Old Cahawba Archaeological Park cemetery gets new life

Old Cahawba Archaeological Park cemetery gets new life

DALLAS COUNTY, AL (WSFA) - Righting a wrong from decades ago.

“Yes, I think we are bringing a sense of healing,” said Linda Derry, Cahawba Park Site director for the Alabama Historical Commission.

That’s what Derry lives for these days.

“These are my heroes. That’s what’s going through my mind," she said.

Derry watched, with a great deal of emotions, as Matt Gage and his archaeological team figured out how to put a massive marble tombstone puzzle back together and put it back in its rightful place.

Matt Gage and his archaeological team figure out how to put a massive marble tombstone puzzle back together.
Matt Gage and his archaeological team figure out how to put a massive marble tombstone puzzle back together. (Source: WSFA 12 News)

This the work of someone using a sledgehammer in 1960, some 60 years ago. Many of the graves date back to pre-Civil War.

“Who knows why someone would do such a thing," said Derry.

Gage and his men work for the University of Alabama’s Archeological Research Center.

“This is a very difficult job. It’s a technical job and requires craftsman’s eyes," Gage said.

In the 1960s, several graves dating back to pre-Civil War times were demolished using a sledgehammer.
In the 1960s, several graves dating back to pre-Civil War times were demolished using a sledgehammer. (Source: WSFA 12 News)

The cemetery vandalism in June of 1960 was the talk of the county, one of the top headlines in the local paper that day.

“This is the worst part," said Derry.

Derry said her office obtained a $52,000 grant from a private foundation to do the work.

The work is slow, methodical and time consuming, and what they did Thursday was only the beginning.

“Then our next project will be the iron fences." she said.

The ‘whodunit’ will perhaps always be cloaked in mystery at Cahawba Park, but not the secret of who’s working to restore dignity to the departed souls. It’s the lady in the cemetery; Linda Derry.

“We’ve been waiting for these repairs for so long,” she said.

Derry said as far as she knows, no one was ever arrested for vandalizing those gravestones.

Close to 300 remains are buried in what’s known as the ‘new’ cemetery at Cahawba Park.

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