By June Mathews
For The Tribune
TRUSSVILLE — As the spirit world gears up for Halloween, the residents of Trussville’s two historic downtown cemeteries seem content to rest in peace. Rarely a peep, much less a hair-raising shriek is heard in their quiet quarters. And that’s probably in large part due to the care and maintenance their resting places receive from the Trussville Memorial Cemetery Association. After all, who wouldn’t be content to never need worry about the upkeep homes usually require?
Founded in 1962 by Birmingham attorney and Trussville native Wesley Mann Garrison, the TMCA is responsible for maintaining Trussville Cemetery across from Trussville City Hall and Mt. Nebo Cemetery across from First Presbyterian Church.
Because many of his ancestors were buried in Trussville Cemetery, Garrison grew concerned when he saw the historic cemeteries falling victim to neglect. So he organized several of the remaining heirs into an association to address perpetual care.
When Garrison died in 1976, he was appropriately buried in the cemetery he took such care to maintain.
“We are all dedicated to preserving our ancestors’ and loved ones’ graves, but as many people have moved away from Trussville, the remaining relatives shoulder the expense and upkeep,” said TMCA Secretary Melodie Randolph, a Garrison descendant.
Randolph emphasizes, however, that TMCA is not limited to the families of individuals buried in one of the cemeteries.
“Many new residents of Trussville know nothing of the history in their midst,” she said. “We urge them and anyone else who is interested to become involved with our historic preservation for the sake of these great people who founded and made Trussville flourish.”
The Trussville Memorial Cemetery Association is funded through private donations. For more information, visit the association’s group page on Facebook or contact Randolph at email@example.com. Donations may be mailed to P.O. Box 1303, Trussville, Alabama 35173.
Formerly known as Cahawba Baptist Church Cemetery, Trussville Cemetery is one of the oldest cemeteries in the state and serves as the resting place for many members of prominent Trussville families. In addition to Garrison, names on tombstones there include Truss, Talley, Vann, Praytor, Carlisle and others.
The centerpiece of the cemetery is a huge magnolia tree that, as legend would have it, was planted by a grieving young lover beside the grave of his intended bride-to-be. Overcome with the loss of his true love to pneumonia, the young man eventually grieved himself to death, and his family honored his request to be buried beside his sweetheart. It’s said that on a moonlit night, you can see the young couple embrace.
Two other tree-related legends pertain to a holly tree just west of the big magnolia. One version says a westward traveler on horseback stopped there to rest his horse. Deciding to leave his whip behind, he planted it in the ground, and it sprouted into a holly bush.
A second, more likely origin of the holly tree says that soon after her husband’s accidental death in 1887, Mary Carlisle rode to the cemetery on horseback to visit his grave. En route she pulled a shoot from a holly bush to use as a riding switch. Arriving at the cemetery, she stuck the shoot in the ground near her husband’s grave and forgot it.
The following spring, Carlisle returned to the cemetery for another graveside visit and found the holly shoot had rooted and was alive and growing. When she died in 1906, she, too, was buried near the holly tree, a symbol of her devotion.
T.K. Truss deeded the property on which Trussville Cemetery stands to the Trustees of Cahawba Baptist Church (now First Baptist Church) in 1871. It was ultimately deeded to TMCA when the association was formed in 1962.
Mt. Nebo Cemetery
In a 1974 paper entitled “Mt. Nebo Cemetery,” author Irene Day noted that the land on which the cemetery stands was owned by wealthy planter and physician J.S. Edwards. The land eventually passed into the hands of his granddaughter, Georgiana Lathem Davis, wife of Dr. Elias Davis, a Confederate surgeon.
Upon her death, the land was passed down to her sons, who were also prominent physicians, Drs. J.D.S. Davis and W.E.B. Davis. The daughters of W.E.B. Davis eventually deeded the cemetery to TMCA around 1974.
According to information provided by Day, Dr. J.S. Edwards was likely the first person to be buried in Mt. Nebo, which would make the cemetery 175 years old. Among the other people who rest there are a number of Confederate soldiers, as well as women who served on the home front.
“There are both men and women who lived through the bitter Reconstruction years after the war, who by example taught their children to bear their poverty with dignity and fortitude, to be courteous, to be honest in daily work, to be righteous in their dealings with others, and purse in personal life,” Day wrote. “Such citizens are the most patriotic citizens.”