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Lost gravestone was a mystery to be solved

POSTED: February 13, 2011 12:30 a.m.

I once wrote a story about a lost gravestone. The tale started in Bogart, ended in Braselton and involved a good number of Methodists in between.

So I asked my editors here if I could share it with you, too. And they agreed, knowing this column is just the beginning.

See, it all started with Derrell Clark.

He planted a cemetery marker in the middle of his garden. And I just had to ask why.

"It was dumped along with a truckload of dirt and I felt funny about throwing it away," he said.

Now, we had never met. But his yard in Bogart is unique, and during the course of attending a barbecue next to his home, he asked if our curious group would enjoy a tour.

Clark, a retired University of Georgia professor of veterinary medicine, is a man with many projects. Finding out where the stone belonged had been on his to-do list for years. "I'm afraid my kids will think someone is buried here when I'm gone," Clark explained.

I didn't bother telling him I was nosy by profession and worked as a newspaper reporter. I just memorized the name and date on the stone and started digging up details about the deceased.

To my surprise, the first search of the date carved into the granite, July 31, 1934, netted a death notice in Athens' afternoon paper at the time.

The infant son of the Rev. D.L. and Edna Hagood died and was buried the day he was born, a brief obituary stated. Parents of Delma Lyman Jr. lived in a western section of Clarke County known as Oconee Heights at the time. His burial took place nearby at "Boggs church cemetery."

Obits for the parents yielded more information about their long lives.

The Rev. Hagood was a Methodist minister who served a number of congregations including churches in Griffin, Dalton, Winder, Buford, Carnesville and Crawford. He also held leadership positions within the denomination's North Georgia Conference. He died Oct. 16, 2000, at the age of 94. His wife, Edna, died nearly four years later. Both were buried at Westview Cemetery in Atlanta.

So I never expected to find their names in the volume indexing Clarke County cemeteries.

But their son should have been included since he died in Athens, I figured, and flipped through the pages.

No Delma Hagood Jr. appeared.

That meant the stone in Derrell Clark's backyard had been removed from its original location before the 2004 publication.

I closed the cemetery index realizing I knew more about the names on the stone and even less about the remains it belonged to.

Why was Hagood's marker uprooted? And more importantly now, where was baby Hagood?

That's how the trail stopped for about six weeks.

Now, coincidences happen, to be sure. And maybe this was one of them. But every now and then, a remote story link appears and I suddenly feel as if I'm falling out of my chair.

My telephone rang at work. I answered. A woman was on the line, upset.

She and her husband recently had moved into a home off Jefferson River Road, next to a former church, now a Methodist mission in Athens-Clarke County. People come and go on the weekends, they said.

But few, if any, connected to the property bother to care for the burial ground next door. It's fairly small, but tombstone dates go back to the late 1800s.

People still are being buried there, she said, and bodies were being moved, too.

"What's the name of the cemetery?"

"Boggs," she said.

My silence was brief. The sensation of my rear end being kicked into gear lasted a bit longer.

"I'll be right over," I said.

To be continued next week.

Erin Rossiter is a reporter for The Times whose columns appear on Sunday's Life page and on gainesvilletimes.com. 



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