On Oct. 14, from 2 – 5 p.m., the Vagabond invites you to take a step back in time to meet some of Etowah County’s most memorable residents. You will hear their personal stories told by Gadsden’s modern day citizens clad in period dress. Many have put this project together. Thousands of people are expected to attend this event. Admission is “donations only,” with the proceeds being used for the preservation of the Forrest Cemetery. Parking will be at the old Gadsden High School and trolley service is available to and from Forrest Cemetery. Shuttles will be available inside the cemetery.
One of the most beautiful cemeteries in Alabama, Forrest Cemetery dates back to 1872, when Captain A.L. Woodliff selected the site, negotiated for its purchase and began clearing away the timber at his own expense. His sons, George, James F. (Pompey) and Jeff, all mere boys, cut the trees and prepared the 10-acre tract for the survey into burial lots. There were many large trees on the land, and the brothers had a hard time felling and removing them.
In selecting a site in the far western end of the city at the then-extreme western end of Chestnut Street overlooking Black Creek, Captain Woodliff believed that the city would never grow out that far. Of course, in years to come homes, churches and schools have surrounded the area. There are now approximately 40 acres of land available for graves.
Captain Woodliff organized Forrest Cemetery, incorporated it and was chairman of the first board of trustees, with four other prominent citizens as associate members. The charter was secured in 1872 and was to continue for 50 years. Under the charter, the association sold lots for pecuniary gain and provided a fund for the upkeep of the grounds.
The board of trustees was a self-perpetuating body, since it elected its own members. It was a private enterprise, but the board never lost sight of the fact that it operated the cemetery as a public trust.
The first person to be buried in Forrest Cemetery was Captain Woodliff’s own daughter, Sallie Law Woodliff, who was born Feb. 4, 1871, and died July 13, 1872.
In 1926, the trustees found that they had been operating for four years without a charter, which meant that all of their official acts for four years were not entirely legal. On advice of legal counsel, the board went into the equity division of Circuit Court and asked that the property be transferred to the City of Gadsden. The city would administer the assets of the corporation and continue to furnish a burial ground.
Judge Woodson J. Martin rendered a decree confirming the sale of lots after the corporation life of the association had expired by limitation. Everything would be turned over to the City of Gadsden, “which shall at all times keep, care for and maintain the cemetery in proper condition, use the funds for improvements and upkeep and set up rules and regulations for operating.”
The late Gadsden Mayor W.E. Wier and his board of aldermen accepted the trust and appointed Alto Lee, Jr., W.M. Mayben, Mrs. Charlotte Cox and the mayor as trustees in May of 1926. At that time, a total of 4,657 persons had been buried on the grounds.
Listed below is a listing of “A Walk Through Time” Forrest Cemetery sites and characters. For more information, visit www.ForrestCemetery.com.
1.• Dr. Mort M. Glosser, 1913-1996 (portrayed by Mort Taylor). More than just an amphitheatre
2. Ruth Cross Memorial Chapel (portrayed by architects Pat Sherman and Jay Histed). Built 1935-1936 by Works Progress Administration.
3. • Dr. Mercer Rowe, 1888-1960 (portrayed by Dr. Clay Rowe). A flood brought him to Gadsden.
4. • Dr. O.R. Grimes, 1902-1988 (portrayed by Dee Grimes). “Chances are real strong that I was the first person you met.”
5. Julia Lawrence Kershaw, 1895-1989 (portrayed by Ann Thacker Sharpe). Her husband built the Memorial Bridge.
6. Robert A. Goodall, 1893-1961 (portrayed by Eddy Cunningham). Came to build the Goodyear plant.
7. •James Clarence Inzer, 1887-1967 (Craig Inzer, Jr.) He was the 16th Lt. Gov. of Alabama.
8. •George Waits Floyd, 1878-1963 (portrayed by Jack Floyd). Yes, that school is named for him!
9. Debbie Tom Allen, 1954-1963 (portrayed by Grace Guyton). Find out information about her famous father.
10. •Fannie Harbin Morgan, 1876-1963 (portrayed by Cherie Bellenger Cornelius). The “Magic” of Mom.
11. Carolyn Gunn Bellenger, 1901-1990 (portrayed by Emily Amberson). Yes, she lived in that big house!
12. •Judge John Harold Disque, 1848-1926 (portrayed by Jack Agricola). Former Gadsden mayor.
13. Zerah Lyle Appleton (portrayed by Sheila Freeman). Who has a fire truck named after her?
14. •Lowell “Daredevil” Vickery, 1896-1966 (portrayed by Ronald Vickery). High diver of Etowah County.
15. •John L. Ray, 1900-1942 (portrayed by Ricky Ray). “A man you could trust”
16. Samuel V. Bacon, 1885-1968 (portrayed by Bobby Welch). What was his link to President Lincoln?
17. Milton “Skeets” Elliott,1894-1920 (portrayed by Jonathan Welch). WWI aviator and stunt pilot.
18. Evelyn Clyme Bairnsfather Sibert, 1882-1958 (portrayed by Linda York). Her husband built the Gatun Locks at the Panama Canal.
19. Anne Mathilde Bilbro, 1870-1958 (portrayed by Barbara Free Wallace). The “Music Lady.”
20. Minnie Lay Myers, 1864-1947 (portrayed by Laura Elliott) and Henry B. Myers, 1858-1926 (portrayed by Jody Fitts). The second wife has the last word!
21. •W.P. Hollingsworth, 1828-1879 (portrayed by Lee Hollingsworth) and • Mary Josephine Lewis Hollingsworth, 1833-1917 (portrayed by Laura Hollingsworth). Gadsden businessman and his wife.
22. “Faithful Jack” Hudson, 1843-1928 (portrayed by Tré Ragland). More than just an employee of the Cathey family.
23. •Augustin L. Woodliff, 1827-1905 (portrayed by Craig L.W. Boden) and Lavinia Chester Law Woodliff, 1837-1919 (portrayed by Virginia Davis). He founded the Forrest Cemetery. She was the first Alabama President of the WCTU.
24. Judge Lemuel Eldridge Hamlin, 1834-1914 (Portrayed by Etowah County Probate Judge Bobby Junkins). The First Probate Judge of Etowah County.
25. • Otto Agricola, 1865-1939 (portrayed by Al Agricola). More than just a farmer!
26. Laura Keeling Barret, 1847-1921 (portrayed by Bino Gamel). 1860’s war bride.
27. Edward N. Bardon, 1839-1881 (portrayed by Harold Batie). Cotton classifier from New Orleans.
28. Lena Martin, 1873-1959 (portrayed by Joanie Sledge) and Will I. Martin, 1871-1954 (portrayed by Judge James Sledge). A great brother-and-sister act.
29. William A.T. Oliver, 1839-1930 (portrayed by Rev. Will Hughes). “Watch” the story of this CSA veteran.
30. Callie Craven, 1872-1946 (portrayed by Priscilla Puckett). Some of her songs will be familiar to you.
31. • Mary Callaway Hoffman, 1908-2005 (portrayed by Jane Hoffman Peak). Editorial page editor of The Gadsden Times.
32. Bob Higgins, 1850-1894 (portrayed by Daniel Clayton). CSA veteran whose death was “not His fault.”
33. • Martha Boyd Ramey, 1825-1858 (portrayed by Pudden McArthur). Died 1858, R.I.P. 2003.
34. • Champion R. “Champ” Blackwood, 1893-1935 (portrayed by Hoyt Blackwood). A very lucky fellow.
35. Mary Goss Hardin, 1915-2002 (portrayed by Fran Hawkins). A very successful businesswoman.
36. Ita Stocks, 1886-1972 (portrayed by Denise Welch). WWI volunteer and Woman of the Year.
37. Abihue Christopher, 1844-1935 (portrayed by Neal Cook). Find out about buried treasure!
38. Marguerite Nadler, 1895-1896 (portrayed by Mary Margaret McCartney). “Why am I here all by myself?”
39. • Adolph Reich, 1888-1976 (portrayed by Wade Reich). Built of Gadsden’s first skyscraper.
40. Confederate widow (portrayed by Stephanie Brown). Searches for her fallen hero.
41. Frank Towers, 1902-1941 (portrayed by Craig Scott). Find him standing vigil at the War Memorial.
42. May Cathey, 1915-2010 (portrayed by Cynthia McGinnis). From New Zealand with love.
43. • Louis Loveman, 1871-1944 (portrayed by Rhett Loveman). Twice president of the Chamber of Commerce.
44. Cemetery symbols (conducted by Lucy Wallace Edwards). Explains symbols found in the cemetery.
45. Judge Lemuel J. Standifer, 1805-1890 (portrayed by George Ford). Probate Judge of Cherokee County.
46. Undertaker (portrayed by David Clayton). Don’t let him convince you to add extravagant embellishments for your funeral!
47. Gravedigger (portrayed by Dennis Cantrell). Strolls the cemetery looking for customers!
• denotes portrayer is a descendant of the character