From The Army Flier, February 13, 1975 - Page 10
Ft. Rucker Cemeteries
Echoes of the Past
By SP5 Meredith Keller

Alabama has a past well-marked by the early pioneers who helped the state blossom and brought new life and prosperity to the foundling land. But, with life and creation, Death and cemeteries also come. Church cemeteries, community cemeteries and individual or joint family cemeteries are found throughout southeastern Alabama. Today, four such cemeteries are located within the boundaries of the Ft. Rucker military reservation: Beulah, Byrd, Averett and Clay Hill.

Byrd Cemetery
The early 1820's saw the Byrd and Johnson families pack up all their belongings and move from Johnston Co., N. C. to what is now known as Dale County. Records show the earliest Byrd family living in this area to be Bright and Gracey Byrd, a young couple who began their homestead just north of the area presently known as Ozark. This family and its descendants created the Byrd Cemetery which is located just north of Ozark near old Highway 231.

Acrel Byrd, on of the sons of Bright and Gracey Byrd, married into the Johnson family who shared the Byrd's journey from North Carolina. He and his wife, Bartilla, began their homestead just west of Lake Tholocco. Acrel Byrd's family cemetery is located on the military reservation just beyond the beach area of Lake Tholocco. The earliest burial marker is that of Acrel's grandson, John C. Byrd, who died June 21, 1871.

Beulah Cemetery
In the middle of the nineteenth century, long before Ft. Rucker was ever dreamed of, the Old Beulah Primitive Baptist Church held regular meetings for its members. For more an 60 years, services were held in a small frame building located about seven miles west of Ozark on, the Ozark-Daleville Highway. A small record book called "A Book of Record for the Primitive Baptist Church at Beulah, Dale County, Alabama" and dated 1860 shows its first entry was made on May 10. The minutes for the church business meetings were maintained by various clerks of the church until Dec. 7, 1924.

The Beulah Church established a cemetery for its members and their families which still exists today near the site of the old church. For reasons unknown, the congregation transferred their letters of membership to other churches in the area and abandoned the old building. According to local sources, the frame structure deteriorated so badly that it was removed by the first occupants of Camp Rucker in the early 1940s.

Averett Cemetery
Four family generations ago, in February 1843, Phillip McCarty and his family established themselves on a homestead farm in the western section of Dale County, Ala. From this original section, he and his family increased their homestead farm in the western section of Dale County, Ala. From this original section, he and his family increased their homestead to include the entire area of what is today known as Lowe Army airfield and the surrounding areas of Ft. Rucker and Dale County.

Two daughters of the McCarty family, Georgia Ann and Safronia, married Ananias and Marion Averett from North Carolina. These marriages created a permanent bond between the two pioneer families and their descendants. It is carried on local record books under three names: McCarty Cemetery, Averett Cemetery and the McCarty-Averett Cemetery.

Clay Hill Cemetery
Early maps of Dale County show the location of several small towns on the Ozark-Enterprise Highway called Liberty Ridge, Mt. Liberty, Pleasant Hill and others. Many of the churches in these communities were created suddenly and later the memberships disappeared among other churches just as quickly, leaving behind either partial or incomplete records.

One such congregation was the Clay Hill Liberty Ridge. No records have been found that can actually date the church s existence but, nevertheless, a cemetery remains to show that it did in fact exist.

Tombstone markers appear on the gravesites showing dates from 1877 to 1920, with the most prevalent names being those of Dawkins, Ardis and Matthews. Local towns people voiced recollections of the church membership being so small that when Camp Rucker became a reality, rather than try to relocate the church, they abandoned it. The people were absorbed into the churches of the surrounding area.

Without proper care, the building deteriorated and was probably removed by military personnel of Camp Rucker. All that remains today is the cemetery itself, about one mile south of Black Mills Range on the reservation.

Triangular Division Army Camp
The Ft Rucker military reservation area was first surveyed in the latter part of 1941. The contract for construction of the "Triangular Division Army Camp", as it was then called, was awarded to the Jones Construction Company of Charlotte, N. C. and the Smith-Pew Construction Company of Atlanta, Ga.

Troops from the 81st (Wildcat) Infantry Division began arriving in late April 1942. The planning and designing of the training areas were severely hampered by the many cemeteries in the area, so the government assumed the responsibility and the expense of relocating most of the cemeteries that were situated on the military reservation. Byrd, Beulah, Averett and Clay Hill cemeteries were allowed to remain because they did not interfere with troop movement or training. Many pages of history have been written since the first cemetery in the early 1820 s and still Alabama blossoms and new life is created. These cemeteries mark the resting places of many of the early pioneers who made this life in southeastern Alabama possible.

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This Page was Created June 2008 | Last Modified Saturday, 29-Nov-2014 21:21:46 EST