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Some African American Cemeteries Were Once Used by the Enslaver

Robin Foster
by Robin Foster

Have you ever thought about how an old African American cemetery got started? It is usually hard to tell, but newspapers, libraries, and funeral homes are places you can start to find the history of a cemetery.  I came across one such cemetery in Greenwood County, SC.  It was called Save All Cemetery.  I am always curious about when these cemeteries were used. Jim Ravencraft, photographed all the headstones, and I took a look at the birth and death dates that I could make out.

Gracie Coleman, died Jan. 22, 1917. Aged 83 yrs. A Faithful Servant. Photo by Jim Ravencraft, on Apr. 2012.
Gracie Coleman, died Jan. 22, 1917. Aged 83 yrs. A Faithful Servant. Photo by Jim Ravencraft, on Apr. 2012.

I noticed Gracie Coleman was born around 1834, therefore I knew she and several other people buried in Save All Cemetery were formerly enslaved. It would be great to know how old the cemetery was. The Lawrence Genealogy and Local History Room in the Greenwood County Library System was were I was volunteering at the time, so “Greenwood County Sketches,” by Margaret Watson was were I looked up Save All Cemetery.

I was looking up an African American cemetery in a book that did not give ancestry or history about African Americans. I had come to realize that clues are included in these books even though librarians may say, “You will not find anything in there.” “Greenwood County Sketches” told me how Save All Cemetery got started.

“A small Universalist Church was built in four weeks’ time in 1844, according to tradition, by sons of John Partlow to provide a place for the preaching of their father’s funeral sermon at the time the Universalist minister had promised to come. A funeral sermon often was preached weeks or months after the actual burial, depending when a favorite minister would come. It was further said that Mount Moriah Baptist Church had refused use of its building for the Universalist service and that was why the Partlow sons rushed the reconstruction. The church we at the intersection of the Barksdale Ferry road and the road from New Market. In the summer of 1845, the South Carolina convention of Universalists was held at the little church. Because Universalists believed that all souls are saved, the name ‘Save-All’ was given to the church by a nearby resident, Thomas Coleman Lipscomb. That name was applied to the Negro cemetery later on the site. Lipscomb bought the land after there was no longer a Universalist congregation, and he sold it for the cemetery,” “Greenwood County Sketches,” pg. 90.

This area would have been Abbeville County, SC before 1897, and afterwards it was called Greenwood County, SC. I could not believe I had stumbled upon the owners and the name, Save-All, and sometime after African Americans purchased the cemetery.

Next, I considered the year 1844. Could there also be a will for John Partlow, and would there be names of enslaved people? I searched the South Carolina Department of Archives and History:

Image 1-3: Partlow, John of Abbeville District, Will Typescript (3 Frames) (Estate Packet: Box 77, Pkg. 1890)
Image 1-3: Partlow, John of Abbeville District, Will Typescript (3 Frames) (Estate Packet: Box 77, Pkg. 1890)
Image 1-3: Partlow, John of Abbeville District, Will Typescript (3 Frames) (Estate Packet: Box 77, Pkg. 1890)
Image 1-3: Partlow, John of Abbeville District, Will Typescript (3 Frames) (Estate Packet: Box 77, Pkg. 1890)
Image 1-3: Partlow, John of Abbeville District, Will Typescript (3 Frames) (Estate Packet: Box 77, Pkg. 1890)

Sharpen the Saw

Could any of the formerly enslaved or their children have been buried in Save All Cemetery? How about the owner, Thomas Coleman Lipscomb. Did he own enslaved people? Were they buried in Save All Cemetery? Have you ever searched a possible enslaved cemetery? How did you go about finding the original owner? Let us know out on the Facebook Group.

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