Clarence Greene lives in Douglasville. Frank Grimm calls Richmond Hill home.
Their paths intersected more than a decade ago because of Strathy Hall Cemetery.
“I met Frank Grimm in October 2009 at the Richmond Hill Historical Society Museum,” Green said. “I was in Richmond Hill to visit the cemetery.
As I was leaving the cemetery something told me to stop by the museum. Frank was there and asked how he could help me. I asked him did the museum have any maps or locations where plantations were in the area. He said no but there was a large frame map on the wall in the back of land Henry Ford purchased. We went to the room and he asked me the names of my people.”
Greene gave him the names of Bush and Glaze, and “they were, Bush and Glaze, together on the map in the Port Royal area. He gave me smaller copies of the map. We began to talk about my family’s history.
I told him I came from Atlanta to visit the Strathy Hall cemetery where my great-great-grandparents were buried, and that a house was built on their graves.”
One thing led to another, Green said, and, “as I was about to leave Frank asked me for my email address and he said there were records in a file cabinet of land Henry Ford purchased; and if he found anything on my people he would send me a copy.
“Sure enough he did before I got back to Atlanta. The information he sent me was that missing link of my research of the Bush family,” Green said.
Grimm, working as a docent at the time at the RHHSM, remembers it much the same way. He can even tell you the date. Oct. 31. 2009.
“Clarence visited the museum one Saturday afternoon. He mentioned he was doing genealogy research on his ancestors that lived in the Bryan Neck (Richmond Hill) area years ago. I asked for the family names and mentioned I would do a little research and call him later.”
Grimm said there are copies “of the sales agreements on each piece of land when Henry Ford purchased them years ago on file at the museum. Each purchase required title research. I found several indentures that were signed by Clarence’s ancestors. I called him and relayed what I had found and invited him down to search the other files.”
Greene accepted the invitation.
“A few weeks later Clarence drove down from his home in north Georgia and visited the museum,” Grimm said. “Then we realized there was a wealth of information in those files. He discovered a number of names that filled in the missing links in his search.”
Greene, now retired from the U.S. Postal Service, was born in Savannah and graduated in 1957 from Beach High. As a child he heard stories of his family’s ancestors buried in the Strathy Hall Cemetery. He heard them later in life, too, from cousins who told him “graves were bulldozed into the river to make room for Strathy Hall subdivision and houses were built over graves.”
Among the graves were those of Harry and Sarah White, Greene’s great-great grandparents.
Also among his ancestors buried in Strathy Hall Cemetery are the Bush’s sons Edward and Jack Bush, and their grandson Harry Bush, as well as Jacob Glaze who was the uncle to Mary Williams Bush, Greene said.
And, “Tom Bush and Mary Williams Bush were my great grandparents,” Greene added.
Much of this is detailed in Greene’s family history, entitled “Bush: A family history.” He wrote for his family.
“I wanted to leave something for my children and grandchildren, so they would know what happened and know their history,” he said.
About 50 copies have been published. Now, Greene wants to give Richard Appleton a copy as a way of saying thanks.
Not long ago, Greene read a story on Appleton’s spearheading of the most recent efforts to clean up and restore Strathy Hall Cemetery, efforts that included Appleton’s gaining title to the land so it will be preserved for generations to come.
Greene was “deeply moved,” he said.
“I commend him and the community for coming together to restore the cemetery. I thank God for Mr. Appleton.”
There is one area where Greene disagrees with Appleton, however. Though Appleton, who has gotten help from numerous volunteers and the Bryan County NAACP, local girl scouts and others, said he wants to see the home removed that Greene is certain was built on top of the graves of his great-great grandparents, Greene wants it to stay.
“I would like for the house to remain where it is as a reminder of what happened and the pain we felt,” he said, noting his late cousin, Hannah Harris Newton, would burst into tears when telling him what happened. “Some people are so cruel and greedy in making that dollar that they would desecrate graves in that cemetery.
They have no morals, principals, or respect for other people.”
If one word sums it up, perhaps, Greene said, it is “injustice.”
As time went on, “I became more interested in assisting with Clarence’s search,” Grimm recalled. “At that time I was also searching my own family genealogy. I was a subscriber to one of the genealogy websites and that was quite helpful.”
Here, Grimm puts in a plug for the library and the RHHSM, adding “there are census records available at the Richmond Hill Library and if you are interested in our local history I highly recommend visiting the Richmond Hill Historical Society Museum.”
In the meantime, Grimm and Greene have “become good friends over the years,” the former said. “I was honored to be invited to the Bush Family Reunion held at the Richmond Hill City Center in July 2017.”
Greene said Grimm did more than just help him find his history, “Frank shared his family history with me. He told me he is in Sons of Confederate Veterans, and a town called Braselton in North Georgia was named after his family.”
But though one is descended from Southern soldiers and the other from slaves held in bondage in a South those soldiers fought to defend, “Frank and I have something in common,” Greene said.
“We treat each other with respect.”
Greene credits Grimm for getting him interested in Civil War history, so much so he’s purchased and read a number of histories on the subject, while also watching documentaries.
Grimm also keeps him up to date on what’s going on locally.
“Frank sends me emails he finds on the websites, and mail about Richmond Hill Reflections and articles from the Bryan County News. We’ve become close friends. I cal him ‘Cuz.’ He is real, I am so blessed to have met such a nice, humble, and religious person,” Greene said. “Frank reminds me of a song by Mahalia Jackson “If I can help somebody, as I travel along, If I can help somebody, with a word or song, If I can help somebody, from doing wrong, Now, my living shall not be in vain.’” As for Grimm, a man of fewer words, he simply refers to Greene as “my good friend.”
He also makes a promise.
“The story doesn’t end here,” Grimm said. “We keep our eyes open for any new information as the search continues.”
Both men said maybe from the past people can learn to find a present where they can treat each other with respect. And both worry a future in which the teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. are forgotten.
“History is just what it says it is. It’s history,” Greene said. “We the people of this great nation must learn to live and respect each other. This country was found under God, with liberty and justice for all people. No other country in the world can come close to defeating us in a war. But like a cancer in the body, we would collapse from within.”
Greene then turns to Pres. Abraham Lincoln and the Rev. King “Abraham Lincoln said a house divided cannot stand,” Green said. “Dr. King said ‘We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.”