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Details emerge on family buried in desecrated cemetery
W TM 010412 CEMETERY DESECRATION 01
Zach Grizzard and his family discovered the desecration of two graves in a small family cemetery on their property. - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/Herald file photo

    While Bulloch County Sheriff’s investigators have yet to learn who desecrated two graves in an old family cemetery off Old River Road South, additional information about the family buried there recently came to surface.
    Statesboro dentist Dr. Jack Proctor said the Simmons family cemetery contains graves of his family members, including his great-great grandfather Haskel Simmons.
    Last week, sheriff’s deputies responded to property owned now by Zach Grizzard, who has lived there about 12 years. They found where someone apparently dug into two graves, possibly seeking bones or valuables buried with the bodies, said Bulloch County Sheriff Lynn Anderson.
    “The cemetery is located in an isolated and obscure patch of woods,” Proctor said. “My father took me there as a young boy to show me where some of my ancestors are buried.”
    The old family cemetery is located on part of what was once a farm owned by Haskel Simmons, son of William Bryce Simmons and Marjorie Bender, he said.
    Haskel Simmons married Sarah Bunce and the couple had six children. After Sarah died, Simmons married her sister, Jane Ann Mozell Bunce, and they had several children as well, he said.
    “Family tradition has it that Haskel Simmons ran a stagecoach stop on Old River Road when it was one of the first roads in Bulloch County,” Proctor said.
    He recalls the cemetery was in poor repair when he last visited about two years ago, when he took his son and nephew to visit the graveyard. The markers are broken and displaced “due to a century plus of neglect … all of nature has taken its toll and now it seems we have the human element involved.”
    Grizzard said the oldest grave is dated 1802 and the last one, a child’s grave, was placed in 1912. Most of the graves bear the “Simmons” family name. One of the desecrated graves bears the name “Alice Brannen Simmons” and the site contains graves of at least two couples, an adult daughter, an adult son and two children.
    Grizzard said it is evident that the damage to the graves occurred over the past year, as he visits the site periodically and knows it was not like that before. Sheriff’s deputies reported obvious holes dug into the graves, and Grizzard said headstones had been moved.
    “I can’t imagine anybody pilfering those graves,” Proctor said. “It’s very disturbing to me that someone would desecrate the final resting place of our ancestors.”
    Old family cemeteries such as the Simmons family burial site are not uncommon. According to Virginia Ann Franklin Waters, member of the Bulloch County Historical Society, there are more than 100 such family cemeteries in Bulloch County.
    The group recently took on a project involving these cemeteries and is hoping to map and record information and locations of the sites, she said. An intern is assigned to the task and $3,000 has been budgeted for the project.
    “Where are these family cemeteries?” she asked. “We want to know this.” The group has GPS capabilities and is seeking community input in trying to map and record the sites. After that job is done, the group plans to recruit local volunteer organizations to restore the grave sites.
    Scotty Scott, member of the Southeast Georgia Genealogical Society, said his group is working on a similar project involving several counties. It is disturbing to know that some people will desecrate graves, he said.
    Many small family cemeteries, especially very old ones, have been “plowed under and planted over,” he said. “If they are out of sight, out of mine, they’re gone.”
     Anyone with information about a small family cemetery in Bulloch County is asked to contact Waters at (912) 489-8459 or Bulloch County Historical Society member Rodney Harville at (912) 764-5151.
   
    Holli Deal Bragg may be reached at (912) 489-9414.

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