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Restoration: 164-year-old cemetery gets cleanup, facelift

COVINGTON - In the southwest corner of Newton County, a 164-year-old cemetery has been slowly and silently falling victim to the elements, time and vandals.

In the cemetery are the remains of Daniel and Jemima Scott, who farmed the soil of Newton County in the pre-Civil war era to provide for their seven children.

Six of those children are buried at the cemetery along with their parents, including two who served in the Confederate Army.

There are a total of 42 graves there, though not all have been identified.

The graves of Daniel, who died in 1843, and Jemima, who died in 1857, were secured by two wooden shelters originally built with square iron nails and raw timber.

But over time the shelters deteriorated, and the rest of the cemetery followed suit.

By 2005, it was overgrown with vegetation and many of the monuments had been destroyed by vandals.

But now, the cemetery has been restored thanks to a large cleanup and restoration project spearheaded by Ethel Scott Mitchell of Valdosta, the great-great-granddaughter of Daniel and Jemima Scott.

On a visit to the cemetery one day, Mitchell noticed a "No Trespassing" sign bearing the name and phone number of Patti Satterfield.

Curious, Mitchell called the number and found a relative on the other end of the line. Satterfield is a Covington resident who says she is about five or six generations removed from Daniel and Jemima.

Satterfield, whose great-great grandmother is buried in the cemetery, didn't know it existed until she began doing genealogy research in 2001.

"I was doing family research and having to dig a lot. A friend who worked for Rockdale County found an old surveyor's map and it happened to be there," she said.

"It was horrible. It was really bad," she said of the cemetery's state of disrepair. "It had not been taken care of. Some of it was grown up, and I don't know why it had gotten that way."

Satterfield believes a cousin had at one time been taking care of the site, and after he stopped, no one took over.

She and Mitchell decided to take action to restore the cemetery, forming a committee of family members who contacted Scott descendants - now spread throughout Georgia, Alabama and Florida - to raise money for the project.

Mitchell said she never dreamed the restoration would take years to complete, delayed in part because of a neighbor who claimed control of an easement into the property. The family had to ultimately bring in county attorneys to settle that dispute, Mitchell said.

Family members gathered to clear the vegetation, and had shattered obelisk pieces reset and destroyed monuments replaced.

They also restored the dilapidated shelters housing the graves of Daniel and Jemima and put up a gate to protect the cemetery from intruders.

On Oct. 20, they gathered to celebrate the conclusion of the restoration and to dedicate memorials to John L. Scott and Daniel Scott Jr., who served in Company G, 8th Georgia Infantry, State Guards, during the Civil War.

Father Philip Paul Scott, priest of Epiphany Byzantine Catholic Church in Roswell, spoke on the family's history, and the soldiers were memorialized by placement of military service plaques by the General James Longstreet of Camp No. 1289 Sons of Confederate Veterans.

Capt. Charles Garvin spoke of the organization's commission to preserve the true history of the South, and Chaplain David Helms recited a poem he wrote for the occasion titled, "I Am a Soldier."

The ceremony concluded with a prayer and sounding of the bugle calls, "Tattoo" and "Taps."

Though Satterfield said her busy life raising her children kept her from having much involvement with the cleanup, she's pleased with the results.

"It really means a lot. It's really indescribable. I know everyone is very pleased," she said.

County Commissioner Monty Laster, a member of the Newton County Cemetery Committee, which is dedicated to identifying and preserving historic cemeteries, said the family's efforts have helped to save a piece of history.

"It was a tremendous effort on their part to undertake this endeavor because of the severity of the damage done to that cemetery. A a result of all of their efforts and tremendous dedication on their part, they did restore this cemetery, not to its original glory, but as close as it could be put back under today's attempts," Laster said.

Crystal Tatum can be reached at crystal.tatum@newtoncitizen.com.