Genealogy event could lead you to this Huntsville cemetery

Updated: Oct. 30, 2019 at 7:24 PM CDT
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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WAFF) - If you were born and raised in Huntsville and happen to be African-American, there is a high likelihood you can trace your family tree back to one spot in town off the beaten path.

Glenwood Cemetery on Hall Avenue sits on a former plantation.

It’s a vital piece of history a group of women from totally different backgrounds want to hold on to and restore.

It’s below the Parkway, next to train tracks tucked behind the west Huntsville police precinct.

From the sky, you can see the beauty Glenwood Cemetery has to offer.

But when you get closer, that's when the cracks start to show.

Crumbled, broken, and even sinking graves.

“If we lose another headstone, we’ve lost another bit of our history and we just can’t afford to do it,” said Penny Sumners, chair of the Historic Preservation Twickenham Town Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution.

Established in 1870, Glenwood is the final resting place of many who were emancipated from slavery.

"People sometimes don't know what a cemetery offers except for the loved ones, but there is a whole lot of history that you glean from these headstones," said Sumners.

Sumners is a retired principal and history teacher which explains her passion.

She’s pouring it into Glenwood now to have it added to the National Registry of Historic Places to protect these grounds and she isn’t alone.

“I don’t have people here but yet I do because we are all part and parcel of humanity and I think its extremely important to restore as much as possible of this wonderful cemetery,” said Cynthia Sackett, Twickenham Town Chapter regent of the Daughters of the American Revolution.

You'll find what's left of C.C. Moore's plot - one of Huntsville's first African American mail carriers or Daniel Brandon, an alderman elected in 1880 before Jim Crow changed that.

Also, Dr. Burgess E. Scruggs, who was the first licensed African-American physician in Alabama.

Cataloging and researching local black history is Ollye Conley's project and has turned her entire basement into a museum.

"You wanted to know more about these people, what did they do, what kind of life did they lead. From there to the library then to the court house looking for documents to try and create a life for them," said Conley, Retired Principal & Local Historian.

The former principal started putting the pieces together at Glenwood in 1993, having her students document those buried here.

"They accomplished so much with so little and it will hopefully inspire young people and they can say I can do that or do even greater things," added Conley.

This Saturday, Nov. 2, Cumberland Presbyterian Church in Huntsville is hosting a special event from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m.

It’s a Glenwood Preservation Genealogy Workshop where representatives will be on hand to do some on the spot ancestry research to see if you have ties to this cemetery.

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