Historic cemetery hit hard by twister

March 8, 2007

Americus -- A piece of Americus history has been severely damaged.  Oak Grove Cemetery, the resting place of the city's forefathers, took a direct hit in last week's tornado.  Tombs were shoved off their foundations, 150-year-old trees were uprooted, and some markers were toppled. 

It will be a long road to recovery to get back the charm of this historic place.

A piece of Fran Spring's heart is buried here at Oak Grove Cemetery.  That's why she was heartbroken to know the cemetery took a direct hit in Thursday's tornado.

"We have monuments out here that are 30 feet tall that were completely blown off their foundations , they have fallen, busted everything all to pieces, says Senator George Hooks.

Spring was heartbroken Saturday when she made the trip from Valdosta to Americus to check on her parents and grandparents graves, but wasn't allowed in.  The good news is they weren't damaged, but others weren't as lucky.

"The force of the wind was incredible when it pushed over and oblique that weights upwards to 10,000 pounds, it's just incredible," Hooks said.

Senator George Hooks has worked tirelessly to restore this little piece of the town's history, with numerous 100-year-old markers broken in pieces he's starting over. "The first order priority, is to clear out what is in here, we've lost every major tree in this cemetery, the oaks and the cedars have been here over 150 years."

Trusty work crews have now cleared many of the cemetery's roads, but there's still much to be done. "We're using all the resources we can to take care and get it cleaned up so these people can go back to normal," said Corrections SupervisorClayton Mullis. 

Getting a cemetery that's won top awards for being the finest, largest, oldest historic cemetery in Georgia will take some time.

"It's a sad day, but we'll press forward," said the senator.

Work crews have made a lot progress.  Most of the roads here in the cemetery are cleared or brush has been moved off to the side, but taking a look from our tower camera you can see there's still a lot to be done, the damage here wasn't isolated to one section of the cemetery, it was wide spread making the cleanup that much harder.

The cemetery remains closed.  There was a private service held today, the first one since the storms, and another is scheduled for Friday, but because of the amount of debris and items blown around it still isn't safe in some areas and so the cemetery will be closed until crews can clean up those areas.

Oak Grove Cemetery is on the list of National Historic Places.  It is the largest oldest historic cemetery in Georgia.