Adopting coronavirus prevention measures but continuing its series of tours of all 34 known African-American cemeteries in Bulloch County, the Willow Hill Heritage and Renaissance Center will conduct a “virtual” tour of the Cone Cemetery, 9 a.m. Saturday.
Leading volunteers plan to livestream the one-hour tour on “The Willow Hill Heritage and Renaissance” Facebook page, where the video will also remain recorded for viewing afterward. They plan to archive it later to the Willow Hill Museum channel on YouTube.
But this tour will not be open for members of the public to attend in-person.
“The Willow Hill Heritage and Renaissance Center is concerned about the safety of all of our supporters during the Coronavirus pandemic,” stated the notice from Gayle Jackson, Ph.D., the Willow Hill Center’s development director. “As a result, we will be doing all of our Cemetery Tours by live-streaming on Facebook and cancelling all other activities until further notice.”
Her husband, Alvin Jackson, M.D., is president of the center’s board and will lead this tour, as he has the previous in-person tours, based on his extensive volunteer research as an oral historian.
The tour will be the 15th in the series, which began in February 2019 and continues monthly as part of the Willow Hill Center’s participation in the Commemoration of 400 Years of African-American History , 1619-2019.
The Cone Cemetery is affiliated with the Hutchinson-Longstreet Missionary Baptist Church.
According to the provided historical summary, Hutchinson-Longstreet Missionary Baptist was organized in 1915 when two older churches in the Ivanhoe community came together. The previous churches were the New Hope Baptist Church and the Longstreet Baptist Church. The history of the New Hope Baptist Church has been lost, the Jacksons report.
But the Longstreet Baptist Church was organized under a brush arbor on Old River Road at Flat Ford Bridge at Ivanhoe in 1877. In 1915, Lewis Hutchinson gave the land on which the newly combined church, renamed Hutchinson-Longstreet, was built. The church’s address is 10810 Highway 119 Connector, Stilson, and the cemetery is about two miles away.
The earliest burial is of Abram Cone, a former slave, who was born in 1830 and died in 1893. Gravesites of three other formerly enslaved people have been identified in the cemetery. They are Thomas Cone (1847-1899), Jacob Ervin (1853-1909) and Malinda Cone (1858-1930). There are approximately 300 known graves in this cemetery.