TEXT OF GROVE CEMETERY MARKER
Sign Script: (written by Lee Ann Bain, Daniel Island Historical Society, Board Member – Community Outreach, and historical review by Michael K. Dahlman, Daniel Island Historical Society – Co-founder and Board Member, co-author of the book, Daniel Island.)
“Grove Cemetery sits on land that was once part of the Lesesne Plantation, though the name of the land was changed to Grove Plantation sometime between 1840-1859. Up to 50 individuals are estimated to be buried here. Many of these graves are not marked with traditional headstones. Typical burial sites are identified by grave depressions and mound graves. Simple wooden headstones were often used, or the grave sites would have been marked with traditional African American goods such as dishes, shells, plants, iron pipes, and personal items. In the Gullah culture, it is believed a spirit cannot rest if something they desire has been left behind. This custom of satisfying the spirit with worldly possessions can be traced to African origins. Grove cemetery is the resting place for some of the relatives of the late Philip Simmons, a renowned master blacksmith who was born on Daniel Island in 1912.”
MORE ON GROVE CEMETERY
As you walk through Grove Cemetery you will notice many traditional headstones and various grave depressions and mound graves. What is missing today is the grave decorations. Traditional African-American goods such as dishes, shells, plants, iron pipes and personal items were placed on the graves of the deceased. In Africa as well as in the Gullah culture there is a strong belief that a deceased relative has the ability to return. It is important to help keep the soul at “rest” and the spirit of the deceased will not be able to rest unless it is satisfied. Without their personal items, the spirit will be compelled to come to back to retrieve them. The Gullah culture believes that a person has 2 spirits; “heaven going” and the “trabblin”. The traveling spirit is the one to be concerned about. They would be the ones to torment the living and are considered evil. Therefore to appease that spirit, the last items used by the person will be placed on or in the grave. To also help break those earthly ties, the practice of thoroughly cleaning the deceased’s house is very important. In the past, broken pottery or a broken wooden wagon wheel would be found on the graves. (Even today you will see floral arrangements in the shape of a broken wagon wheel.) These items represent the spiritual release and break from their worldly life.
To help keep that trabblin’ spirit on the other side, certain prickly plants were use such as Yuccas or thorny bushes. This makes it difficult for the spirit to roam freely in the cemetery. Sweet smelling bushes such as the Gardenia are also used to keep them in their final resting place. In one account of African- American folklore, mention is made of a silver coffin-plate inscribed with the name of the deceased that is believed to help confine the spirit to its proper resting place within the coffin.
Other objects such as clocks, mirrors or glass items that are placed on top of a grave have a different meaning. Clocks became a popular symbol in the 1900s. The time on the face represents the time that the deceased passed or the time was set for 12, the time to wake the dead on Judgement Day. (Today you will see the use of flowers or Styrofoam to make the clock faces.) This symbolism is a combination of Christian (Judgement Day) and African (the relationship of the object to the deceased) beliefs.
Whereas glass and mirrors are reflective items that show the “mirror image” of this life and the light that comes from these items represent the spirit. This light implies the spirits entrance to the spiritual world where all is light and brilliance.
In Africa, the BaKongo religion believes that the dead inhabit villages which are located under river beds or lake bottoms. Many of the objects such as pitchers, cups, bottles placed on graves can be in some way associated with water. The placement of mirrors also relates to water, which represents the smooth reflective surface of a lake or river.
Sea shells, when placed on a grave, create an image of a river bottom. The shells can also be traced back to another African belief of the BaKongo tribe. This belief is that the sea shell enclosed the soul’s immortal presence. The Gullah people say “The Sea brought us, the sea shall take us back. So the shells upon our graves stand for water, the means of glory and the land of demise.” To those enslaved, death was an escape forever from the bonds of servitude and a return to the ancestral spirt home.
The new century has caused some African American traditions to change but many have survived today and are perhaps a way to preserve ones ethnic identity. Does the realm of the dead truly have an impact on the living?
YOU MAY WANT TO LEARN MORE AT OUR PAGE: DANIEL ISLAND CEMETERIES CLICK HERE
Here’s a partial list of who is buried in Grove Cemetery (this is a work in progress). Many of these entries have links to photos of the grave stones or markers
Mrs. Lucielle F. Coleman
1906 – 1965
Stone inscription: None (metal marker)
September 10, 1894 – April 10, 1952
Stone inscription: PVC Labor Battalion USA WWI
Photo of stone/marker: https://billiongraves.com/grave/EDWARD-BURNS/35048521
Unknown birthdate – February 2, 1964
Photo of stone/marker: https://billiongraves.com/grave/ROSA-BURNS/35048680
March 22, 1903 – April 7, 1947
Stone inscription: At rest
Photo of stone/marker: https://billiongraves.com/grave/BEN-CREWS/35048485
November 4, 1906 – April 4, 1927
Stone inscription: none
Photo of stone/marker: https://billiongraves.com/grave/Sarah-Frost/35048722
August 15, 1872 – October 8, 1957
Stone inscription: At rest
Photo of stone/marker: https://billiongraves.com/grave/NANCY-MITCHELL/35048482
AJANI ADEMIWA OFUNNIYIN
December 12, 1952 – October 7, 2020
Stone inscription: Son, Brother, Father, Grandfather, and Master Visionary.
<<Note, Ajani was known throughout the community as “Dr. O” and worked tirelessly to advocate for the preservation of African American cemeteries and the Gullah-Geechee culture. His stone also features designs inspired by those created by his grandfather, the late Master Blacksmith Philip Simmons. Many of his ancestors are buried in this cemetery.>>
Links to more info on “Dr O”:
Unknown birthdate – December 28, 1958
Photo of stone/marker:
Unknown birthdate – August 15, 1969
July 8, 1895 – August 31, 1958
Stone inscription: PVT US Army
Photo of stone/marker: https://billiongraves.com/grave/APRIL-SHAW/35048534
February 21, 1871 – January 31, 1927
Stone inscription: Deacon of Mary Ann Baptist Church, Get Behind Me Satan…
Photo of stone/marker: https://billiongraves.com/grave/CUPEID-SHAW/35048464
1875 (estimate) – June 12, 1928
Stone inscription: 53 years
Photo of stone/marker: https://billiongraves.com/grave/HANNAH-SHAW/35048441
1900 (estimate) – August 15, 1864
Stone inscription: Age 64 years
Photo of stone/marker: https://billiongraves.com/grave/EVA-SIMMONS/35048572
1884 (estimate) – 1942
Stone inscription: At rest
Photo of stone/marker: https://billiongraves.com/grave/HENRY-SIMMONS/35048458
Unknown birthdate – December 26, 1957
Photo of stone/marker:
1854 (estimate) – 1941
Stone inscription: <<No known markings, but of note is that William Simmons was the grandparent of Philip Simmons, a legendary Master Blacksmith who was born on Daniel Island in 1912.>>
Photo of stone/marker: https://billiongraves.com/grave/WILLIAM-SIMMONS/35048454
April 15, 1897 – July 12, 1961
Stone inscription: Company A, 346 Service Battalion, QMC World War I <<Note: William was born on Daniel Island to William and Sarah Simmons. He worked for the Virginia Chemical Company in Charleston in June 1918.>>
Photo of stone/marker: https://billiongraves.com/grave/WILLIAM-SIMMONS/35048508
January 26, 1927 – December 30, 1935
Stone inscription: Born in New York, She is not dead but sleepeth
Photo of stone/marker: https://billiongraves.com/grave/LULA-WILLIAMS/35048491