An army of umbrella-clad community members took the Fort Stewart training area by storm on Wednesday for a glimpse into coastal Georgia’s past. Despite the soggy start to the day, the rain took a back seat to the deep woods adventure that made up the latest Fort Stewart Fall Cemetery Tour.
Over 40 community members visited Fort Stewart, Nov. 29 for the annual tour that featured eight cemeteries, each belonging to communities that once resided on the 288,000 acres of land that is now called Fort Stewart.
Settled in the late 1700s, more than 300 families thrived within the bustling coastal Georgia communities on the land; most of which included homes, schools, general stores, churches, and of course, cemeteries. When the Army acquired the land in 1940, the families relocated their communities— inevitably leaving their cemeteries behind. Today, the 60 cemeteries across the installation are the only remaining visual proof that the communities ever existed.
During the tour, participants had the opportunity to visit Corinth, Little Creek, Letford, Shuman, Rimes, Warnell, Thomas Hill, and Strum Bay cemeteries.
In an effort to preserve the rich history of the communities, and to share the past with the present, the Fort Stewart Cemetery and Historic Communities Council hosts Fall and Spring cemetery tours each year. The tours treat visitors and community-connected families with the opportunity to learn about the history of the area. Many are also afforded the opportunity to reconnect with the place where their families first began.
“It’s such a surreal feeling to be here today— knowing that this is where my family came from,” said Myra Burnsed Ammermon, the great, great granddaughter of William Spier, who owned 8,800 acres of land in the Little Creek community. Spanning across both Little Creek and Clyde communities, Spier and his family are buried in the Little Creek cemetery.
“It’s nice to come back to hear the stories and see the graves of our ancestors and know that they worked hard for what they had,” she said. “These tours are a great way to keep the history alive and give us something to share with our kids.”
Ammerman was just one of many family members to attended Wednesday’s tour. Several others came equipped with family history records, stories, and cameras; excited to have a hand in keeping their family heritage alive.
Donald Lovette, a local historian, Fort Stewart Cemetery and Historic Communities Council co-chair, and Chairman of the Liberty County Board of Commissioners, has been visiting the area and it’s cemeteries since the 1980s.
“All of the cemeteries are special to us,” he said. “My personal involvement is within the Pleasant Grove Cemetery in the Taylors Creek Village area, but I like to take the opportunity to visit every time there’s a tour no matter what cemetery we go to. It’s so informative. I love to hear the stories and meet the families who travel from all over the country to take the tour.”
While visiting Strum Bay, Lovette was also able to locate an additional relative, Henry Cassells, who is buried in the cemetery, further embedding his family’s roots into the land.
The cemeteries are preserved by the Fort Stewart Directorate of Public Works Environmental Division’s Cultural Resources Branch, in partnership with the Fort Stewart Cemetery and Historic Communities Council.
Lovett applauded Fort Stewart’s efforts to host the bi-annual cemetery tours and for the dedication to the preservation and upkeep of the cemetery grounds. All done in an effort to preserve what’s left of the lost communities.
“Even though the communities are long gone, the ties and the sentiment to them is still alive,” he said. “I’m honored to be a part of the visits and honored to be part of the stories that are keeping the history alive so these places never die.”
The tour ended at Trent Field on the main cantonment area to visit with Soldiers from the 3rd Infantry Division and experience the Marne Week static displays. The experience offered participants a better glimpse into what the acquired land became— home to an essential fighting force of the U.S. Army.
To learn more about the cemeteries on Fort Stewart, visit home.army.mil/stewart/index.php/about/Garrison/DPW/environmental/prevention-and-compliance/crm. Those who are interested in participating in future tours can receive more information by emailing Dina.m.McKain.firstname.lastname@example.org.