Red Hill Cemetery

Red Hill Cemetery is located in the hills of Monroe County, Alabama. Red Hill Cemetery according to the sign on the gate was established in in 1818 just three years after Monroe County was established as a county. In my recent trip to Alabama I met with my cousin and also fellow family history enthusiast Melvina and she took my mom, aunt and I on a tour of Monroe County. We were up and down in the back woods where my family once resided and one of the places she took us was the Red Hill Cemetery. The cemetery was segregated and might still be but I don’t know how many people still get buried there since it’s not that accessible of a cemetery. Inside the gated cemetery where the white settlers, possible slave owners, and local white residents and on the outside of the gates is an unkept grassy area were the black residents some of whom might have been slaves, and my great great grandparents Dave Burgess an Annies Lee Locke are buried. I was happy to be standing in front of my great great grandparents headstones but kind of sad to see after all these years somethings haven’t really changed.

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3 thoughts on “Red Hill Cemetery

  1. He lived a long life, it looks like. Sad that even at the time of her death they didn’t have information on Annis’ birth. Amazing that you found their headstones.

  2. Teresa Johnson

    Hi- I am the chair of the Red Hill Cemetery Preservation Committee. I remember going to the cemetery as a child with my dad (60’s/70’s). There was no fence then between the white a black graves and we cleaned all of it. The old road used to run parallel to the cemetery – not as it does now. I don’t remember any black people helping us but perhaps they came on another day. I was just a kid. Every year- the weekend before Mother’s Day- a group of people would gather to clean the cemetery. We didn’t go every year because we lived nearly 3 hours away but we did go when we could. My dad remembers when the church beside the cemetery was torn down (1948). He said they would clean the cemetery twice a year by removing all the grass with gardens hows! He said they removed grass away from buildings in the old days because of the risk of fire. In the late 1990’s the group number had really declined to about three people so my dad and I decided to start a committee to set up perpetual care for the place. We printed an article in the Monroe Journal to invite people to come (May 2000) and another fellow had already placed a mailbox at the site where we invited people to come and also leave their names and addresses. I collected those and sent a newsletter to everyone who wanted to contribute to the cause. Although the original land for the cemetery was donated by my ancestor William Wiggins (buried in the Wiggins cemetery in Mexia, Alabama), the records at the Monroe County Courthouse were burned so there is no longer a deed. Most of the cemetery was owned by the timber company and a small section in the front where many white graves are located was part of a larger piece of land owned by a black lady in one of the northern states. I found her contact information through the tax assessor’s office. Part of the land tax she is paying includes the cemetery which is unfortunate because an individual cannot own a public cemetery; she should not be paying taxes for land she can’t really own. Anyway, after we collected over $20,000, we bought the land from the timber company and I tried to buy the smaller section from the lady. She would not sell it and told me to stay off of any of the black graves (none of which are in her part). She gave no reason why she would not sell it. The rest of the money was used to remove a large tree toppled from a hurricane and $16,000 was given to the Baptist Foundation of Alabama to invest. We use the money to pay someone to cut the grass and put out weed poison around the fence. It’s cut 5 times per year. My dad is land surveyor. He surveyed the land and we purchased it from the timber company. The timber company put in an access, gate and donated a parking area; they were very nice to help us. Even though we don’t own all the area inside the fence, we do clean it.
    About the fence- when I was about 8 years old, someone put a fence around the front part of the cemetery because someone was using a bush hog to clean the black part of the cemetery. The bush hog was destroying the headstones so the fence was put up to stop the damage. The inside of the fence is cut with small mowers and weed eaters.

    Here is the bottom line regarding your concerns that the cemetery maintenance is unfair to black descendants: 1) we’ve had zero participants in giving money or helping with the cleanings from descendents of the black people buried there; 2) the person who has claim to some of the land has told us to stay off her part- which is impossible because we intend to keep it cleaned; 3) no offers of help have ever been turned away- black people are welcomed to help us. All of us have ancestors buried there. However, it appears that both groups have different ideas on how to go about preservation. I have personally put thousands of dollars into that place (repairing the fence and putting in headstones for nearly 20 graves) and I pay for three of the times per year that the front is cut. I would welcome some help from descendents of people who are buried in the section where African Americans are buried. My dad and I cut up several trees that had fallen in the back section; we’ve cut as far as we could with our mowers several times.

    I will return to the cemetery this June with my dad and niece. I have restored the sign up book and will put it back in the mailbox where it’s been since 2000. Hopefully someone representing the other side of the cemetery will sign the book and will offer to work together to help us with the effort. It would be welcomed because it is a large cemetery and we don’t have enough money to do all the things that need to be done.

    Teresa Wiggins Johnson

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