Hays Cemetery, Lamar County, Alabama

Number 174 on the 2002 Cemetery Map of Lamar County. 


Recorded June 17, 2002 by Kawatha Chandler “Kay” Koonce and James W. Dierking; resurveyed Sep. 3, 2005 by Kay Koonce, Jim Dierking, and Paul Hays.

Directions: About 8 miles west of Vernon, turn south off Hwy. 18 onto Prospect Road for 0.7 miles, then north onto Hopper Hollow Road for another 0.7 miles.  The cemetery is located in woods behind a house on the property of Mrs. Audie Richards.  Request permission of the owner before going to the site.

  This graveyard contains only one formal tombstone.  The owner recalls that at one time there were 4 or 5 gravestones, and that the only names were Hays.  There appear to be three or four graves marked by fieldstones in a row beside the inscribed stone, and others identifiable by depressions in the ground and fieldstone markers.  One grave is located about ten yards north and west of the others.  Unlike the others, it is oriented north and south.

 The one tombstone reads: 

W. L. Hays

Born Dec. 25, 1829

Died April 11, 1891

Thy virtue and thy worth

Shall fond remembrance cheer

And ease the aching heart

That drops the fallen tear.


This is the grave of William Lafayette Hays, the youngest of three sons of John “Grancer” Hays and his first wife, who remains unknown.  Lafayette was a farmer and schoolteacher, and frequently a lender of cash to neighbors who needed the means to “make a crop.”  Several of those loans are recorded in the county deed books.

 Lafayette remained a bachelor until four months before his death.  On December 18, 1890, he married Sarah Catherine “Kate” Vail, daughter of Julia Ann Bradley and the Rev. Michael E. Vail, the first pastor of the Mount Pleasant Freewill Baptist Church.  The marriage took place at the home of Kate’s brother, Jeremiah Wilmot Vail. 

It would appear that Kate was the mother of as many as seven of Lafayette’s children, stretching back to 1876, although the record of Lafayette’s estate mentions only three surviving children.

 John “Grancer” Hays is also probably buried here.  The graveyard is on land he patented in 1838, adjacent to land he acquired by patents in 1834 and 1835. 

 Grancer’s second wife, Mahala, was living on the property at the time of the 1870 Sanford County census with her daughter, listed in 1870 as Sarah M. Cast.  Sarah had earlier been married to Asa Hawkins, son of Elizabeth Hickman and Robert Hawkins.  Sarah and Asa had four children before his death in 1863.  In December 1873, Sarah M. “Cast or Cash” married Daniel Greene Payne, and by 1880 they had moved to Healing Springs, Independence (later Cleburne) County, Arkansas.  No record has been found of Sarah’s marriage to a Mr. Cast or Cash. 

 Recorded as the last name in the household preceding that of Sarah and Mahala in the 1870 census is Wm. L. Hays.  Although listed in the household of Nancy and John McDaniel, according to the census he owned substantially more real estate than either the McDaniels or his mother or half-sister next door.  He probably should have been enumerated as the head of the household that included his mother and sister.

 John “Grancer” Hays was born in South Carolina in 1804, a son of Lazarus Hays and his unknown first wife.  The name of Grancer’s first wife is unknown, but he was the father of at least three sons before his marriage to Mahala.  Grancer died on this property in 1864, by hanging himself in his barn. 

One theory for his suicide is that he was despondent over his wife’s apparently failing health.  If that was the case, she recovered and outlived him by several years.  Another theory is that he chose to deny the “home guards” the pleasure of murdering him, a fate they had recently and quite gruesomely visited on some of his neighbors who, like him, had vocally opposed secession and the War.   

His estate was not finally settled until 1877, when the last of his property was sold to his daughter-in-law, Sarah Ann (Pierson) Hays, widow of Grancer’s eldest son, Mansfield Hays (1825 – 1863).  That land lay about two miles north of the property on which this graveyard is located, at the junction of Highway 18 and County Road 13 in what was the Molloy community.  It included the site of the home occupied until shortly before his death in November 2004 by Grancer’s great great grandson, Cloyce Van Hayes.   

Grancer’s estate was administered by his second son, Andrew Jackson Hays (1827 – 1904), husband of Evalina W. Brewer (1829 – 1883).  Evalina was a daughter of Sarah Hickman and Thomas Brewer, both of whom are buried at the Brewer graveyard just south of Asbury Church.  The graves of Evalina and Andrew Jackson Hays have not been located.  After Evalina’s death, Andrew J. married four more times.

 The elder daughter of Grancer was Eliza Jane (1830 - ), who married Jonas O. Gallop in Lowndes County on December 2, 1852.  Eliza was probably the daughter of Grancer’s first wife.  Jonas O. Gallop was son of Jesse Gallop and his unknown first wife.  By 1870, Jonas and Eliza had moved to Monroe County, Mississippi, where they lived the rest of their lives.  They are buried at Lackey Cemetery near Aberdeen.

 As one scholarly paper describes ancient burial practice, even predating the Christian Era, “[t]he body of the suicide has in all times been subject to some sort of penal measures.”  The position of the suicide’s grave to the north of its neighbors is a reflection of the old Catholic and Anglican practice of reading the Gospel from the north side of the sanctuary.  As the same paper states “[t]he underlying idea of this is that the Gospel was preached to ‘call not the righteous, but sinners to repentance.’ Hence the side from which the Gospel is read was delegated to those who, having committed crimes, were in greater need of salvation, and those so buried were said to be ‘out of sanctuary.’"  Likewise, another penalty exacted in the burial of suicides has often been the orientation of the grave so that it faces away from the east, whence shall come the Resurrection and the Judgment. 

 Given that this graveyard is on land he owned and on which he died, and given the burial practices applied to suicides, it is highly probable that the grave located at the north side of this cemetery, separate from the others and oriented north-south, is that of John “Grancer” Hays.

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