Sunday, March 18, 2018

Testing, testing

Last week I purchased a new phone, one of those modern miracles that can order a custom sandwich, rent a car, check a flight, and read me a book while also allowing Google and the NSA to keep tabs on me.   I bought it for the camera, and today I finally had occasion to try it out when a friend of mine announced he was giving a private cemetery tour to an exchange student from Vietnam who had been staying with his daughter this past week.  Although I've walked the cemetery in question, I'd never heard my storytelling friend do his "ghost tour", and was more than happy to join them.  The ghost tour, which is part of the annual Selma Pilgrimage (a weekend of people touring fine historic homes, hosted by teenage girls in antebellum dresses), uses multiple locals playing the parts of deceased locals to tell the story of Selma. 

This won't be a complete tour of the Old Live Oak Cemetery, which has incredible stonework and an attractive layout, full of live oaks and magnolia trees, but I wanted to share a few photos and/or stories.

We rendezvoused at the "Pigeon House", a small structure in the middle of the cemetary that once was the residence of the caretaker, and was later used as a gathering spot for bands and picnics.  It's called the pigeon house because the eaves housed carrier pigeons. if you click to enlarge the picture you should be able to see the meshed-over cubbies where the pigeons lived.

Elodie Todd Dawson,  sister-in-law to Abe Lincoln,  and partially responsible for the somber beauty that is Old Live Oak.  She and her family purchased the land and organized its layout, with the pattern of oaks and magonlias that creates bountiful shade even in the summer.  According to a local story, Elodie wore carefully-applied wax makeup and  never stood or walked in direct sunlight -- if she had to travel through it, she hiked up her skirts and double-timed her way into the shade. This was called "Elodie's Walk". Her husband commissioned a memorial statue of her for $7000 after death, disliked the hair, and commissioned another for $5000 more.  

Old Live Oak is one of the more spellbinding places in Selma ,between its oaks laden with Spanish moss, the field of stone, and the flowering bushes.

Obelisks and crosses predominate the graves here, but some are particularly ornate. 

(Note to self:  learn to crop images on phone before sending them to my cloud...)  This obelisk has been churched up a little.

A memorial to the fallen. An inscription reads,
 "There is grandeur in graves, there is glory in gloom."    

I first read those words seven years ago, when walking this cemetery and listening to the fallen leaves skitter in the wind, and they clicked. I've never forgotten the expression.  It comes from a poem called "Land Without Ruins"

If you are curious about the Ghost Tour, someone on youtube posted truncated clips of two of the performances. My friend is reprising a role in the first video as a local rogue named George Washington Gayle, who put an ad in a 1864 paper for someone to shoot Lincoln, and a young lady whom I don't know is playing Elodie, the woman whose grave I shared above.   

"Elodie's" accent is more than little exaggerated -- every actresses who does her lays on the southern drawl as thick  as they can.  


  1. southern culture has a special feel to it... tx for sharing...

  2. Thanks for the tour of a beautiful piece of Americana.

  3. What a beautiful cemetery! The Spanish moss and azaleas make me want to visit the South again.

  4. I'm glad ypu all e jpyed the taste!

    @Maraon: Just avoid May through Early Sept!

  5. A tour like this would be amazing. I do have a special fondness for ghost tours...


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