Descendents to clean Pratt City cemetery buried by debris - ABC 33/40 - Birmingham News, Weather, Sports

Descendents to clean Pratt City cemetery buried by debris

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Fraternal Cemetery in Pratt City. (abc3340.com) Fraternal Cemetery in Pratt City. (abc3340.com)
BIRMINGHAM - AL -

 

In a quiet corner of Pratt City, a story, long since forgotten hides from the fast paced life outside. The Fraternal, Greenwood, and Foley cemeteries span 20 acres. Most of it now is covered by trees and weeds.

"Some of those graves have not seen the light of day in probably at least 40-50 years," Shirley Butler, who has family members buried in the cemetery said.

Some so covered in debris and brush, descendents can't find them.

"It's just so disheartening because last Christmas I couldn't reach it to get to my grandmother's grave," Butler said.

"They used to throw garbage on their graves. the locals did, they used to bring their home garbage and throw it on the graves," Eddie Bratton, who also has family buried in cemetery said.

It's not your typical Birmingham cemetery. In the 1800's Pratt City was a mining town. Italians, French, Sicilians, and families from Scotland found their resting place here.

"Back then they started working when they were very young," Butler said. "When you read it, you just want to cry."

At the Jefferson County Historical Commission, the director says, it's one of the top sites she gets calls about.

"As far as anxiety and frustration about conditions, it's Fraternal Cemetery," Linda Nelson, Executive Secretary, Jefferson County Historical Commission said.

But because the cemetery's owner is no longer living, there's no one to maintain it. 

"A lot of it is under the vines, covered up with grass," Nelson said.

For Shirley Butler, this cemetery isn't simply historical - it's personal.

"This is my great grandfather who was killed in the train accident - a boiler exploded in 1892 when he was only 35 years old," she said.

Her great grandfather, William Ransom Lambert was buried here in 1892.

"It just grieves me that this cemetery would be let go and be left in this deplorable condition," Butler said.

"I've been wanting to do my geneology and that's what brought me out here," Bratton said.

Eddie Bratton says 7 of his ancestors are buried here.

"You see the debris from the tornados - that's roofing over there from someone's house," he said.

Just one month ago, these descendents started a non-profit - aimed at restoring this buried history.

"We knew that something had to be done because if our generation doesn't do it, the one behind us won't know where to look, where to go, how to find them - especially in the deplorable condition it's been in," Butler said.

As the cleanup from the tornados of April 27, 2011 continues, another cleanup will begin - the connection to the old, a welcome addition to the new Pratt City.

A cleanup is planned for Saturday, April 6th. For more information, visit http://fraternal-greenwood-foley-cemeterypreservationsociety.org/

 

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