30 January 2015

Don't Go Over the River, But Do Go Through the Woods

     "If you get to the river you've missed it."  Those were part of the directions sent to me by my cousin, Mitch, as we arranged to meet and track down the grave of my 4th Great-Grandfather, Willis Craft, in Elbert County, Georgia.  I had learned of this grave very early on my genealogy research, almost 10 years ago.  A few years back, I'd found a map with the location of the grave: out in the middle of the woods with no roads labeled.  I honestly never thought I'd be able to find it.

     Earlier this month, my cousin posted a photo of a Craft cemetery to Facebook.  I asked about it and, though it was out in the middle of the woods in Elbert County, Georgia, it was a different cemetery.  However, he was able to ask around and he found a lady who knew where the grave was.  He went out to find it, then took me out to see it today.

     I drove two hours, along with my mom, to reach a rural intersection just a short distance from the Savannah River.  I met Mitch and Diane and followed them down a series of gravel roads, which was part of a subdivision that had been partially developed but currently looks stalled. When we reached a cul de sac we got out and walked a few hundred yards into the woods.  On the top of the rise set a single grave that I'd been hoping to find for almost a decade.

     I had seen a black and white photo of the grave before, in which it was laying down.  This stone had been repositioned and was now upright.  Because of this, the death date is now buried.  Despite this, I would think that the upright position is better for the stone in the long run. And I do have the old photo, which shows the date.

     Willis is buried alone, while his wife and a few of his children (who died within a decade of Willis) are buried not too far away at the Rock Branch Baptist Church.  We speculated about why that was, but could only think it was sentimental.  Did he want to be buried on his own land with a view of the river?

     Standing at the grave, you could see water through the trees on two sides.  We trekked a bit further and found that we were in a bit of an inlet off of the Savannah River.  And boy was it beautiful!  It must have been amazing to live on this land in the 1800s, right along the river.  Hungry?  Go fish!  Mitch told me that the story is that the families used to farm on the islands in the river.  I certainly wouldn't complain to live on this land.

     Mitch also took me over to see the cemetery that he's posted pictures of on Facebook.  It was the burial place of Anderson and Lucy Craft, as well as a few others.  I took pictures of those graves and have updated everything on FindAGrave, including GPS coordiantes.

     Overall, it was a great day.  Who wouldn't drive two hours to meet up with a cousin you've never met before out in the middle of nowhere to go tromping through the woods to find a cemetery?  I'd love to have the chance to do it again soon.

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