Forrest Project continues to record Confederate graves
By Karen Hall
Cold wet weather Saturday did not deter Wes Pullen, Kathy Wood, and Linda and Jason Boshers from their plan to spend the day exploring cemeteries, and photographing and recording the GPS coordinates of Confederate graves.
I joined them for visits to two cemeteries, Shiloh and Hill.
Following Pullen we drove west from Lewisburg, turning down smaller and smaller roads until we were in the middle of a farm yard. Doug Tyree, who was born in the farm house and grew up there, opened a gate into a field at the top of the hill. The wind was icy, and all that remained of Shiloh Cemetery were the bases of some monuments, and many tumbled stones. A plaque naming the Revolutionary War veteran who is buried somewhere there, placed by the Daughters of the American Revolution, was concealed under cow manure.
"This is what we're trying to stop," exclaimed Jason Boshers. "We're just trying to keep from losing them."
"I'd say it had been cow-dozed" from years of allowing livestock to graze in the cemetery and knock over the stones, said Pullen. "There are probably 70 people buried here."
The goal of the Forrest Project is to photograph and record the Global Positioning System coordinates of every Confederate grave they can find. They use a Canon GPS camera which is said to be accurate to within five feet.
In most cases, the group has already done the research and knows whose graves they are looking for. Sometimes they find mysteries, like a stone with birth and death dates of someone who could have fought in the Civil War, but the name has been broken off and lost.
"You never know what you're going to find," said Pullen.
After Shiloh Cemetery, group members made their way through some more back roads until they arrived at Hill Cemetery, on Hill Cemetery Road. There is a small mowed area with a few graves, including that of World War I veteran and Marshall County resident Craig Moore Sr. (1893-1976) for whom a road is named.
Concealed in the neighboring woods, however, is the old part of Hill Cemetery, with many graves in a tangle of fallen trees. It is on a hill top, as cemeteries often are, and buildings of the I-65 Commerce Park can be seen to the south.
"We've taken a few falls," said Pullen, as the group clambered over tree trunks and pushed their way through the undergrowth.
"Sometimes we've had to prune the bushes just to get in there," he said.
"We enjoy it, but we don't do it for fun," Pullen added.
"This cemetery is salvageable," said Jason Boshers, as group members explored Hill Cemetery. "You could re-set some of the stones, or straighten them up," after you cleared out the brush and trees.
"There could have been a church here," he said.
To make otherwise illegible letters stand out on a stone, Jason Boshers demonstrated how he applies Barbasol shave cream with a squeegee. It fills in the letters and makes the inscription perfectly readable. They jokingly call it giving the stone a "shave and a haircut." On a dry day, ordinary school chalk can be used for the same purpose. Both are biodegradable, and do no harm to the possibly fragile stones.
There are over 50 cemeteries in the Lewisburg area alone, and many more just in Marshall County. On a recent visit to Dabney Cemetery, on a hilltop in the extreme south end of the county, Pullen said they found and marked the grave of veteran Mac Dabney, and two others. And so the Forrest Project goes on, one cemetery and one grave at a time, so that the memory of our Confederate ancestors is permanently preserved.