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Gen Jesse Winston Garth

Gen Jesse Winston Garth

Birth
Albemarle County, Virginia, USA
Death 8 Sep 1867 (aged 78)
Burial Decatur, Morgan County, Alabama, USA
Memorial ID 21546755 · View Source
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REST IN PEACE.
INFORMATION FROM MORGAN COUNTY CEMETERY BOOK VOL II BY MARILYN SUE SHORT MARINE & IVYDENE SIMPSON WALLS.



A STORY FROM DECATUR DAILY SEPT 14, 2007.

Overgrown cemetery may be Decatur's hidden treasure
'Lost' graveyard seen as tourist draw


By Deangelo McDaniel
dmcdaniel@decaturdaily.com · 340-2469

Decatur has a tourism treasure less than 100 yards from a public street.

But it might as well be in another country because there are no tourism pamphlets promoting it and access is almost impossible.

The Garth Cemetery in Southwest Decatur near Danville Road is one of the oldest in the city and where Gen. Jesse Winston Garth, one of Decatur's founding fathers, is buried.

"I'll bet you most people in Decatur are like me," said Harold D. Lott, 65. "I have lived here all my life, and I have never seen it. I've heard about it, and I want to see it, but I'm afraid of the snakes."

The cemetery is part of a 20-acre tract held in trust by Garth descendants, according to the Morgan County revenue commissioner's office.

Tax records show access through a private driveway off Danville Road. You can drive to within about 50 yards of the cemetery, then you have to walk through a snake-infested thicket.

"This is sad," Lott said. "This is a big part of our city's history, and we need to protect it."

Although he has never seen the cemetery, Mayor Don Kyle agrees. But, as long as the cemetery is private property, the City Council can't spend public funds to maintain it.

If the family is willing to donate the property to the city, Kyle said, he sees no reason the council wouldn't accept it, especially because of its historical significance.

"If we're going to accept it and spend public money, we should make it accessible to the public, especially the local history buffs," the mayor said.

Phil Wirey, an environmental engineer at 3M, researched and published an extensive report on the Garth Cemetery and the people buried there.

"When you think about historic places in Decatur, this cemetery is in the top three," he said. "It would be great to restore this because it is definitely a Decatur asset and would be a huge tourist attraction."

Melinda Dunn, who manages the Old State Bank building, said she regularly gets visitors asking about old cemeteries.

She hesitates to tell them about Garth Cemetery because she knows it's overgrown and not easily accessible.

"It's difficult to promote something that's not accessible," Dunn said. "We get early cemetery buffs who come in here all the time because they like looking at early markers."

Dunn has even had Garth descendants inquire about the cemetery.

"They are eager to visit it," she said.

The reason the cemetery is so valuable to Decatur is clear, Wirey said.

Garth, Isaac Lane, McKinney Holderness, George Peck and Dr. Henry Rhodes were the first directors of Decatur Land Co., which laid out the city's streets.

Unlike the others, Garth remained in the area and built one of the largest plantations in Morgan County.

"George Peck died in 1826 and is buried here, but it was Jesse Garth who had the biggest impact on Decatur," Wiery said.

Born to Thomas Garth and Susan Durrett Garth on Oct. 17, 1788, in Albermarle County, Va., Garth left Virginia after losing an election in 1817.

By July 1818, Garth had recorded almost 1,500 acres in Morgan County. An 1837 survey map shows Garth's home is the only structure within miles of Decatur. The 1850 Morgan County census shows him owning 189 slaves, $150,000 in personal property and real estate valued at $75,000.

A veteran of the War of 1812, where he received the rank of general, Garth opposed secession.

Wiery said Garth spent time at Monticello and Thomas Jefferson may have influenced his opinion on secession.

"They had fought for and were loyal to the Union," Wiery said.

Garth was too old to serve in the Union or Confederate armies, but two nephews from Lawrence County fought for the Confederacy.

