My Adventure Through Our Family Tree Branches

For over 50 years my Dad researched both his and my Mom's family tree branches - and loved every minute of it! Trying to fulfill the promise I made him the last month of his life, I have spent the past four years continuing where he left off - finding out about all the many family members who came before us, from the many branches of our family trees. The histories will still be published as my Dad always wanted. But what he wanted most was to share the stories of the people who came before us - the places they lived, the cultures of the times, the families they created, and the circumstances - good and bad - that would one day lead to us, their descendants. These are the stories of my Mom's families. . . .

Surnames in this Blog


Saturday, March 16, 2013

SATURDAY'S STRUCTURE - Elmwood Cemetery, Birmingham, AL

The oldest section of Elmwood Cemetery
Birmingham, Alabama
Elmwood Cemetery is located on 412 acres on Martin Luther King Drive in Birmingham, Alabama. It is the resting place of over fifty members of the Flemming, Horst, and O'Donnell families, to name a few.

Originally established in 1900 as "Elm Leaf Cemetery", its name was changed in 1910 to Elmwood. It was developed by several groups of fraternal organizations in the city who saw a need for a second burial ground for the city's dead, beginning with 286 acres of property. It wasn't long before it eclipsed the city's first cemetery, Oak Hill, as the most popular cemetery in town.

It's not surprising that Elmwood Cemetery was a "whites-only" cemetery for much of the past century. Not until 1970 were blacks allowed to purchase burial plots to bury their loved ones here. [See story below]

Elmwood Cemetery, like most cemeteries across the country, has sections that are dedicated solely for Catholics, solely for Jews, and solely for Greeks, to name a few. There are also several large Mausoleums on the property.

Gravesite of Charles and Odalie Horst - Block 9, Elmwood Cemetery
The first relative buried at this Elmwood appears to be my great-great-grandfather Charles F. Horst (1856-1912), buried on August 31, 1912 - 100 years ago. Other members of the Horst family buried beside him include Charles' wife (my great-great-grandmother) Odalie Fortier (1857-1920), and two of their sons: Edward Horst (1882-1916), who never married, and Omer Horst (1887-1945). They are buried in Block 9 - part of the oldest section of the cemetery.

Charles & Odalie's oldest son Charles F. Horst (1880-1964) and his wife Eliza Dilworth (1885-1960) are buried nearby in Block 17. Buried with them are their daughter Grider Horst (1908-1995) and son Charles F. Horst, Jr.(1911-1994), along with his wife Kathryn Olsafski (1917-1999).

Final Resting Place of Harry & Pearl Flemming
Block 4, Elmwood Cemetery
Charles & Odalie Horst's oldest daughter Pearl Horst (1884-1961) and her husband Harry Flemming (1878-1955) - my great-grandparents - are buried under a tree in Block 4.

Five of Harry & Pearl's 8 children are buried together in Block 29 along with their spouses and other family members, including:
  • daughter Pearl (1907-1986) and her husband William Barriger (1904-1979);
  • daughter Susie (1909-1989) and husband Huber O'Donnell (1905-1964), my grandparents;
  • son Harry (1913-1972) and his wife Fredericka Perry (1913-1967);
  • son Jack (1918-2008) and his wife Georgia Rice (1918-2005);
  • daughter Ann (1923-2012), her husband Aubrey Pilkerton (1925-1999), and their son Aubrey Pilkerton, Jr. (1949-1998);
  • granddaughter Mary Ann Selman (1944-2001).
Block 44 is the final resting place for Frank Selman (1920-2012), husband of Harry & Pearl's last surviving daughter. Also buried here are their daughter and son-in-law Kathie (1951-2011) and Alan Holmes (1936-2009). [Daughter Mary Ann is buried in Block 29 - see above]

Headstone for Elizabeth "Lizzie" McCaffrey Flemming
Block 7, Elmwood Cemetery
Buried in Block 7 are the first Flemmings to settle in Birmingham, another set of my great-great-grandparents, Charles Flemming (1854-1932) and Elizabeth McCaffrey (1858-1922). Four of their eleven children are buried along side them including:
  • daughter Imo Thompson (1886-1919);
  • daughter Lottie McMurray (1891-1937);
  • son Thomas (1896-1919);
  • (son Harry is buried in Block 29 - see above; son James is buried in Block __ - see below; daughter Sarah is buried in Block 32 - see below)
Also buried close-by in Block 7 is a sister of Elizabeth McCaffrey Flemming. Agnes McCaffrey O'Brien (1879-1919), along with her husband Edward O'Brien (1867-1922)

Another child of Charles and Elizabeth Flemming, son James (1889-1932) is buried in Block 42. Buried beside him is his wife Elizabeth Cahalan (1891-1972). Also buried here are their children: daughter Elizabeth (1914-1982); son Charles (1915-1932); daughter Catherine (1911-1985) and her husband Fred Caver (1905-1975); and son Frank (1924-2003) and his wife Sally Sherrill (1928-2010);

Charles & Elizabeth Flemming's youngest daughter Sarah (1893-1963) and her husband James Thomas (1891-1954) are buried in Block 32. Buried along side them is their only child Delore (1917-1999), along with her husband James Roper (1914-1993).

Buried in Block 10 is Charlotte McCaffrey Morris (1875-1925). Lottie is another sister of my great-great-grandmother Elizabeth McCaffrey Flemming. Buried with her are her husband William Morris (1868-1955), their son William (1903-1924) and daughter Charlotte Rainey (1906-1996). Infant son Joseph (1904-1904) was buried in an unmarked grave in Block 4.

Buried in Block 24 are a daughter-in-law and a son-in-law of Huber & Susie Flemming O'Donnell. Celeste Rafalsky O'Donnell (1950-2008) is buried alongside her parents and brother. In the same block but at a different location is buried my father William A. Powell, Jr. (1929-2009).

Block 22 is the site of the burial place of Karl McCaffrey (1889-1950), nephew of Elizabeth McCaffrey Flemming, and his wife Tennie Williams (1899-1978).

Integrating Elmwood: "Terry vs. Elmwood Cemetery"

 Elmwood Cemetery, a whites-only cemetery since its beginning, has been open to all races due to a lawsuit filed in federal district court in 1969 - "Terry vs. Elmwood Cemetery". On July 3, 1969, a soldier named Bill Terry, Jr. was killed in Vietnam, dying from a fragment wound to his chest, sustained in combat near Xuan Loc. Because of his honorable Army record he was given the traditional military escort back to his home in Birmingham, where his body was taken to Elmwood Cemetery to begin the internment process. When Terry's widow and mother attempted to buy a burial plot for his remain, they were refused by the cemetery manager. The reason? Bill Terry was black. Since other funeral arrangements were already in place, his widow and mother purchased a plot at the traditionally black cemetery of Shadow Lawn Memorial Park.

About this time, another African-American - Belvin Stout - was denied purchase of a burial plot at Elmwood and joined Terry's widow and mother in filing suit in federal district court against the cemetery. In making their decision for the plaintiffs the court struck down all of the cemetery's rules and regulations regarding discrimination based on race. Following the ruling, along with local and national support, Bill Terry's body was exhumed and reburied at Elmwood Cemetery on January 3, 1970. Twelve hundred marchers followed his body from Our Lady of Fatima Church to the cemetery. His remains now rests at Elmwood - just as he asked his family to do in case anything happened to him, just before leaving for Vietnam. [from" Integrating the City of the Dead: The Integration of Cemeteries and the Evolution of Property Law, 1900-1969",  Alabama Law Review, May 23, 2005, pages 1153-1166]

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