On Monday November 22, 1915, the Con T. Kennedy Circus Carnival having completed a successful engagement during ‘Harvest Festival’ week at the Atlanta Exposition in Columbus departed the area on a traveling circus train with 28 cars. A Central of Georgia passenger train headed to Macon was also departing Columbus, and instructions were sent to the engineer to wait at Muscogee Junction.
Failure to comply with this order resulted in both trains colliding head-on at 30 miles an hour near a bend at Bull Creek, six and a half miles east of Columbus. The engines of both trains were demolished but did not derail. Other cars telescoped resulting in a catastrophic fire. Although passengers on the Central of Georgia were unharmed, a total of 24 people died on the train carrying the circus crew.
Fred S. Kempf and his wife Blanche who operated a sideshow miniature mechanical city called Kempf’s Model City were trapped inside their sleeping compartment. They managed to pass their young daughter through a window to friends who were working to extricate them. Tragically the unfortunate parents burned to death, and four year old Hazel was left an orphan. “I saw those poor fellows pinned in their sleeping wagons and they could not get out,” reported many at the site.
In addition to the loss of human life, two carloads of animals were burned alive.
A funeral cortege travelled from the First Baptist Church to Riverdale Cemetery where the dead were interred. A memorial headstone in the form of a circus tent was erected by the circus community to commemorate the event.
Erected by the / Con T. Kennedy Shows / In memory of their comrades / Who lost their lives / In a railroad wreck near Columbus GA / Nov 22 1915.
We’ll not forget thee, we who stay / To work a little longer here, / Thy name, thy faith, thy love shall be / On memory’s tablet, bright and clear, / And when o’er-wearied by the toil of life, / Our heavy limbs shall be, / We’ll come, and one by one lie down / Upon dear Mother-earth with thee.
Wooden markers – we can’t really call them gravestones or headstones when they are made of wood – were initially used due to availability and low expense. However, the wood which deteriorated rather quickly due to weather conditions was also subject to forest fires.
Friedrich Glauser Schrefleller was a Swiss native and a celebrated writer in the German language. For most of his brief time on earth (1896-1938) he was addicted to opium, and on the evening prior to his wedding he suffered a stroke and died two days later.
Charles Morgan Blessing, a miner, was shot in the head and robbed by Hames Barry who was hanged as a result of this crime. The murder took place in Cariboo, British Columbia, Canada. In memory of C. M. Blessing, a native of Ohio, aged 30 years was murdered near this spot May 31 1866.
This wooden grave marker circa 1850 is located on a steep hillside near Virginia City, Nevada. The graves located there are host to people from varied social and economic status and as a result, the grave markers within the Silver Terrace Cemeteries are made from a variety of wood, metal and stone.
A tired and worn marker situated in the old Malay Cemetery in Singapore.
During WWI, A.I.F. Private Frank Gallagher, age 23, was killed on 23 August 1918. A wooden battalion cross was erected at the site of his death; Bray-sur-Somme. A photograph of the wooden cross has been modified by Frank’s mother by pasting a photo of Frank in uniform.
Jason Hayes who died when he was 74 is buried in Barnet, Georgia.
The Horváth family from the Almad Forest in Transylvania, are identified with a wooden marker in the Kecskemét Reformed Cemetery, Bács-Kiskun County, Hungary. The marker is engraved with the name Karolyne Horváth who died on 4 March 1930 and Dr. Karoly Horváth who was born in 1873 and died in 1943.
The partial image of a wooden marker is worn and broken. In the centre of the marker is a circle containing a form of four Tau crosses. The Tau is one of the oldest forms of a cross, believed to have been held by Moses in the wilderness.
On the right of the photograph is a worn engraving: a circle divided into 8 sections. This could be a symbol for God or Holy Spirit.
The slave trade began as an exchange for British goods on the West Coast of Africa where African men, women and children were shipped directly to the colonies in the New World.
When slaves died, plantation owners refused to allow them to be buried on valuable land, and for that reason, black cemeteries are often found in marginal areas of fields or forests. Graves were randomly dug and marked with daily objects that the spirit might need. In the south, they were also decorated with seashells and pebbles.
In North Carolina there are over 60 graves located at the edge of the woods in the Edwards-Franklin Cemetery. It was restored and dedicated by the Surry County Historical Society on 26 Aug 2010. During the dedication the names of 60 slaves found in historical records of the estate were read out.
