843.872.5352 iaam@iaamuseum.org

African American Genealogy: Have You Located Your Freedman’s Grave?

Robin Foster
by Robin Foster

Have You Researched the Freedmen’s Cemetery?

Calvin Vance (1879-1940), son of Beverly Vance (1832-1899), was living at home at the time of Beverly’s death. He had died the year before the 1900 Census in 1899:


Calvin Vance Census

“United States Census, 1900,” database with images,
FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:S3HT-XX6Q-ZWS?cc=1325221&wc=9B7X-
VZP%3A1030550901%2C1032467801%2C1032477201 : 5 August 2014), South Carolina > Greenwood > ED 72 Cokesbury Township Cokesbury town > image 4 of 40; citing NARA microfilm publication T623 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and
Records Administration, n.d.).



Beverly’s place of burial has become a lifelong pursuit. He could be in an unknown grave that deteriorated over time. I am also in search of Matilda Dunlap Vance, his wife. Because I am looking for them, I came across countless other freedmen hidden under kudzu, but buried in a way their place of rest could be found by descendants. I decided to make known these four cemeteries which were in Abbeville County before the boundary change to Greenwood County.

I used land records, wills, mortgages, funeral home records, newspapers, county histories, death records, marriage records, cemetery books, and plat maps to tell the history of the cemetery and the freedmen buried there. There was no history written of these cemeteries. The burials were not complete on FindAGrave.com or BillionGraves.com. My initial concern was for my 2nd grandparents, but I soon became swept up by the number of undocumented graves.

Save All Cemetery

The age of Save All Cemetery is yet to be determined.  It was originally the site of the Universalist Church built in 1844 when the area was part of Abbeville County.  Further research is needed to determine if it was ever used as a slave cemetery.  Also, the date when it was sold by previous owner, Thomas Coleman Lipscomb, to be used as an African American cemetery named Save All is in question.  

When John Partlow (1766-1844) died in 1844, Mt. Moriah Baptist Church refused to allow his funeral services to be held there because he was of the Universalist faith. In four weeks’ time, his sons constructed a new church building where their father’s funeral service was performed by a Universalist minister.

Thomas Coleman Libscomb, a nearby resident, named the church Save All, and that name was given to the African American cemetery on the site. Later Lipscomb sold the land that the church was on, and it went to the cemetery. I found this history of Save All Cemetery in Greenwood County Sketches: Old Roads and Early Families. See Ten Things to Learn from County Histories.


Save All Cemetery, by Jim Ravencraft, 16 April 2014

Save All Cemetery, by Jim Ravencraft, 16 April 2014



196 Memorials added to Save All Cemetery

Earliest burials:

Winston Arnold
 (30 September 1876)

Maria Jefferson (d. 4 April 1886))

Savage Logan (1817-1883)

Clarissa Arnold is one of several Arnolds buried in Save All Cemetery.  The Arnolds lived in the Cokesbury area prior to 1880.  Members of this family can be found buried in Old St. Paul AME Church, Old Tabernacle Cemetery, and Fairview Cemetery.  If you do not find your ancestor in the family cemetery, check neighboring cemeteries.  Often family members were buried in public cemeteries when they ran out of room in church cemeteries.


Clarissa Arnold headstone, Save All Cemetery.  Photo Taken by Jim Ravencraft, April 2012.

Clarissa Arnold headstone, Save All Cemetery.  Photo Taken by Jim Ravencraft, April 2012.



  1. We found a probate record for her husband Park where we learned the names of their children.  
  2. We discovered the location of the Old St. Paul AME Church Cemetery where other Arnolds are buried.
  3. We were able to locate census records which helped to identify six generations of this family.

Notice also that the date of death for Clarissa occurred before death certificates were recorded. If it were not for this headstone, we would not know that she existed.


Park Z. Arnold headstone, Save All Cemetery.  Photo Taken by Jim Ravencraft, April 2012.

Park Z. Arnold headstone, Save All Cemetery.  Photo Taken by Jim Ravencraft, April 2012.



Many people are buried in Save All Cemetery, but we chose to represent this couple. Park Z. Arnold was the wealthiest African American in his day.


Park Arnold Newspaper Clipping

Grant Griffin Estate Recalls Other Big Negro Properties, < https://www.newspapers.com/clip/12093968/the_indexjournal/> Clipped from The Index-Journal,  10 Jun 1950, Sat,  Page 6, column 6.



