Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Parrish residents come together to clean up their historic cemetery

Parrish residents gathered to tend the graves at Parrish's historic cemetery on Saturday.

An awesome day.

That's what Iris McClain calls Saturday, Jan. 17, when 65 black and white residents of Parrish got together to clean up the historic Parrish Cemetery.

"It was a community thing," said Floyd Dozier, who has many relatives buried there. "I think it was a good idea."

The cemetery, which opened in 1876 with the burial of an infant, Rose Lee Turner, belongs to all residents of Parrish, and is historically important to  Manatee County.

Major William Iredell Turner, a Seminole War and Civil War veteran, was a Parrish pioneer and Bradenton's first postmaster, when it was still called Braidentown.

Also interred there are World War I and World War II veterans.

Originally, blacks and whites were buried in separate parts of the cemetery.

But, that was many years ago.

"We took that fence down a long time ago," McClain said.

"What a wonderful day we all had on Saturday. It turned out to be a beautiful day with at least 65 people showing up to help make this old historical cemetery look beautiful again," she said.

"We all got to see people that we have not seen in awhile. When stopping long enough to rest a few minutes, we would visit a little and then get back to work," McClain said.

Prime movers in rallying the community to cleanup the cemetery were longtime pillars Vivian Boice and JoAnn Rogers.

"Our cemetery was just going down, down," Rogers said of her decision to personally recruit neighbors to come to the cleanup.

"We are all God's children. I asked the Lord to let me live a bit longer until we got the cemetery cleaned up," said Rogers, 86.

In addition to locals, some volunteers came from outside the county to tend to relative's graves.

McClain spent her day weeding around the graves of infants and children so that their names and other poignant information could be read.

"We plan to have another work day when the old leaves fall and the new leaves come in," she said. That should be some time in the spring.

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