by Matt Neal
Location: Woodstock, Georgia
For over a century, it was that old cemetery outside of town – peaceful and quiet. But things, they are a-changin’. Now, it’s at the intersection of two highways. And yes, I consider Main Street a highway there.
After parking my car and looking around, the first thing I noticed was the abundance of family plots. So many of the graves were enclosed, and that tradition continues today as new family plots are still being made. There were, of course, the resting places of several founding families. The Dean and Johnston names were prevalent.
In recent years several preservation efforts have done their part to improve the grounds. They even added street-style markers to help you find your way. As I wandered around, the ever-present buzz of traffic filled my ear. It was impossible to escape. And it will only grow louder in the coming years.
To my surprise, the front corner of the cemetery that juts up to the corner of Main Street and Ridge Walk Pkwy actually holds new graves, and new family plots. It seems the wrong direction to expand. The other side is nothing but trees. I worry that some over-eager town planners of the future may decide the cemetery is in their way for the next mini-mall or outlet store.
I slowly made my way to the back, away from the highway, where several older graves can be found. That’s when things changed. Gone was the green grass, replaced by leaves and pine straw. But I was not out of the cemetery. No, I was looking at ages of neglect and erosion. Small stones that may have once been legible, may have once held some message of hope or peace about the loss they represented, lay scattered about. Rocks here and there told of poor citizens, unable to afford the grand headstones of more prominent families. I brushed away leaves and debris from one that lay flat, fallen over time. A chalk rubbing could probably bring back the words it held, but I could not make them out.
And that’s when I noticed it. The terrain was bumpy. All through the shady and forgotten back corner, age-old coffins had sunken in, giving the ground that unnatural appearance. In many cases, it was impossible to know where the old graves were. A sudden feeling came over me, as of days gone by, of forgotten people who once were dear to someone, and I was invading their peace.
I know efforts have been made to identify the unmarked graves. Town Historian, Juanita Hughes, keeper of all things historical in Woodstock and columnist for the Cherokee Tribune, would be the person to ask. I don’t ask her, though. In the years I’ve spent searching for old and forgotten treasures in this town, the one phrase I’ve come to dread is, “Why don’t you talk to Juanita?”
One day I will come across that lost ruin, that unknown bit of history that Juanita has never heard of, doesn’t know all about, doesn’t have detailed documents on in her files. That day hasn’t come yet, but I still hope.
A few years ago she wrote an article about a tour she gave at Enon Cemetery. For anyone interested in the cemetery, that article is full of information.
I also found Enon listed in several cemetery databases, including Find-A-Grave. As an avid genealogist, I’m very familiar with searching through old cemetery records. But I was pleasantly surprised at a new one I discovered – BillionGraves.com. They have actual plotted lat/long coordinates of what looks like every grave in the place. That’s impressive. Think of the time consuming effort it took to do that.
For more information on Enon Cemetery, visit Woodstock Preservation Center on Main Street in Woodstock. Juanita will be there to assist you.