MOULTRIE — Cemeteries trace down the ages and can give us a sense of place and purpose. They are a place of reverence, an expression of respect for those who went before us, those whose mere existence has shaped the world through which we now move.

Preserving history and the eternal rest of those who go before us takes money, and Moultrie’s Westview Cemetery, the burial ground of some of the county’s most prominent families, is a little worse for wear.

The ladies of the Morning Glory Garden Club are seeking $100,000 from individuals, businesses and industries to beautify and preserve Westview. Although the City of Moultrie owns and maintains the cemetery, it can’t afford to fully improve the grounds, club members said.

“We’re hoping to involve the whole community in this improvement,” said Joan Gay, chairman of the project.

The garden club has been organizing this project in conjunction with the City of Moultrie and a group of advisers for a year now, said promotion coordinator Evelyn Vereen, visiting other cemeteries to get ideas.

Morning Glory Garden Club plans a three-phase approach as money comes in. Phase One will create two main entrances to the cemetery while maintaining the current entrances. The main entrance will be distinguished with a sign at the corner of Goff Drive and Seventh Avenue Southwest, and the second main entrance will be constructed at the newer portion of the cemetery to the south. The cemetery has never been marked with a sign, Gay said.

The eastern border along Goff Drive will be lined with brick posts and cast iron fencing between each established entrance. The fencing will wrap the corner and continue down Seventh Avenue Southwest until it abuts the existing shrubbery.

Phase Two is to landscape the entrances; embellish a park within the cemetery with shrubbery, a gazebo and walking paths; plant a canopy of trees that have roots that grow straight down so no gravesites would be damaged; and improve irrigation. Club members will guide the city in major trimming and removal of dead wood to enhance the beauty of past efforts that other garden clubs have brought to the cemetery.

Phase Three is the installation of a chain link fence to the southern and western borders. The club hopes that the back fences will cut down on the problematic traffic through the property. The cemetery is a target of vandalism and litter and can be unsafe. There have been reports of young people harassing elder citizens visiting graves, Gay said.

So far, the City of Moultrie has taken down ugly, rusty road markers and has been repairing uneven terrain, she said.

In the city’s early years in the mid-19th century, the custom was to bury the dead on the west end of town. Horse-drawn buggies carried the dead down a wide, grand entrance thickly bordered with pines to family plots, some fenced off. The oldest gravesite is believed to be that of an infant girl from the family of A.C. Darling. Darling operated a saw mill at Kingwood. The 9-month-old baby died in September 1894, poisoned from eating matches.

Later the cemetery became public, and lots were sold. In 1942, the name changed from Moultrie Cemetery to Westview, and at some point, the fire department took over lot sales.

One of the most notable monuments in the cemetery is a marble statue of a mother smiling down at an infant. The image and story of the Madonna and Child of Westview is at once as hard as the stone from which it’s cut and as soft as the quiet smile the likeness of Charlie Etta Burney Hinson steadfastly gives her babe.

Moultrie belle Charlie Etta died in childbirth in 1917 only 10 months after she and Jack Hinson of Jacksonville, Fla., a representative of Brown and Bigelow Co., spirited away to the First Baptist Church parsonage and were privately wed. She was in her early 20s. Heartbroken, Jack commissioned an artist in Italy to replicate in marble his beloved wife and child.

Charlie Etta’s father, as the story goes, was unwilling to allow his daughter to rest under “foreign stone” and persuaded Jack to cover the grave in Georgia marble as a base for the imported statue.

Forty-three Confederate veterans are buried in the cemetery, according to research by Confederate enthusiast Keith Taylor. Two veterans’ graves in the United Daughters of the Confederacy lot don’t have headstones, but, in an unrelated effort, the UDC plans to recognize these soldiers during a Confederate Memorial Service planned for Sunday, April 23.

Also, more than 40 Woodmen of World are buried there, Gay said.

Donations for the project are tax deductible and can be made as memorials. The city has set up a separate account for the project. Checks should be made out to Westview Cemetery Project/City of Moultrie and sent to Morning Glory Garden Club, P.O. Box 1373, Moultrie, GA 31776.

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