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Aerialist killed in 1949 tragedy buried in Greenwood Cemetery

By Tim T. Turner Over the years, I have been to Greenwood Cemetery hundreds of times. During those many visits, I often passed by the small lone grave of Otis C. Hill who died in 1949. I have often wondered who he is and why he is buried on a corner. His grave simply reads ‘˜Son’ above his name. So I did some research. Otis Crell Hill was born June 2, 1928 in Clarke County, Georgia and died while performing at the Kentucky State Fair in Louisville on Tuesday, September 13, 1949. He was the son of Otis A. Hill and Effie Launa (Launie) Hughes Hill. The family was originally from Clarke County, Georgia where his father was an inspector for the cotton mills. Crell’s father died in May of 1933 while plowing a field. leaving his wife with three children ‘“ two boys and a girl. It was during the Depression, so work was scarce. His mother was fortunate enough to find a job at a pickle factory in Laurel, Delaware and moved there. She couldn’t afford to take her children. Her sister raised the daughter, Yettie, and the boys, Crell and Ralph Hill were placed in the Georgia Industrial Home for Orphans in Vineville, Georgia. The children eventually made their way to Delaware to live with their mother. While there, Otis Crell Hill registered for the draft in 1946. He was living at 401 Spruce Street in Sussex County, Delaware. He was almost six feet tall and weighed 180 pounds. He worked at the Granville Trimper. It is the nation’s longest continually owned and operated amusement park and is located on the boardwalk in Ocean City, Maryland. It was originally founded in 1890 by Daniel Trimper, a German immigrant. Perhaps during this time is when Crell decided he wanted to be a high-flying acrobat. Crell was a 21-year old aerialist/trapeze artist in a group of performers ncalled ‘˜The Lawrence Trio’. There were two men and one woman in the group. While at the fair, he stood on his head on a tall sway pole. The pole bent nearly double and broke. Crell was performing without a net and fell 130 feet. He was taken to the General Hospital in Louisville. He broke his back and had a compound fracture of the lower right leg and ruptured his spinal cord. At 5:22 p.m., he died as a result of his injuries. Two days later, his brother-in-law, Robert Carter Maddox, purchased the corner cemetery lot from the City of Barnesville. Crell’s body was brought back to Barnesville and his funeral was held in the Nazarene Church. He is buried beside his mother in Greenwood. His father is buried in Watkinsville in Oconee County. After finding out the story of Otis Crell Hill in the corner grave, it gives a sense of wonder as to what other interesting facts are waiting to be uncovered in Greenwood Cemetery. Editor’s note: The Greenwood Cemetery preservation Society is planning another tour of the historic burial ground in November. Crell’s sister, Yettie Hill Maddox and her husband, Robert Carter Maddox, are buried in the same plot as is Ralph Hill, an Army private who died in 1979 at the age of 72.

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