Homecoming prep

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Cemetery clean-up paves way for celebration

By Cheri Harris

Preserving and sharing family history was at the heart of a cemetery cleanup day Saturday at Pine Grove Baptist Church Cemetery in the Sycamore community southwest of Greensboro.


Cyndi Hindman Proctor and her husband, Joey; the Rev. John Forsman, who pastors Pine Grove; long-time member Frances Cook; along with other volunteers including Cyndi’s sister, Lisa Rowell and her husband, Ty, were at the cemetery, armed with rakes, chainsaws and plenty of gumption.

Back at the church, the other part of the crew was at work getting lunch ready.

The goal for the first of two planned cleanup days was to prepare the cemetery for the church’s annual homecoming, which is held traditionally on the fourth Sunday in May.

Before the church service starts, those attending the church service walk to the cemetery, where the pastor gives a short memorial address while children place flowers at all of the graves, some of which date back to the late 19th century.

Cyndi said this is a long-standing tradition at the church.

Cook said she has been a member of the church since she moved to Gadsden County in 1956.

“We were doing it then,” she said.

Yvonne Hindman, Cyndi and Lisa’s mother and the undisputed matriarch of the church, said that tradition was also going on when she was a child.

“When I was younger we didn’t buy flowers,” the 79-year-old said. “All the women in the community took them from their yards.”

Yvonne’s late husband, James, was a long-time deacon of the church. So was Yvonne Hindman’s father, James “Bud” Shepard.

Cyndi said up until two years ago when her father died, he had always taken care of the cemetery grounds.

During the cleanup, John Eubanks, who now lives in Palatka, arrived at the cemetery with his son, Bryan. John Eubanks came to visit family graves, including his parents.  He recalled as a child traveling to Pine Grove church through the woods on a mule and wagon with his mother, who was blind. He said one of his forbears buried there, Shepard McLane, was a farmer and former preacher at Pine Grove.

Yvonne Hindman said Pine Grove Church dates back to 1905, according to church records, though the congregation probably existed before that, served by a circuit-riding preacher.

For many years the church also operated a school.

“My parents went to school there, and my aunt was a teacher there. It was a pine log building,” she said.

When she attended the church’s school, she said the log building was no longer standing but she remembers playing on the logs.

The current church was built in 1972. She said the building it replaced now sits just across the Gadsden County line in Leon County near the Ochlockonee River, where it is still used as a house of worship.

Forsman said the homecoming service starts at 11 a.m. Sunday, May 27.

“Tell them the preacher invited all of them to come,” he said.

Cheri Harris can be reached at editor@gadcotimes.com.


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