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Reclaiming the past
Ellabell man works to clean up century old cemetery
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You wouldn’t believe it unless you saw it with your own eyes. Hidden about 200 feet off Indian Trail Road in Ellabell lies the Maulden Chapel Cemetery, estimated to be about 120 years old.
But it didn’t look like much more than woods  until this past summer, when life-long Ellabell resident Edward Murchison decided to start reclaiming  the African American cemetery.
“I’ve been working on it since July, so about six months now,” said the 85-year-old Murchison. “It belongs to part of the Macedonia family, which is my church – the Macedonia Baptist Church, here in Ellabell.”
The Macedonia Baptist Church came to be just a little over 135 years ago, on Dec. 24, 1872. Abraham Murchison was the first pastor and is a long ago ancestor of Edward’s. While his parents are buried in the Macedonia cemetery, his great grandparents are both buried in the Maulden Chapel Cemetery.
Murchison said the cemetery was left unattended for a long time – long enough for the entire site to be completely unnoticeable from the road. He decided someone needed to upkeep it, so he began working.
Murchison had help getting started from a volunteer in Ellabell who brought out a bulldozer to clear the massive underbrush and extra trees that had overtaken the property. Now, the semi-cleared cemetery is what remains.
“I’d like to get some more volunteers; I’ve only got two now. I’d really appreciate some more help in fixing it up and leveling the land,” he said, adding that he’s got a lot of faith in his project. “Through county plats, I saw that there were a number of graves out here and I wanted to find them and reestablish the cemetery.”
Murchison said when he first began, there was so much litter and underbrush that he could hardly find the scattered graves, so he started working on the ones that were more clearly marked by gravestones.
Known to be buried in the cemetery, thanks to barely legible gravestones, are: Murchison’s great grandparents, Richard Fleming, 1814-1912, and Jane Fleming, 1845-1928; Flora Berry Walker, 1859-1928, and Western Berry, 1848-1888; and J.H. Davis, 1897-1918. By the Berry grave are two wooden markers, which Murchison said were still standing when he started clearing the area.
“Those markers have stood the test of time,” he said, estimating they were put in somewhere around the time Berry was buried, in 1888. “Some of the families don’t even know they have relatives buried out here. There is a family in Ohio, they came down when I first started working on it and they said they’re coming back after the first of the year.”
Murchison said he’s still got a lot of work to do. The underbrush that was cleared still needs to be burned and the larger roots that were left behind need to be removed before the land can be leveled.
Murchison is looking for volunteers to donate time, labor or equipment to help clear the rest of the area so the cemetery can be more easily accessed. He said he could also use funds for cement, to piece back together some of the dilapidated gravestones. Additionally, he plans to ask the county to consider building a road from Hwy. 204 through the woods out to the cemetery’s site.
“I hope that some of the families will take an interest in upkeeping it after I’m gone,” he said. “But I tell you what, if this is all that I get done with the cemetery, I’m happy with it. I’m blessed.”
To lend a hand, call Murchison at 858-3252.
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