St. Paul AME Cemetery


St. Paul AME Cemetery, by Jim Ravencraft, May 20, 2014.

St. Paul AME Cemetery, by Jim Ravencraft, May 20, 2014.



  • Paul AME St. Paul’s AME (old site) Hodges, Greenwood
  • The first St. Paul AME Church building was located at the end of Allen University Road. According to the WPA Survey of State and Local Historical Records in 1936, Church was organized in 1883, and at that time there was no cemetery.
  • Paul AME Church

This cemetery has fewer people in it, but parts of the community still exist. The students of Allen University went here before they moved to Columbia, SC.

Mason Goggins, 76 years, died 30 May 1944. He is the same Goggins family buried in other nearby cemeteries, namely related to Columbus Goggins buried in Old Tabernacle Cemetery.


Mason Goggins Headstone

“Mason Goggins departed this life May 30, 1944 at 76 years of age. He was faithful to every duty,” photo by Jim Ravencraft, May 20, 2014



The cemetery and the area are not taken care of. A photo of the building below was taken by Jim Ravencraft.


Photo taken on the property of St. Paul AME Church, by Jim Ravenraft, May 20, 2014.

Photo taken on the property of St. Paul AME Church, by Jim Ravenraft, May 20, 2014.



Old Tabernacle Cemetery

This used to be the site of the Old Tabernacle Methodist Church long before the Civil War. During the later years it was taken over by Confederates. I found out that African Americans were also buried here well into the 1900’s. They had not been documented. I asked Jim Ravencraft to take photos of the graves.

I discovered that two long sought after people were buried here. We need to go through each person to make sure their families know where they are.

Charles Arnold –   60 years and African American. Father: Park Arnold, Sr. Mother: Emily.

Charles Arnold is the father of Janie Arnold Wah who is buried in Fairview Cemetery. She was married to Joe Wah.


Death Certificate for Charles Arnold

Death Certificate for Charles Arnold,”South Carolina Deaths, 1915-1965,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:N98M-7MG : 18 July 2017), Charles Arnold, 22 Apr 1923; citing , Arnold, Charles, 1923, Department of Archives and History, State Records Center, Columbia; FHL microfilm 1,913,626.



Columbus Goggins died at age 76. He was born in 1845. Columbus Goggins appeared in the St. Paul’s AME Church booklet as one of the oldest living members at the time. He is a family member. I am glad to have found him.


Columbus Goggins – Age 76 years, by Jim Ravencraft, May 20, 2014.

Columbus Goggins – Age 76 years, by Jim Ravencraft, May 20, 2014.



Fairview Cemetery

Fairview Cemetery, 300 Holman St., Greenwood, SC.


Fairview Cemetery was virtually impassable before April 9th, 2014 and had been so for decades according to local residents.  I first happened onto Fairview through researching my ancestor, Beverly Vance (1832-1899), and his descendants in 2009.  I was unable to enter the cemetery because it was completely covered by trees and vegetation.  I was not able to find anyone interested in helping to clean Fairview in 2009.   After moving to Greenwood and becoming a volunteer at the Greenwood County Library in late 2013, I met Jim Ravencraft who volunteered to begin in the Spring of 2014 to find the family members I had documented as being buried in Fairview.  I was excited to also learn of the Greenwood Historical Society’s interest in Fairview at a presentation on cemeteries in March 2014.     Meetings were held in the Spring of 2014 under the direction of Councilman Gonza Bryant and City and County officials with Greenwood Library volunteers and Greenwood Historical Society members present.  It was determined that a community-led project would be organized to reclaim Fairview.  

History of Fairview Cemetery

Joe S. Wah and Janie Arnold Wah

The owner of Fairview Cemetery in 1919 was J. S. Wah (Chinese). He purchased a 14 ½ acre parcel of land from Co-Operative Realty Company on November 12, 1919 for $1,250.00. It should be noted as well that Joe Wah purchased property from his wife, Janie Wah, in 1917, according to Deed Book 27, Page 380.  The legal description of the property is as follows:                                               

“Bounded on the left by lands of Walter T. Jones, on the east by the lands known as the Fair View Park land, on the south by lands of Walter T. Jones, on the west by Popular Street, and containing a frontage on Popular Street of sixty feet and running to a depth to John Smith’s land as far as the said Walter T. Jones land which was conveyed to him by S. A. Hinton on the second day of Jan, 1905.”                                                   

