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May 19, 2006
Dougherty County -- New evidence in the investigation of a rural Dougherty County cemetery that was harrowed over by workers at a neighboring plantation. Historians have taken the pieces of tombstones that were recovered, and identified the people who were buried in that long forgotten cemetery during the 1850's and 1860's.
A number of South Georgia families today can be traced to one of those people buried there 160 years ago, and now they will be contacted by the District Attorney's office about the disturbance of this cemetery.
In the 1850-s and 1860-s there was a cemetery on this plot on the Tallahassee Road in Western Dougherty County. Dougherty County Sheriff's Investigators say Ecila Plantation workers admit two years ago they harrowed over the long forgotten cemetery by mistake.
Two tombstones were kept, and turned over to Investigators by the Plantation after complaints were made. Historian Woody Brooks worked with Sheriff's Investigators, and identified and traced the people buried there.
One was Fanny Roby, who died in 1853 when she was 22 years old. The other was Mary J. Turner, who died just a few days shy of her first birthday in 1863. Turner's family was very prominent, and her nine brothers and sisters are recorded in Terrell County history. But today's Family members say they never knew there was a Mary J. Woody Brooks said "They didn't realize that this little girl that had died at one year of age existed. So this is the record of her existence. The only record? The only record that they knew about."
Mary J was the daughter of William Henry and Florella Williams Turner. He was Chairman of the Dawson County Commission in the 1850's and 60's. He is credited with designing the old courthouse building still standing in Dawson. The descendants of their other nine children still are well known in South Georgia. Brooks said "Roby, Turner, Spurlock, Pace, Cook, Melton, Hill, Paschal, Dekle, Siegler. These are counties that we all know relatives of this little girl."
We spoke with several members of these families Friday, and none was aware of this cemetery or the possible link to their genealogy.
While none of the people would go on camera, may said the cemetery and Mary J. Turner's grave should not have been disturbed. Brooks said "It belongs to the family, it belongs to the people buried there. Doesn't belong to anybody else. Nobody has a right to disturb it."
Now that the people buried in this cemetery can be traced to family members living today, Sheriff's and District Attorney Investigators will contact them. Lt. Craig Dodd said "Now that we have the people identified, we can possibly locate some family members that may give us more direction on how they want us to go with it."
We could not contact Ecila Plantation managers, but they have dug up the entrance to the driveway next to the cemetery plot, and built a new driveway around the area so it will not be disturbed again.
District Attorney Ken Hodges was out of town today, but said that his office will continue the Investigation into the disturbance of this hundred year old cemetery. No criminal charges have been filed.