On Sunday, May 19 about 100 people gathered at Cedar Creek Baptist Church in Chesterfield County to remember and honor 0- to 2-year-old “Little Ones” buried in its cemetery. Six months earlier, that was not possible. The church did not have a census of their cemetery that showed the location of graves. They now have one!
What prompted the church to develop their History and Cemetery Survey? Read on.
Origin of the cemetery census
In August 2018, Harvey S. Teal placed a gravestone on his wife’s grave in Cassatt, S.C. His Mother and father and two older brothers are buried in the Cedar Creek Baptist Church cemetery in Chesterfield County. Since his two older brothers had no gravestones, he began to explore the placing of markers on their graves.
He first visited the Cedar Creek Baptist Church Cemetery in October 2018 and noted there were cement blocks marking the places where his brothers were buried. While looking over the cemetery on that visit and a second one, he noted the large number of graves of young children, especially those from 0 to 2 years old. He wondered how many graves were in the cemetery and what percentage of that number would be of the “Little Ones.”
He next called his cousin Allen Teal, a member of the church, and inquired if the church had a cemetery census. He met with Allen to discuss the matter and found there was no census. As they discussed the matter they concluded a cemetery census would provide much useful information for the church leadership, the congregation and the Cedar Creek Community. After exploring the idea for a few days, Allen decided to take on the project.
He sought the aid of James Isgett, his brother-in-law, the aid of members of the Cemetery Association, and a few others and produced a census of the 659 graves in the cemetery.
Allen is well known to us in Kershaw County. After serving as Principal of Chesterfield High School for a number of years, he became the director of Kershaw County’s Applied Technical Education Campus (ATEC), served there for several years and then became the school district’s director of pupil services for a number of years.
From the census which recorded all engraved material from each gravestone, one could abstract the stories embedded in the cemetery. No one previous knew that more than 12 percent, or more than 80 of the 659 graves in the cemetery were of the “Little Ones” between 0 to 2 years old. One now knew six Civil War veterans were buried in the cemetery and 63 from all other wars. The cemetery had now “come alive” and was “talking” to us and “telling” us its stories.
In the meantime, Harvey S. Teal wrote an article for the Chronicle-Independent in Camden entitled “The Story of the Little Ones,” which was published December 4, 2018.
He and Allen met with Pastor Jeff Williams and the church’s board of deacons and gave them a copy of “The Story of the Little Ones.” Allen and Harvey proposed the church publish the cemetery census and set aside a Sunday in 2019 to memorialize and honor the “Little Ones” since many of them likely never had a funeral preached. The church agreed and authorized us to proceed.
Our committee thought it would be useful to include a few pages of church history in the publication and we did. We also decided to point out certain facts the census revealed like the oldest grave, the age of the oldest person buried, etc.
The minister and deacons insisted that we include the article on the “Little Ones” from the Chronicle-Independent and we did. The press does have power, doesn’t it?
The church authorized the printing of 240 copies of the census. The church also has authorized the purchase of grave markers for several dozen unmarked graves. These markers will be installed in a few weeks.
Since the census identified all veterans from the Civil War to the present, flags were ordered for each veteran’s grave and placed there the day before our program on Sunday, May 19. They continued to fly until after Memorial Day.
After the unveiling and distribution of the cemetery census, Harvey S. Teal spoke on the topic of the “Little Ones.” Pastor Jeff Williams closed out the service with a brief sermon. A descendant of each “Little One” buried in the cemetery if present was given a name tag. They went into the cemetery and stood by the grave of their “Little One” as individuals came by to speak with, grieved with and often prayed with them.
There is no question but that the Cedar Creek Baptist Church congregation and community will honor, respect and view their cemetery in a different light in the future.
(This column was provided by the Kershaw County Historical Society to the Chronicle-Independent, Camden, S.C.)