Students unveil book about Mount Albion, ‘a sanctuary for the mourning’ and much more

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 15 May 2023 at 9:27 am

Photos by Tom Rivers

ALBION – Mary McCormick, an Albion student, reads “The American’s Creed” on Saturday during a book unveiling celebration about Mount Albion Cemetery.

Students in Tim Archer’s seventh-grade service learning class worked to create the book that is about 50 pages and includes many details about the historic cemetery on Route 31 that opened in 1843.

Adelaide Pettit hands out copies of the book to people who attended the book unveiling celebration. The Orleans County chapter of DAR paid for the costs to print 200 of the books. They are available on a first come, first served basis at Hoag Library.

Julia Graham, an Albion seventh-grader, shares how the cemetery was accredited as an arboretum in 2022. The cemetery has more than 1,100 trees in 66 different species. Graham also spoke about the Soldiers and Sailors Monument, a Civil War memorial that is 68 feet high and lists 466 people from Orleans County who were killed during the Civil War.

Other students speakers included Aniela Wilson, Cordelia Rivers, Sophia Bouchey, Omer Fugate and Adelaide Pettit.

Tim Archer, the service learning teacher, thanked the students and many people who contributed to the book, providing documents, photos and other information.

Archer’s class has done several preservation projects in the community in the past two decades, including at Mount Albion.

Some historical facts about the cemetery include:

  • The Village Board appointed committee on April 12, 1842 to find land suitable for a public cemetery.
  • Mount Albion established on Sept. 7, 1843 with Marvin Potter serving as the landscape engineer.
  • First lots for Mount Albion sold on Sept. 11, 1843.
  • More than 25,000 graves
  • Listed on the National Register of Historic Places on Sept. 27, 1976, first site in Orleans County to go on the list.
  • 310 obelisks, 1,167 trees, three entrances, eight mausoleums, 10 hitching posts, six horse foot stompers and nine marble slabs in the Civil War memorial tower.
  • 68-foot high tower, in honor 466 Orleans County residents killed in the Civil War
  • The First Baptist Church in 1859 offering vault to cemetery to store bodies during the winter. • • In 1881, the sandstone archway with iron gates constructed at the entrance.
  • More recently, in 1982 the spring house and lagoon were dedicated to firefighters who have departed from the Albion Fire Department.
  • In 2022, the cemetery was officially accredited as an arboretum with over 1,100 trees and 66 species.
  • The book includes highlights of about 50 notable residents of the cemetery. Rufus Bullock, who was elected governor of Georgia in 1868, is among those included. More recently, Craig H. Anderson was buried in the cemetery in 1973. He died of leukemia following his senior year after a standout career in Albion as a student athlete. The high school gym is named in his honor. Donna Rodden, a former Albion mayor who advocated for historical preservation, died in 1985. The cemetery chapel is dedicated in her memory.
  • 25 miles of avenues, roads, walks and pathways
  • The book also lists about 80 other cemeteries in the county, including several with less than 10 burials.
  • There also is a list of caretakers and superintendents in the cemetery’s history. Jason Zicari has served in the role for 27 years since 1996. (Archer thanked Zicari, the superintendent foreman, for his dedication to the upkeep of the cemetery. “This is a beautiful place,’ Archer said. “It is not easy to maintain.”)

Matt Ballard, a former Orleans County historian who now works at Davidson College in North Carolina, wrote the epilogue for the book. He also spoke during Saturday’s ceremony.

“This cemetery stands not only as a sanctuary for the mourning, but as a destination for community gathering and shared experience,” Ballard writes in the book’s epilogue. “Despite the common end for all those who rest eternally within the gates of Mount Albion, the grounds represent both an end and a beginning, where those who are gone are never forgotten.”

Ballard, during his remarks, said walking in Mount Albion in the spring, when the flowers and trees are in bloom, “is one of my most cherished memories.”

DAR members attended the celebration, including from left Patrice Berner, the chapter’s treasurer and a national officer; Penny Nice, a member and state officer; and Sharon Schneider, the local DAR regent.

The DAR was happy to contribute to the project highlighting Mount Albion.

“Our objectives are education, historic preservation and patriotism, and this fits those objectives,” Nice said about the book.

Penny Nice of the DAR thanked the students and Mr. Archer for their work on the book celebrating Mount Albion Cemetery. Behind here are Boy Scouts from Troop 164 – Jax Gotte, Stryker Braley and Owen Monaghan.

Bill Lattin, retired Orleans County historian, led a tour of Mount Albion after the book unveiling. Here Lattin and the group stop by the grave of Stewart John Flintham. His collection of bird eggs from more than a century ago is on display at Hoag Library. Flintham was killed in a California forest fire in 1925.

They are shown just west of the chapel. Lattin noted that structure is symmetrical and one of the chimneys is fake and was included to give balance to the building.

Lattin also discusses Amos Clift and the statue of a dog that is symbolically guarding Clift’s grave. Clift’s gravestone and the dog were recently cleaned are are nearly white, compared to others nearby that need a cleaning. Clift was a farmer by the canal in the Gaines Basin. He died in 1872.

Lattin shared many anecdotes, humorous and poignant, about other residents in the cemetery in a 45-minute tour.