Jasper — Off CR 158 in Hamilton County is a piece of history dating back to the early 1800s when plantations and slave labor were the norm. The Marion Cemetery lies in the midst of a forested area of oaks and pines in a large tract of land that is part of the old Marion Plantation.
Within the hallowed grounds of the cemetery are at least 68 unmarked graves of black slaves. Sixty of them were slaves from the Marion Plantation and eight were from the Mitchell Plantation. Also sharing the cemetery in a separate section are the graves of the white folk who owned the slaves.
The white area of the cemetery has cement markers all lined up in a row that includes, among others, Ann McLeod, who was born Feb. 26, 1816 and died in 1860. Right beside her is the grave of a 6-month old girl named Margaret McLeod who died in 1868.
Shelton Mitchell who lives nearby has recently cleared the land and has endeavored to bring back the dignity of those who are buried there.
“This place was like a jungle out here,” said local Hamilton County resident John Floyd, who served as tour guide.
Mitchell, Floyd said, has spent countless hours and lots of money clearing the road that takes you to the cemetery, as well as clearing the land around the cemetery plots. He has also set in place temporary markers and memorial signs.
Margaret Coker, who now lives in Marietta, Ga., recently visited her hometown of Jasper and tagged along with Floyd as they wandered through the cemetery recalling the ancestry of those buried there. Coker is the descendent of Angus McLeod, W.H.H. McLeod and her grandfather Angus McLeod.
The second Angus is Coker’s great-great grandfather, who was the overseer of the plantation where the cemetery lies.
Coker’s mother was born at the Marion Plantation and Coker herself lived there for a short time when she was in the second grade.
“My grandfather lost the plantation because of ‘boll weevils and chasin’ women after my grandmother died,” Coker laughingly said.
Coker said there used to be an old metal fence surrounding the cemetery the last time she was there to visit, but it is now gone.
One of the graves that has been identified with a temporary marker belongs to John Wesley Jones, who was born a slave in 1859 and died a free man in 1934. His body lies alongside his wife, Mary Ann Jones, who has a cement marker designating her burial plot.
The other slaves buried there had a simple wood slat with a number to designate their burial site, according to Floyd. Coker said many of the slaves died from an outbreak of scarlet fever.
In 1913, Coker said her grandmother was taking care of the family at the Marion Plantation and caught the disease herself in 1913 and died. She also said her mother told her that a black lady came and took care of her mother and her siblings and she assumes that woman is also buried at the Marion Cemetery.
Shelton Mitchell is doing his part as he continues to spruce up the Marion Cemetery.