A white marble Monument in Sautee Nacoochee, Georgia, honors descendants of Onesimus a runaway slave, whom the apostle Paul received to the faith of Christ. The Monument was placed near the slave graves in 1992 as a joint project of the Bean Creek Baptist Church and the Nacoochee Methodist Church to honor those buried and unknown.
In Woodcock Cemetery, North Attleboro, Massachusetts is the grave of a slave named Caesar. In memory of Caesar Here lies the best of slaves Now turning into dust; Caesar the Ethiopian craves A place among the just. His faithful soul has fled To realms of heavenly light And by the blood that Jesus shed Is changed from Black to White
January 15 he quitted the stage In the 77 year of his age. 1780
In Foxworth, Mississippi, is the grave of the world’s oldest man and last living slave. Reported to be 130 years old when he died, Sylvester MaGee claimed to have been a slave who fought for both sides in the Civil War. Although his claims are unverified, the county historical society memorialized him in the small churchyard of Pleasant Valley United Methodist Church.
Believed to have been the last surviving American Slave, MaGee was born in Carpet, North Carolina, and sold at Enterprise, Mississippi, at the age of nineteen. He is believed to have served in the Civil War at both the Siege of Vicksburg and Champion’s Hill. Few records exist to support his life’s claim, yet some have stated that the detail and clarity with which he recounted his life’s experiences would have been impossible without having experienced it first-hand. Though he did not like to recount the worst of his days gone by, he made it known that his faith helped him make it through.
This memorial is dedicated to Sylvester MaGee, perhaps the last citizen of the United States who possessed first-hand knowledge of both institutionalized Slavery and the Civil War.
Erected 2012 by the Marion County Historical Society Southern Monument Company
In Mount Vernon, Virginia, near the tomb of George Washington there is a slave burial ground containing 150 graves. Originally enclosed within a fenced area there is now a marker of Georgia marble inscribed: In Memory of the Many Faithful Colored Servants of the Washington Family, buried at Mount Vernon from 1760-1860. Their Unidentified Graves Surround This Spot 1929.
Listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places in August, 2012, the Contrabands and Freedman Cemetery is located at 1001 S. Washington St. in Alexandria, Virginia. Escaped slaves who were still the legal property of their masters were labeled as contrabands during the American Civil War and the military occupation of Alexandria. This classification prevented them from being returned to their masters and allowed them to work within the military in a variety of roles including soldiers and sailors.
Approximately 10,000 black slaves were routed to Britain to become servants to entitled society. Scipio Africanus became a servant to the seventh Earl of Suffolk. Loved by the young Earl and his wife he was treated like a son and was buried in St Mary’s churchyard, Henbury near Bristol, England when he died in 1720 at age 18 years. The gravesite is marked with a painted headstone and footstone with black winged effigies.
The grave markers were restored on April 2007. The epitaph on the headstone reads: HERE Lieth the Body of SCIPIO AFRICANUS Negro Servant to the Right Honourable Charles William Earl of Suffolk and Bradon Who died the 21st December 1729 Aged 18 Years.
The footstone is inscribed: I who was Born a PAGAN and a SLAVE Now Sweetly Sleep a CHRISTIAN in my Grave What tho’ my hue was dark my SAVIORS sight Shall Change this darkness into radiant light Such grace to me my Lord on earth has given To recommend me to my Lord in heaven Whose glorious second coming here I wait With saints and Angels Him to celebrate.
Some slaves did not survive the journey to new lands. This stone identifying Samboo is located near Glasson, Lancashire, England.
Here lies Poor SAMBOO A faithful NEGRO who (Attending his Master form the West Indies) DIED on his Arrival at SUNDERLAND.
Full sixty Years the angry Winter’s wave Has thundering dashed this bleak & barren Shore Since SAMBO’s Head laid in this lonely GRAVE Lies still & ne’er will hear their turmoil more. Fully many a Sand bird chirps upon the Sod And many a Moonlight Elfin round him trips Fully many a Summer’s Sunbeam warms the Clod And many a teeming Cloud upon him drips. But still he sleeps – till the awakening Sounds Of the Archangel’s Trump new Life impart Then the GREAT JUDGE his Approbation found’s Not on Man’s COLOUR but his – WORTH OF HEART. James Watson Scr. H. Bell del. 1796