A Mason who also served in the state legislature, Garth died Sept. 8, 1867. His plantation house was gone by 1880. Garth's second home, called Cotton Gardens, was submerged when Wheeler Dam was constructed in the 1930s.

The last burial in the family cemetery occurred in 1932 when Garth's granddaughter, Unity D. Dancy, died.

A stone wall surrounds the cemetery, which has burials dating to the 1840s. An iron fence is atop the wall. In addition, a locked, eight-foot, chain-link fence surrounds the stone wall.

Morgan County Archivist John Allison is preparing paperwork to get the cemetery listed on the Alabama Historical Commission Cemetery Registry.

"Having it on the registry means there is an official record," he said. "This cemetery is too valuable to our local history to let go."

One of the most difficult monuments to explain in the cemetery marks the burial site of a slave who belonged to Garth's wife.

The monument reads: "To the memory of Charlotte, a faithful slave, a sincere friend. She was born upon the estate of Nathaniel W. Dandridge, Hanover City, Va., and died 5th of April 1859, aged 50 years. Cheerfully, affectionately, faithfully she discharged the various duties of life."

Wiery, who has researched several cemeteries in the area, said it is the earliest marked grave of a slave he has found.

"This is another reason why the cemetery needs to be cleaned and preserved," he said. "This would be great for everybody in Decatur if the city owned and maintained it."

SECOND ARTICLE IN THE DECATUR DAILY SEPT 20, 2007.
Decatur welcome to Garth cemetery
Family not opposed
to making donation


By Deangelo McDaniel
dmcdaniel@decaturdaily.com · 340-2469

If the city of Decatur wants the historic Garth Cemetery on Danville Road Southwest, family members say they are willing to donate it.

"I think that would be great," Robert Garth said about the possibility of city officials maintaining the cemetery.

Garth, who is the great-great-great-great-grandson of Jesse Winston Garth, resides in Pensacola, Fla.

His father, Winston Garth, has the deed to the remaining 20-acre tract that was once part of one of the largest plantations in Morgan County. The cemetery comprises less than an acre and has dedicated access from Danville Road. It is overgrown.

$10,000 study of sites

On Monday, the council authorized Mayor Don Kyle to accept a $10,000 grant from the Alabama Historical Commission to conduct a study of historical sites in Southwest Decatur.

Kyle said he isn't sure if the Garth Cemetery is included in the study area, but he believes the city should do what it can to acquire the property because of its historical value.

Melinda Dunn, who works at the Old State Bank building, presented the grant proposal to the council, but she was not available to comment.

"Hopefully, we can make this happen," Kyle said, about acquiring the property.

The cemetery is the burial site of Jesse Winston Garth, a War of 1812 veteran and one of Decatur's founding fathers.

Garth, Isaac Lane, McKinney Holderness, George Peck and Dr. Henry Rhodes were the first directors of Decatur Land Co., which laid out the city's streets.

Unlike the others, Garth remained in the area.

By July 1818, Jesse Winston Garth had recorded almost 1,500 acres in Morgan County. An 1837 survey map shows his home is the only structure within miles of Decatur.

The 1850 Morgan County census shows him owning 189 slaves, $150,000 in personal property and real estate valued at $75,000.

Robert Garth, who has a collection of Garth family letters, said Jesse Winston Garth came to Morgan County because of cold weather in St. Louis.

"He left Virginia for Missouri because he had a brother there, but stayed only one winter," Robert Garth said.

As for the cemetery, Robert Garth said the family thought someone was taking care of it. He said the brothers who are involved with the trust would have to donate the property.

"We understand this is a big part of the city's history and we want it protected," Robert Garth said.



Family Members


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  • Maintained by: Find A Grave
  • Originally Created by: SFC Frank Irons Sr. Retired US Army 1977
  • Added: 14 Sep 2007
  • Find A Grave Memorial 21546755
  • Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for Gen Jesse Winston Garth (17 Oct 1788–8 Sep 1867), Find A Grave Memorial no. 21546755, citing Garth Cemetery, Decatur, Morgan County, Alabama, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave (contributor 8) .