As soon as I saw him standing in our office I knew exactly what Dean Crosby had on his mind.
“Here I am again asking for help,” he said.
So we two sat down to talk about how to explain to people that the historic lot of land located at one end of Main Street is the root of all that is good about this City of Progress.
First and foremost, know that the City Cemetery does not belong to the city of Enterprise. It is not the city’s responsibility to maintain the grounds. I feel certain that the District 2 Councilman would appreciate me repeating that. So here goes: The City Cemetery, despite its moniker, does not belong to the city.
City Cemetery is owned, in essence, by the families of those buried there. Therein lies part of the current situation. Many of those families have moved off. Many do not realize that the responsibility to maintain the family gravesites is theirs. Many do not realize that the funds generously donated to the City Cemetery Association for general maintenance in the early 1980s have dwindled.
There are many old timey cemeteries that have fallen into disarray. But the issue with City Cemetery is that it is perched in very public view on Main Street. Thus it becomes a reflection of us all.
Recent visits to the graves of Hank Williams Sr. in Oakwood Cemetery Annex in Montgomery and Benjamin Franklin in Christ Church Burial Grounds in Philadelphia, Pa., have heightened my awareness that City Cemetery could, in fact, be a tourist attraction.
At the very least City Cemetery should be a place that every school child in Enterprise visits as part of lessons in Alabama history.
The City Cemetery is a window into the history of this community that was incorporated in 1896 with a population of 250. Among those buried there are Grover Grubbs, the first child born in Enterprise who lived, born to Dr. and Mrs. W.W. Grubbs on Oct. 23, 1892; and John Henry Carmichael, the man called the founder of Enterprise and who was elected its first mayor in 1897.
To truly understand the importance of preserving the past for the future, take a walk through an historic cemetery with those whose hearts are embedded deep into a community. Crosby, former coworker and longtime friend and Ricky Adams, longtime friend, fellow scribe and former coworker, are two such men.
I had the privilege of such a tour through the historic City Cemetery on Main Street last year with them both.
Currently Crosby is trying to locate the owners of the plots that are still empty. There is not a complete list of who owns what plot.
Adams is quick to point out, you may not have liked some of the founding fathers or always agreed with what they did, but the reality is that their lives, hopes and dreams all helped make the City of Progress what it is today.
Knowing who they were, what they accomplished and how they overcame the trials and tribulations of settling in this sandy soil leads our children and grandchildren to greater appreciation of the debt of remembrance we owe them.
“And I worry about future generations because they don’t know those stories,” Adams said that day.
They say dead men tell no tales. That’s not exactly true.
Their tombstones can tell volumes about their lives—and the condition that we let those gateways to history deteriorate to can tell volumes about us.
Donations can be made to:
City Cemetery Association
P.O. Box 310075
Enterprise, AL. 36331
Michelle Mann is a staff writer for The Southeast Sun and Daleville Sun-Courier. The opinions of this writer are her own and not the opinion of the paper. She can be reached at (334) 393-2969 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.