Monday, April 21, 2008

Papa is Buried Under a Tree

After obtaining copies of death certificates for Grandpa George Johnson (1893-1932) and members of his family, I visited the cemetery of Whites Grove Church in Warren County, NC where most of them were buried. It was Thanksgiving weekend 1996 just after a big storm and the cemetery was covered with leaves and tree branches. I was accompanied by my Uncle Willie Johnson, a son of George Johnson, and brother of my maternal grandmother, Emma. Uncle Willie had not visited his father’s grave in several years. He only remembered that he was buried under a tree. My grandmother also remembered the same thing about her father being buried under a tree.

As luck would have it, this cemetery had several trees and Uncle Willie couldn’t remember which one. Like any family historian visiting a graveyard, I didn’t let this deter me, so I began looking at all the tombstones. As I neared the end of my search, I found Grandpa George’s mother Susan Jerman Johnson (1858-1939.) A few steps away I found the grave of his sister, Mollie Johnson Rowlett (1886-1959) buried beside her husband, James Rowlett (1883-1947.)

I completed my search of all the tombstones in this church graveyard, but still could not find Grandpa George. Since his mother, sister, and brother in law, were buried near each other, then he might be buried somewhere near them, I thought. I returned to that area, but still saw nothing. Uncle Willie and I started towards the car, but I wanted to take another look. I returned to the area of his sister’s grave and looked around. As I stood looking in the graveyard above the graves of his sister and her husband, I began to sense that my feet weren’t standing on soil. The soil in the graveyard had been a bit mushy because of the recent storm. Feels like something is solid is under this bed of leaves, I thought, and it feels like cement. I began to clear away leaves and tree branches and bit by bit I saw cement, and lo and behold, there I was standing on Grandpa George Johnson’s grave.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


Fascinating story. You have to go with your instincts and intuitions.

Congratulations on your find (right under your nose, as the expression goes).

"Guided by the Ancestors"