Monday, June 06, 2011

Who Do I think I Am? Wow! Part 71

RIDLEY FAMILY CEMETERY, Murray County, Georgia

In the late 1970s just when my genealogy information coming in was snowballing I decided to see the Ridley Cemetery in Murray County, Georgia.

I knew some of my Ridley progenitors were buried there plus some interesting Ridley off-springs. I wanted to see their graves.

My mother told me she has been to the cemetery a couple times as a girl. The only she remembered was that it was in the Crandall Community of Murray County on private property.

I drove to Murray County, about 80 miles away. When I entered the county I thought, “What in the heck was I thinking? This will be like looking for a needle in a haystack.”

It was about lunch time. On the side of the road, just outside Chatsworth was a hotdog stand. The dirt parking lot was filled with cars. I could use a hotdog. I pulled over, got out, and walked past cars. One vehicle I walked by was a yellow or orange Georgia DOT pickup truck and I noticed a man sitting inside reading and eating. I bought a hotdog and walked back. Since I was looking for a small speck of land in this huge farming community I thought it wouldn’t hurt to ask. I stopped at the yellow Georgia DOT truck and apologized for interrupting him reading and eating, but told him I was looking for the RIDLEY cemetery in the Crandall Community. He stared at me, and for a moment I thought he was going to choke on his food. He said, “You won’t believe this, but look where my finger is.” He brought up a topographical map and motioned with his nose pointing to his finger on the map. He moved it up closer. The slowly removed his finger and it was on the words RIDLEY FAMILY CEMETERY.

He told me his hobby was to look up old family cemeteries around in Murray County and look at them when he was in the area. He gave me directions on how to get to the cemetery.

It was as somebody “up there” guided me that the DOT man who held the knowledge I was seeking. What are the odds?

The Ridley Cemetery is on Jim Petty Road. Jim Petty is/was my mother’s uncle.

There was a small house, it may have been stucco. A creek runs through the property and crosses under a bridge on Jim Petty Road. The cemetery is beside the creek where it crosses under the bridge. You can easily see it from the road.

The cemetery was weedy. The tombstones were in high weeds. You had to part the weeds like a bad hairdo to be able to read the markers. There were ten or twelve graves. Ten or twelve graves do not mean there were ten or twelve buried people. Read on.

As I was looking over the markers and taking notes I sensed a movement in my peripheral vision. I turned around and not far away was an old man in overalls and a shotgun aimed at me quickly approaching in a tiptoeing sneaky manner.

I said some kind of greeting. Whatever I said wasn’t convincing. He looked deadly seriously to me.

I was trespassing.

Then I said my grandmother was Viola Ridley Petty. He said, “You one of Ola’s boys?”

“I’m her grandson.”

“What’s your name?”

“Eddie Hunter – my mother is Viola’s child.”

“How is Ola?”

“She died about fifteen years ago – she is buried just around the corner at Calvary Baptist.”

He then put down his shotgun and told me to look all I wanted. He went back to his house.

In writing down the information on tombstones one named off three kids, all under six years old, buried in the same grave. Another grave had two in the same grave. All that were buried died and within weeks of each other. I first thought “Indians?” No, I don’t think so, the local Cherokees were peaceful. I think they probably all died of an epidemic, probably smallpox.

I wrote down all the information on each marker. But it never occurred to me to take pictures of each stone.

A couple years later after using my camera as a tool for recording information I decided to return to the Ridley Cemetery. This time I carried my two sons. The little stucco house looked like it was occupied by a group of young people. We parked alongside the road and went to the cemetery. I think the creek flooded or overflowed in a terrible water thrush and carried a lot of soil along with it. The creek bank near the cemetery looked steeper and deeper.

Just as I started taking photos some of young people with dirt bikes started speeding through the fields getting very close to us. They jumped the creek ditch right beside us, which I took as an hostile act or an act of defiance. In other words, it was time to leave.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

During my semi-hippy days, when I wasn't working on my farm in Morganton, GA, I would often ride my 250 Honda trail bike, which was heavy and very quiet, around old roads and trails. It wasn't that long after the movie, Deliverance, showed in Murphy, NC and we'd seen it. So, every time, I went riding, I'd wear an old well worn blue police jacket with a nice inside pocket that concealed a Browning 9mm. Had no intention of using it, but it did give a bit of comfort. If retreat were not possible..

Mike D

4:20 AM  
Blogger Eddie said...

Mike, You had a Honda 250? I had a Honda CL 350 in the 70s, which someone legally stole from me. A blog about that some day. Also, my ancestor Elijah Petty and the Petty cemetery is just south of Morganton on County Road number 18, I think it was. I have a post coming up about finding that cemetery too.

4:24 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It was a 1972 or thereabouts 250XL, a combo trail and street bike. Looked much like this: Great fun and a four cycle, so quite, clean. You could see lots of animals since the bike didn't spook them like the nosier bikes did. I sold it after too many cars followed much too close and was no longer fun to ride on the street.

Mike D

5:55 AM  

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