So far I’d found two old textile mill village cemeteries somewhat by accident. These reminded me of an article in the Greenville News by Judy Bainbridge from 2009. The article was entitled “Woodside, other mill villages need care.” Bainbridge had listed several mill village cemeteries in town, and at the time I’d thought about trying to find them. Then I kind of forgot about it. That is, until my recent discoveries. Now I was ready to seek out these other forgotten cemeteries.
I had two targets in mind for this morning. First, I wanted to find Brandon Mill’s cemetery. That one seemed like more of a challenge from online information I’d found about it. The second target was the one mentioned in the headline, the cemetery for Woodside Mill.
The last time I thought about finding these I didn’t have much luck with Google Earth and other source. For whatever reason, I now had a much easier time finding preliminary information. A Rootsweb site on Ancestry.com has a TON of information about most of the cemeteries in Greenville County, including maps. From that info I was able to get lat/long coordinates for both locations. Find-a-Grave now has excellent data on both of these cemeteries, as well.
Brandon Mills Cemetery
Judy Bainbridge’s quote from the aforementioned article describes the challenge I was facing.
When directions read, “Go between two blue buildings and look for the no-trespassing sign near the dumpster,” you know that this is not a frequently visited place.
I didn’t even get that far.
The cemetery is located just beyond the up and coming arts district of West Greenville. Pendleton Street crosses a narrow bridge over a railroad, and the cemetery is just to the right heading out of town. I turned down the closest street heading that way, a dead end street leading down to St. Mary AME Church.
The church was on the left side of th street, and two men were working on an empty lot close to my target area. I pulled up and asked them if they knew of an old mill cemetery. One fellow answered, “Yeah, it’s just on the other side of this fence.” I asked if they knew of a way to get down to it, hoping for an invitation just to jump their fence. No such invitation, but he did say that there was supposed to be a road down to it.
There were no obvious roads. I didn’t see any other way down from this point. The previous instructions from the Bainbridge article were no longer valid as that business now had a large fence around it. The site was bounded by railroads on both sides. There seemed to be no way to get down and across those, either. I drove around the neighborhood(s) looking for a path. I asked one other resident about a cemetery, and he pointed me toward the larger Grace Cemetery on down the road.
Google Earth doesn’t show the cemetery, either. Here’s the current view, obscured by trees.
The 2010 imagery was taken in winter with less vegetation, but still shows no details.
The Find-a-Grave site has an even more bleak description of the cemetery’s conditions.
This was the cemetery, for Brandon Mill workers & their families..located (diagonally) across & down the street from Graceland Cemetery West. It is located on the right, after you, cross the bridge from Brandon Community. The house is 6 Melrose Ave Greenville, SC 29611. Privately owned with all the land. Have been told that No Trespassing signs have been posted all these yrs, since the sale.
The percent of photos taken: please note that, most of the tombstones have been purposely destroyed/buried over the decades. The cemetery was 6 to 7 acres and have been told that it used to be full of tombstones.
I contacted the The Greenville Mayor’s secretary who raised funds to erect Shoeless Joe statue. She informed me that, it was across the bridge, which was out of the city’s juristiction…so they would not be able to help me, with the cemetery. A cousin spoke to magistrate/Senator and other officials to no avail. One cousin had been trying to get someone to help,for decades. All the societies would say, when it gets Winter, we can get in there.
This is an attempt to find out, all who were buried there. They should NOT BE Forgotten!
Here is a 2009 photo from that website:
Records indicate that the Brandon Mill Cemetery ran out of room, and that a small section was purchased from Grace Cemetery for mill workers. On this trip I didn’t ride out to Grace to try to find them. The Brandon Mill Cemetery site was sold to a private party. According to Find-a-Grave, the deed states that “there are several graves on the property which have become a liability to them.” According to the Find-a-Grave data, the last interment was in 1949.
Woodside Mill Cemetery
I had a bit more luck with Woodside Mill Cemetery. It was on a corner lot in a somewhat sketchy neighborhood. Across the street was a private club, and the side other lots were occupied with low income houses and light industry.
At one corner of the lot someone had dumped some old televisions.
The headstones themselves were in generally poor condition. Many were toppled, and many were completely overgrown.
One had been knocked over, and someone had taken the effort to put it back in place – upside down.
One thing that surprised me were the number of trails cut through the cemetery. It looks like this lot is used as a shortcut by the community. I have to wonder what the community thinks of this place, if they think of it at all. Do they consider it haunted? At the very least, spooky?
According to the Find-a-Grave data for this cemetery there are 127 graves. The latest was more recent than I would have imagined – 2012.
As I had done with Duncan Chapel Cemetery, Monaghan Mill Cemetery, and the American Spinning Cemetery, I did a comparison of the number of burials of children under 10 with the overall number of burials. Both of these cemeteries completely beat any other I’d studied. In Brandon Mills Cemetery 51% of the burials were for children under 10, and in Woodside it was an astounding 54%. So far, Woodside has the dubious honor of deserving the name “The Children’s Cemetery.”
Poe Mill Cemetery
There was one more mill cemetery to visit though. As sad as it was to see the abandoned state of Brandon and Woodside, this one seems even sadder. Poe Mill Cemetery was completely wiped off the map.
Judy Bainbridge puts it this way:
The old Poe Mill cemetery at Hammett and 7th Avenue at the end of the Poe community has been sanitized by Boulevard Baptist Church. The cemetery and its gravestones have been leveled, grassed over and the site fenced in.
The cemetery was destroyed…by a church.
Boulevard Baptist Church had once been on Wade Hampton Boulevard (hence the name), but is not longer active as far as I can tell. However, the church really responsible for the destruction of the cemetery is very much active.
Faith Baptist Church on West Lee Road was started as an outreach ministry of Boulevard Baptist. This ministry was targeted toward the Poe Mill Community. According to the church’s website:
By 1966, it was apparent to Boulevard Baptist Church that Poe Mill Village needed a new church plant. On one side of the Poe Mill neighborhood was a small area of open land that had once been a cemetery for mill workers’ children. The property had since been neglected and overgrown, only a few grave markers could still be found. With permission from Poe Manufacturing and the county, Boulevard Baptist Church purchased the land for one dollar and erected a simple 50’ x 50’ metal building. Having enlisted Rev. Thornton to serve as its pastor, Boulevard Baptist church began what was first known as the Poe Mill Mission. In 1967, the Mission became independent of Boulevard Baptist Church and changed its name to the Faith Baptist Church.
I found the location of the cemetery. The 50X50 building is still there. The only remnant of the cemetery is a marker listing the names of the 33 identified graves in the cemetery.
The Find-a-Grave listing for this site only includes the names from the marker. The last burial, according to this list, was in 1944.
Here are the locations of the aforementioned mill cemeteries in a Google Map.
Also, here is the original article by Judy Bainbridge in the Greenville news from May 27, 2009. My thanks to my friends in the South Carolina Room at the Greenville County Library for locating the article for me.
Other articles in this series: