Dumping Issue at Old Opelika Cemetery, Community Members Taking Action
An old, African American cemetery in Opelika isn’t being treated with the respect it deserves. People throughout the years have been using it as a wasteland instead of a place for peace. Ross Cemetery, on India Road has been around since the late 1800s and sits on an old plantation.
“There are a lot of people buried here. Some, we don’t know. But, we do know there are 9 veterans, American veterans going back to WWI that have markers and others here without markers,” said Edna Ward, with the Lee County Cemetery Preservation Commission.
So, over the years, when people started dumping their trash and yard waste it caught the attention of Ward and others in the community.
“Families die out. They move away and it kinda leaves the situation that there might not be any descendants of those people now,” said Ward.
Ward said it’s a shame people have been treating this historic piece of land like their own personal trash can.
“This is a nice neighborhood, these are good people and it’s just a little change we would like to make and we would like that cooperation,” said Ward.
A majority of that cooperation came from Lee-Scott Academy Junior and boy scout, Kyle Graddy.
“We drive by it almost everyday and see the poor state of repair it was in, so we wanted to do something about it,” said Graddy.
Graddy is trying to earn his Eagle Award. So, he chose Ross Cemetery as his Eagle Project. He’s cleaned up the cemetery, discovered some more headstones, made a pathway and plans to put a fence across the front of it.
“It feels good to know I am honoring veterans by cleaning up the cemetery,” said Graddy.
The volunteers hope after the cleanup, this will link up some living relatives to some past ones they thought were lost forever. The Alabama Department of Archives and History also have a part in it and are trying to discover more of the veterans buried there.
Some more information on Ross Cemetery and those they discovered buried there:
Ross Cemetery, India Road, Opelika, Ala.
Ross Cemetery is an African American cemetery consisting of about four acres of mature forest, located in a residential area on the north side of Opelika, Lee County, AL, between India Rd. and Oak Bowery Rd. It lies along India Rd. between residences at 1414 and 1700 and along Oak bowery between residences at 1605 and 1703. To reach the cemetery from downtown Opelika, take 10th Street north, which will become Oak Bowery Rd. At the first yellow blinking signal (Northgate Dr.) turn right, go one block and turn right onto India Rd. The cemetery will be on your right. A second way to reach the cemetery: From Second Ave, take 5th Street North, at the Municipal Park, the street changes to Denson Drive. Pass the Opelika Middle School and go to the dead end of Denson which is India Road. Turn left. Follow the house numbers on the left to 1414 India Road. Ross Cemetery begins there and is on the left.
The cemetery is named Ross because it lies on land that was once part of the Isaac Ross plantation, land that was in the Ross family from 1839 to 1905. Ownership of the cemetery is unclear, and it is not formally maintained. Some kind neighbors voluntarily tend to the area somewhat. Because it is mature forest, it is fairly easy to walk through, but sturdy clothing is recommended. This cemetery survey was made October 9-14, 2008, recording tombstone inscriptions and whatever could be read by clearing debris from inscribed concrete grave caps.
There are some paths that cross the cemetery, but have no relation to any graves. There is no consistent orientation of graves. There are about three dozen grave–size depressions scattered throughout the forest, a few marked with natural stones. There are about twenty unmarked concrete grave caps also scattered throughout the area.
There are 20 identified graves. Five are alongside India Road.
Last name, First Name Birth Death Remarks
Gunn, Jesse b. 20 May 1896, d. 31 Mar 1961, “Ala Pvt. Inf. WWI”
Benford, J. Arthur b. 6 Aug. 1893, d. 3 Aug 1958,
Benford, Wilbert b 15 Apr 1896, d. 10 Jul 1955, “Ala Pvt. 7 Co, Vet Tng Sch WWI
Harris, Ella d. 18 Dec 1928,
Harris, A. B. d. 1 Nov 1926,
About 150 feet west along the south border is an inscribed concrete grave cap with both of these entries:
Gleen, Rachel; b. 11 Jun 1917, d. 13 Jun 1918, “age 1 y 2 d”
Gleen, Leona; “Old Leona Gleen At Rest”
About another 100 feet west, near a shed on the adjoining residential property are three identified graves:
Rea, Pomp d. 8 Jul 1932, age 84 yrs, “Our Dear Father”
Rea, Addie b. 5 Feb 1864, d. 29 May 1936, “Our Beloved Mother”
Rea, E, B. Jr. b. 5 Jul 1924, d. 12 Jan 1925, “Our Darling”
On the east-west centerline of the cemetery, about 30 feet into the forest from the Oak Bowery end are:
Hill, Mrs. Annie Laura; d. 22 Aug 1963
Torbert, Henry L. b. 1 May 1910, d. 29 Sep 1956, Ala Pvt 699 Port Co TC WWII
About 100 feet farther east on the center line:
Moore, Joe R. b 28 Apr 1888, d. 29 Jun 1944, ” Ala Pvt 425 Res Labor BN OMC”
Midway between Oak Bowery and India Road:
Hunter, Lucious Jr. b. 19 Mar 1926, d. 17 Oct 1946, “Ala Pvt O M Corps WWII”
About 100 feet farther east on the centerline:
Gibson, Zebedee b. 23 Nov 1891, d. 28 Feb 1915,
Gibson, Lizzie b. 7 Dec 1864, d. 2 Mar 1915,
About 30 feet in from the north border and about half way between India and Oak Bowery:
Calloway, Mack; “At Rest”
Carde, Mary; d. 25 Dec 1948 [nothing else on concrete cap.]
About mid way between Mary Carde and Lucious Hunter:
Lewis, Dorothy M.; b. 25 Jul 1994, d. 5 Dec 1994, “Our Darling”
Near the north border, about 150 feet from Oak Bowery:
Fastmantoul, [last 4 letters are unclear; nothing else on concrete cap.]
There is a small grave near the northeast corner with a small marker reading
“In Memoryof SMUT 1988-2004 Rest in Peace.” I believe this is the grave of a pet.
Two additional markers found July 23, 2016, added by Kyle Graddy
Britt Garrett b. 1894 d. 5 Aug 1941 WWII
Charlie Hunter b. 19 Apr 1921 d. 21 Dec 1955 WWII