Fonda Smithwick Oliver, author of “The History of Old Orange Cemetery,” was raised on land owned by her ancestors in Orange, a community in east Cherokee County.
Oliver said she wrote the book to preserve her family’s memory.
“I wanted to get these people on record because there was no record of them anywhere, except for in the courthouse,” she said.
Although those buried in the cemetery are her ancestors, Oliver said she still went through a thorough process to authenticate the records.
“I verified everything with census records, marriage records and church records, plus my family had very good records we passed down so we know who our people are,” she said.
One of her relatives shared with her a family history written down on poster board.
“It showed three of four generations to really help clarify,” Oliver said.
Orginally, the cemetery was surveyed by Shirley Morris, an employee of the Probate Office who put together a book about cemeteries throughout Cherokee County.
“I don’t want to sound like I’m criticizing her because I know how much work must have gone into that,” Oliver said. “But the cemetery at the time she went to it had not been cleaned up very well. There were vines, poisionous oak and trees down, so I don’t think she ventured in there very far.”
She said she dedicated a page in her book to thank all of the people who helped her clean it up.
Before there were commerical cemeteries, Oliver said people were buried under their home property, so everyone in the cemetery ground is related to her somehow.
“They’re either connected by blood or marriage, sometimes both, or the church of the Smithwick family,” she said.
Despite the fact that most of her ancestors are buried in the Smithwick Family Burial Ground, Oliver said her parents are buried in the church cemetery, and she doesn’t plan to be buried at all.
“I think I’ll be cremated, but I might move down with my daughter so I won’t even be in this area,” she said.
But she said she is nervous that the condition won’t be mainatined if she leaves.
“I hope someone cares enough about the family, church or community to not let it get in the condition it was in,” she said.
The book is $9.99 and is available at Yawn’s Books & Moore in Canton or online at yawnspublishing.com, amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com.