Troop 57 cleans up historic Heard cemetery

by Bradley Hartsell

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Troop 57 of Newnan, Georgia, this fall volunteered to rehabilitate the cemetery of Bethel Baptist Church in Heard County.

The church, built in 1828, is the oldest organized church in the county. According to Troop 57 scoutmaster, John Sims, it’s the final resting place of many pioneering families of what is now Heard and Coweta Counties.

Sims recalls what prompted him to spearhead the The Bethel Church cleanup.

“I was looking up some ancestors, several generations back. My father asked me to look for a Bethel Cemetery. I just put some names together and found a few a Sims out there that belonged to us.”

Upon visiting the cemetery, he found the grounds in such a state of disrepair, he knew he had a project for his young scouts.

“It just looked horrible. I’ve always been interested in old cemeteries and I just hate to see a cemetery looking that way.”

According to Sims, due to the small number of the current congregation, as well as remote location, the cemetery had been overgrown for quite a while.

“Tall grasses, weeds, seedlings, and muscadine vines were reclaiming the landscape,” said Sims. “Fallen limbs from the oak trees making up the perimeter littered graves underneath their boughs.”

Troop 57 boys and adults, starting at 9 a.m. on a September day, began the massive cleanup of the cemetery grounds. Sims outlined the tedious and thorough work the troop did to restore the Bethel Cemetery.

“We removed all down limbs; we used weed trimmers around headstones and foot markers; we pulled weeds and raked the gravel of family lots; we cut the muscadine vines back to the tree line; we mowed and mowed the thick weeds and grasses, hauling off numerous wheelbarrow loads of clippings to the adjacent forest; we trimmed established shrubbery and loped out invasive sumac and various tree seedlings. “

Sims said despite the hard work, his troop took to the project with a great attitude.

“They had a great time. They liked getting out there and looking at history,” he said. “They liked seeing the old monuments from the 1880s. They found veterans from about every major war, they liked that, too.

“They really enjoyed it and took pride in the way they cleaned up.”



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