Revolutionary War soldier is buried in Gadsden


The old Garner Cemetery is located in a wooded area at the northeast end of Washington Street on a rocky hillside overlooking the Coosa River in North Gadsden.

The Garner Cemetery contains the only known Revolutionary War soldier’s grave in Gadsden. His name is Joseph Garner. The cemetery was added to the Alabama Register of Landmarks and Heritage, a prestigious listing of historic, architectural and archaeological landmarks, on Feb. 27, 1978. 

In 1797, Joseph Garner lived in Culpepper, Virginia, where he was paying on 286 acres of land formerly owned by a Hisle. Garner paid on this land for five years. He enlisted in the 1st Virginia Regiment on September 5, 1775, and he was wounded the next spring at Williamsburg. In 1789 when Garner was 36 years old, he was wounded in the arm as a private in the 1st Virginia Regiment. His pay was 24 pounds per annum.

Garner enlisted in Fauquier County, Virginia, in Capt. William Blackwell’s 11th Virginia Regiment. He was wounded at Brandywine and also fought at Valley Forge. Garner was discharged at White Plains, N.Y. 

Garner married Sarah Orr in 1790, and in 1802 moved to Clark County, Ga., as did his brother, Charles, who also was an army veteran. Garner applied for a disability pension while in Georgia in 1818. 

In 1820 Garner moved into St. Clair County in the new state of Alabama. In 1821 his property consisted of “one sow and four pigs, one pot, two axes, two old weeding hoes, two feather beds and furniture valued at $21.50.” His age was about 65.

When Garner moved to Georgia, he entrusted his pension certificate to a friend who was to collect and send the money to him. 

But by 1819, the friend has moved “to parts unknown.” Joseph had to reestablish his identity with the aid of Judge (later Chief Justice) John Marshall, who had been his lieutenant in the war. He was paid 10 pounds per annum as a pensioner. Thomas Page and John Marshall both confirmed Joseph’s service record in a letter in 1819.

There was difficulty in the matter because he was “Joseph Gardner” on the pension roll, but he finally did show he was the same person. His payments were transferred to St. Clair County, Alabama, in 1824 and to Cherokee County when it was created.

Garner’s daughters Malinda and Rosa married into the Burger Family. Rosa ‘s family moved to what is now Tillison Bend.

The main road in which is now North Gadsden was the old High Town Path, often known as the Turkey Town Road, which served as an Indian way through Chief Turkey’s Town. The body of the Cherokees had been forcibly removed as white settlers poured in. Some Indians remained, however, and were still watering their horses at “the spring” near the Garner home place.

In 1850, Joseph Garner’s son, Joseph Garner II, entered a plot although the family was already living there in 1840. In 1889 this land was sold outside the family, with the exception of the “family burial ground” and right of access. The property was divided into lots and called the Riverview Addition.

The cemetery gradually became public with the mining boom of the 1800’s, but the boom did not last. By 1923, the cemetery was beginning to run down. It once was beautiful, and people liked it so much they kept burying past the original plot. 

The plot presently consists of 1.3 acres, virtually unchanged since the early 1920s. Tax records show only Lots 92 and 93 as cemetery all the way back to the original division, which gives the location of the Garner family plot.

The old Joseph Garner homestead was located near a spot where a small schoolhouse was later built. A Presbyterian church replaced the school, and now the Abounding Grace Baptist Church stands in the vicinity of the first house. It is believed that the house was torn down in 1924.

The second Joe Garner lived in a two-story house on what is now the St. James School playground. The spring, which was located down the hill, was covered by Furnace Pond, which is now covered by the backed-up Coosa River.

On Dec. 20, 1840, the old soldier died. Three day later, the couple would have celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary.

Francis Garner, son of the second Joseph, died in Savannah, Ga., in 1864. Another son, John, died in Deep Bottom, Va., in 1864. Both men served as Confederate soldiers.

The youngest son of the Revolutionary soldier, John, married Elizabeth Tillison in 1844. She was the daughter of Spencer Tillison and sister of William S. Tillison, pioneers in Tillison Bend.

In 1852, Joseph Garner’s widow Sarah Garner filed a statement regarding her pension, in which she names the children living at that time. These were Malinda Burger; Rosia (Rosanna) Burger, wife of Jacob Burger; Sophia Goodwin; Sally (Sarah) White, wife of Stephen White; Gilford Garner (married Polly Caddell); Joseph Garner (married Lydia Margaret Caddell); and John Garner (married Elizabeth Tillison). 

Joseph Garner was the son of Charles, who was born in 1724 in Stafford County Va., and Ann Darnell Garner, who was born in 1716 in King George County Va., and died in Clarke County Ga. They were married in 1769 at Fauquier County, Va.

Joseph’s siblings were Jake Garner (never married), Elizabeth Garner (married Robbins); Ann Garner (married Jacob Burger); Charles Garner (married Hannah); and Presley Garner (married Margaret Hinson). 


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