well.
After nearly an hour, Jack said, "Mom let's keep going!" He waited with the dog as I walked down yet another dirt road. (We were running out of roads). I whispered to all the folks in that cemetery, "Please! Help me find you!" I looked and saw a tall bank on the right and an overgrown mess of woods on the left. This could be it! I went in. Briars, bushes, vines were everywhere. I kept going. This had to be it! I looked down and my foot was standing on a crushed down hog wire fence. Clue! "I think I've found it!" Oh my gosh, I felt like Indiana Jones! Then I looked and saw what appeared to be the bottom of a tombstone. As I glanced around, other tombstones began to appear among the trees and bushes and vines.
As my eyes focused in the dim light under the canopy of trees, the tell-tale signs of a graveyard began to appear. I really had to push through with my hands. A machete would have been handy about now. The briars were grabbing my legs, but I really didn't care. "I found it! I found it!", I screamed to Jack. Then I called Dad and Aunt Mora and screamed into the phone!
After about 45 minutes of taking photos and scoping out the size of this place, I decided we'd better get on out of here. I marked the coordinates on my phone so we could find it again. My plan is to go back in the fall of 2019 and try to clean it up, see how to best preserve it and place a marker for Grandpa James and Grandma Charlotte Cowart, buried there 175+ years ago. Their graves were never marked, but we believe we know the general area.
I found a list of names and dates of the burials on the internet, which I believe my great-aunt compiled about 1950, for a cemetery census. Quite a few of these graves are infants. It is a reminder of how difficult life was in 1840s south Alabama. There are about 39 marked graves. Here are 3 of the many I found. Because they've been sheltered from the elements for all of these years, they haven't deteriorated as many marble markers often do.