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Walks through cemetery reveal mysteries

Mondays are deadline day at our office. The pace is hectic as we put the final touches on two community newspapers. When the work is done and the final pages have been sent to press, I am prone to change clothes and go for a walk. My favorite place to conduct this cardiovascular stress-relieving activity is Greenwood Cemetery. I figure that, no matter how bad my day has been, nearly everyone out there would love to be around to experience one more trip around the sun on the north side of the dirt. I like to direct the bluesy voice of Lucinda Williams through my headphones into my ears while in this place of permanent rest. Somehow it fits. Years ago when I was doing a lot of running I started including the cemetery on my route. It is quiet, has several water faucets and there is little to no traffic. The cemetery was a lot smaller then and I knew very few of its permanent residents. Now I see familiar names at nearly every turn. There are dozens of my friends at rest there and I speak to them as I walk by their headstones. One rapscallion among them has two headstones in two separate plots. I know which of those his remains lie beneath but I still speak at both. The names jump out at me. There are perhaps a dozen or so who were killed in auto or other accidents I have covered over the years. There are crime victims and a double handful of criminals. I have stood by many of the graves when they were open and mourned with the families of those being laid to rest. There are four or five graves of friends whom I was privileged to carry to their final resting place as a pallbearer and couple of headstones for those whom I delivered eulogies. I can remember being scared of cemeteries as a kid. Savannah’s Bonaventure Cemetery can do that to a child. As an adult it is like a beautiful garden. All my grandparents lie there as do countless other family members. I don’t visit it often enough. Occasionally, on my Greenwood walks, I encounter a burial underway and exercise elsewhere. I also keep a respectable distance from folks standing at the graves of loved ones. I constantly see Jimmy Henry fussing over freshly- filled graves, manicuring them with his shovel and sharply-tined rake to the point that the most meticulous gardener would be envious of his work. Some graves stand out, particularly in the old section. One large section which looks like it holds 12-16 burial plots has but one small stone bearing the name Clarence H. Adams. It is laid north to south rather than east to west as all the other markers are. Its incongruence intrigued me. Just across the way is a pedestal marker in the Murphey plot inscribed: ‘˜’Boysie’ Our little invalid’. There is a strange moss that grows on old marble and it obscures many but one can see enough to know that Boysie was Hollis Murphey. He was born June 28, 1891 and died July 28, 1901. Boysie intrigued me, too. What made him an invalid? Was it polio? Did the disease take him from his parents at such an early age? So, I reached out to noted local historian Tim Turner. He got right back to me. He, too, had been intrigued by these markers and had acquired such information as is available. Tim thinks the Adams marker denotes that Clarence bought the lots for his family. There is no evidence of any graves in it. Tim found a Clarence H. Adams in the 1920 Pike County Census. He was born about 1914, the son of Edward T. and Mary E. Adams. He bought a large lot so he must have had a large family. Apparently, they moved on but where to and why? I remain intrigued. Tim confirmed that Boysie was the son of Artemus Onesimus Murphey and Irene L. Simmons Murphey who are buried nearby Boysie’s resting place. Mr. Murphey went by ‘˜A.O.’ and one can see why. He built the home next to that of John and Mary Alice English on Thomaston Street. Tim’s census records show Boysie was the youngest of five children. He probably was born and died in the family home. The 1910 Pike enumeration of the population notes that Boysie could read, write and speak the English language. It lists no physical deformities for ‘˜our little invalid’ – another cemetery mystery for which no explanation may be forthcoming. Again, I remain intrigued and I wonder if someone out there knows something. Do you? Walter Geiger is editor and publisher of The Herald Gazette and Pike County Journal Reporter.

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