The Cherokee Tribune article reporting Fonda Oliver’s new book about her Smithwick family cemetery touched my heart. Most people enjoy hearing family stories but few dedicate time and effort to research and preserve them. Do we really expect the Cherokee County Historical Society to do it all for us?
Fonda’s comments about the great effort needed to get into the neglected Smithwick cemetery are well taken. For many years, one of the projects of the Hightower Trail Chapter (Daughters of the American Revolution) was to gather local cemetery information. It was hard work.
When the chairman, Margaret Hitt, passed away, the collection was turned over to Shirley Morris for whatever use it might be.
Shirley, like Fonda, faced the same conditions, except countywide. There were overgrown, sometimes snake and insect ridden cemeteries with unreadable graves, if they could be found at all.
Probably most frustrating was not getting information from families despite requests by phone, in the newspapers and on radio.
Like Fonda, all of Shirley’s work was on her own time and expense, knowing there would be no financial profit, truly a “work of love.”
Some years ago, in recognition of the possibility that land development would contribute to the loss of family graves, the Board of Commissioners established a committee to help Johnny Ghorley put family cemeteries on the county’s maps. Shirley was one of the first appointed to it.
It was a positive move but much remains to be done.
Fonda’s book serves as a wake-up call to that.