 A search of the 1920 Census shows Joe S. Wah, an immigrant from China (1900), married to Janie Wah, mulatto, with two step-sons in the household.  From the Greenwood County Probate Office, Marriage Book B, Page 579, we learned Joe and Janie were married on June 7, 1915. The parents for both couples were listed:                                                                    

  Joe S. Wah – Joe Sing Wah, father; Chu She, mother                        

  Janie Arnold – Charlie Arnold, father; Lucy Meriweather, mother 

A search through mortgages revealed a mortgage where Frank and James Arnold were mentioned as administrators of the estate of Janie Wah, their mother. This can be found in Greenwood County Real Estate Mortgages Book 50, Page 292.  We found a death certificate for Janie Wah who died on December 6, 1931 from a gunshot wound to the head. An article appearing in the Index -Journal reads:  “Joe Wah Shoots Wife to Death.”

According to death certificates, Joe Wah, Janie, Frank Arnold (and his first and second wives) along with a son are buried in Fairview.  Janie’s mother, Lucy, is also buried in Fairview.  Janie’s father, Charles Arnold, is buried in Tabernacle Cemetery.  Only the grave of the first wife of Frank Arnold, Evelyn, has been found so far. 

Other Names Before Fairview Cemetery

Death certificates that match headstones in the cemetery have helped us to learn that Fairview Cemetery was once called Sodom Cemetery.  The earliest grave that has been discovered so far was from an unnamed 1897 burial in the Johnson Family plot.  In our search of Greenwood County death certificates, we found references to cemeteries that we could not locate.  Some death certificates listed “New Cemetery” as the burial place.  Some listed the burial place as “Sodom Cemetery.” We suspected “New Cemetery” could refer to Fairview Cemetery, but we could not confirm it until we found the actual headstone for Rev. David Timothy McDaniel.  We are now reviewing each death certificate that lists “New Cemetery” as the burial place. On both sides of Fairview Cemetery are headstones for individuals whose death certificates list Sodom Cemetery.  The community around Fairview used to be known as Sodom or “Sodom Corner.”  It is quite possible that as we focus on locating individuals buried in Sodom Cemetery, we will uncover more.  Perhaps this is what the cemetery was called for during the time of the 1897 burial mentioned above.

Earliest Living Person


Caroline Poole, Widowed. Aged 102. Daughter of Edmond Poole and Lucy Reynolds, by Jim Ravencraft. April 11, 2014.

Caroline Poole, Widowed. Aged 102. Daughter of Edmond Poole and Lucy Reynolds, by Jim Ravencraft. April 11, 2014.



In the Poole Family plot can be found the earliest living person, Caroline Poole (1814-1916). It is also  important to point out that several headstones document burials prior to 1915 when deaths began to be officially recorded.  


Andrew J. Poole, widower. Father: Edmund Poole. Mother: Caroline Edwards, Jim Ravencraft, April 11, 2014.

Andrew J. Poole, widower. Father: Edmund Poole. Mother: Caroline Edwards, Jim Ravencraft, April 11, 2014.



Andrew J. Poole testified like Beverly Vance (1832-1899) did before the US Senate in 1876. He is buried in the Poole plot at Fairview Cemetery.


Andrew J Poole Senate Testimony

Andrew J. Poole testimony before U.S. Senate. https://books.google.com/books/content?id=j50FAAAAQAAJ&pg=PA199&img=1&zoom=3&hl=en&sig=ACfU3U31x4VQ2K49XSmQbGA6NaQtMLcMTw&ci=9%2C839%2C848%2C622&edge=0



We may have had no knowledge of these people if it were not for the existing grave marker. For a complete list of people buried in Fairview, visit FindAGrave.com.  To see an overview of where each marker is situated, visit BillionGraves.com

Our freedmen ancestors, in this area of Greenwood County, were buried in four or more cemeteries. Parts of the family can be found in each cemetery. Cemeteries were originally African American, some where Confederate cemeteries, others were owned by churches, and one was even owned by a Chinese immigrant. What is the history of your cemeteries? Can you track it? Have you found everyone, even those not in FindAGrave.com? What about those that died before public records? How will you document them if there is no headstone?

Sharpen the Saw

Find a freedmen’s grave. Document him or her using every available resource that exists. Make sure he or she is on FindAGrave.com and BillionGraves.com. Write the story. Share your story in our IAAM CFH Group on Facebook.

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This