Black History Month: Ebenezer African-American Cemetery

Published: Feb. 7, 2023 at 5:45 PM EST
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EFFINGHAM COUNTY, Ga. (WTOC) - “It seemed like to me that the ancestors called me. Like they said, do something about this place,” Leroy Lloyd said.

Lloyd is a self-appointed caretaker of a cemetery in Effingham County.

The final resting place for some of the county’s first inhabitants. But you won’t find their names or markings to show where their buried.

“This is the only marker that lets you know that it is, you know, a cemetery,” Lloyd said.

Only a simple plaque to acknowledge their existence and honor their memory.

“People who were enslaved in this area, and when they passed on, they were buried in this site,” Lloyd said.

The site is just outside the walls of the Jerusalem Church Cemetery, where generations of Salzburgers were laid to rest.

“At least 250 graves in this in this section, OK. And the archaeologists indicated that there may be more graves beyond the very wooded area there but he could not get a reading,” Lloyd said.

In 2010, an archeological team used ground-penetrating radar to locate the graves. The same time the state of Georgia unveiled a marker commemorating the deaths of more than hundred slaves at nearby Ebenezer Creek.

It tells a story of General William Sherman’'s March to the Sea.

The slaves were following the federal army trying to out run confederate soldiers. The army destroyed a makeshift bridge after crossing Ebenezer Creek leaving the slaves to fend for themselves.

Most drowned in the creek.

“We don’t know if any of those folks are interred on these grounds. But by history, we know they died at the creek,” Lloyd said.

Lloyd cares for the grounds with the help of master gardeners and other volunteers.

“I think the ones that was buried here and helped establish this establishment deserve that,” volunteer Douglas Kirkland said.

Kirkland grew up in Effingham County but says he learned about the site’s existence from his son.

“They have football camp and there was a gravesite, a Black graveyard. I was like ‘nah, not out there. I never heard about it.’ And sure enough, it’s here,” Kirkland said.

Their cleanup efforts are year around, but this month they’re getting ready for an annual wreath laying ceremony.

“We need to remember those folks, we need to give some credence to the fact that they were here. It’s almost like, as it was, that they came, they lived, they died, and they were forgotten. And we did not want that to be.”