Decoration Day

By:  Barbara Woolbright Carruth


It has long been a tradition at most of our cemeteries in the county to decorate the graves at least once a year. The month of May is filled with Sundays when graves are decorated, and families are united.

"Decoration Day" began, and continues, as a day to remember those who died in the nation's service. It was first officially observed on May 30, 1868, when flowers were placed on the graves of Civil War veterans. Loved ones, other than the veterans are remembered as well. Decorating the graves with spring flowers and “dinner on the ground” were once a widespread part of the Lamar County scene. These traditions remains alive today. Pictured is the Blaylock Cemetery located northwest of Sulligent right on the AL/MS line. Photo courtesy of Casey Carruth.

I remember when I was a child going to the “Decoration” and seeing my grandmother carry fresh cut roses from her yard and placing them on the graves of her loved ones. She took pride in seeing that each grave in the cemetery had at least one flower. The graveyard at the Evans Cemetery was sweep clean and the graves were covered with white sand.

People would stand among the graves, exchanging memories. Some traveled a long distance to come to the decoration and there was always lots of hugging and handshaking done.

Many churches that had a cemetery would have “Dinner on the Ground” on “Decoration Day”. Our cemetery didn’t have a church, but I can remember “Dinner on the Ground” on other occasions . “Dinner on the ground” has elevated from the ground to tables inside a “fellowship hall” in most places today. We would have dinner at our church, the Shiloh North Methodist Church, outside on a long table near large trees. This table would be filled with food from the cars, such as fried chicken, potato salad, green beans, cream corn, fried apple pies and other pies and cakes. The best lemonade I ever drank was made by my Mother and carried to church in a gallon jug. Before cars, the food was brought by buggy or wagon. The people would eat, sitting with their back against a tree or find a car hood that served as a table. There is something about eating food outdoors and with a crowd, it seems to taste better.

Sometimes we would have singing after the dinner. Gospel quartets who had gained a reputation with gospel singing fans would fill the church with their singing and these sounds would float outside. If the church was filled, some would be sitting outside listening. My Mother told me that she and her friends “courted” at outings such as these.

As I am writing, I am reminded how blessed I am to be living here in this special place of Lamar County, Alabama, where everybody calls you by name, waves when they pass you on the road, and our traditions are kept alive. Several of Lamar County Cemeteries are posted online. Check my cemetery page.

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