Sunday, March 30, 2014

Townley Alabama Man Saves Civil War-era Cemetery

The following account was provided by the Alabama Division SCV Chief of Heritage Defense Cherokee Brasher from the "Daily Mountain Eagle", Jasper AL:

For years, the final resting place of Private J.R. Townley was lost under a pile of weeds.

The property on Highway 124 was previously owned by Louie Self’s grandfather. When Self bought the land in 1997 and began clearing it, he uncovered approximately a dozen graves.

Most were marked by simple rocks. The few headstones that remained date back to the mid 1800s.

Self was particularly interested in Townley’s grave. After vandals broke his original marker, Self glued it together the best he could.

He also contacted the Major John C. Hutto Sons of Confederate Veterans Camp in Jasper and applied for a new grave stone through the Veteran’s Administration.

“It took five years because there was four J.R. Townley’s in the Civil War. It took them this long to find out which one he was,” Self said.

A dedication ceremony and memorial service was held for Townley on Sunday, March 16.

Members of Sons of Confederate Veterans camps in Walker and Winston counties were among the participants.

A biography of Townley’s military service was also presented to those in attendance.

Townley was born Feb. 20, 1834, and enlisted in Company A of the 13th Battalion, Alabama Partisan Rangers on Sept. 6, 1862, in Jasper.

The battalion served as scouts and pickets in Mississippi and east Louisiana from December 1862 to June 1863.

Townley died March 13, 1863. His family retrieved his body and brought it back to Jasper for burial.

The cemetery in which he was laid to rest was never registered with local or state authorities.

That has now been rectified. Four new graves have been added to Self Cemetery in recent years, two of which were for veterans of the Vietnam era.

A decoration day is held each year.

Graves without headstones are now marked with white crosses. With no names available, Self has no way to contact any relatives of the deceased.

A small church that Self built near the cemetery stores the flowers that he puts out himself in memory of those whose names have been lost to history.

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