Possum Hollow Cemetery
This map (not included) shows the
S. E. quarter of Madison Co. Alabama. The black lines are the main and secondary
highways. The blue outlines the river -Tennessee, Flint and Paint Rock Rivers.
The green lines encircles the main mountains - a part of the Allegheny range. Take
highway 431out of Huntsville. You cross over the Monte Sano Mountain and drop down into a valley about 12 miles
long and from 3 to 5 miles in width with Owens Cross Roads almost in the center. From there you can see
mountains in all directions. It was here that John Ritchie Inman and his wife Jane
Walker Inman came in 1814 following their marriage in Jefferson Co. Tenn. They traveled the
Tennessee River and staked out their claim in "Possum Hollow" where wood was plentiful, a good stream
and bottom land to clear for crops. Here they had 16 children in 20 years, the two oldest (twins) perishing in a fire
that destroyed their home on Christmas Eve in 1811.
In 1825 a group of families from Brunswick Co. Va. moved into the valley, among them George B. Woodruff and his two half-grown sons, Joseph Phipps Woodruff and Benjamin Allen Woodruff. Within a few years the Woodruff boys married two of the daus. of John R. Inman. In 1842, after Salley, wife of George B. Woodruff, died, he married a third daughter, a young widow with four children, and raised a second family.
In 1832, with the birth of her last child, Jane Walker Inman died and was buried at the foot of Green Mt. near their homestead. John R. died in 1837 and was buried beside his wife. Native stones marked their graves as was the case of about 20 other graves, and a fence was placed around the small plot.
In 1843 the Woodruff families and the younger Inman children pulled up stakes and moved to Franklin Co. Missouri and I believe at this time marble head stones wore erected to the Inman parents. The homesteads fell into ruin and the land was incorporated into a large plantation with farm hands tending the corn and cotton crops. The cemetery was soon forgotten.
I checked with several middle aged residents of Owens Cross Roads and while they knew of Possom Hollow they were not aware of a cemetery. Robert Craft, a retired postmaster, recalled visiting a the cemetery in his youth, perhaps 60 years ago. He knew the general direction but uncertain as to the exact location. A farm hand on the plantation owned by Wilson Mann recalled the old grave yard and volunteered to direct us.
We crossed a bridge over Flint River, west of Owens Cross Roads turned sharply and dropped down on a black top road used by the owners of a Rock Quarry located in the hollow. A gate was padlocked across the road, but we had secured the necessary key. After a mile or so we took a dirt road that veered off to the right and followed along the foot of the mountain. Is is seldom traveled except when necessary to tend the crops and was overgrown with wild
grasses. We crossed over a creek and entered "Possum Hollow." We continued driving around the edge of the mountain and came to a second creek, practically dry but a steep incline caused us to decide to park our car and continue on foot. We crossed the muddy creek bed, followed along the edge of a large corn field, perhaps the distance of a quarter of a mile, wading through knee high grasses and weeds. We came armed with hoes and clubs because we were warned of rattle snakes, so kept a sharp look out.
As we neared the foot of the mountain our guide pointed out the tops of several tall pines showing above the forest that marked the spot. We followed our guide up the mountain about the distance of a long city block in the direction of the pines. The trees were crowded together, growing skyward instead of branching outward, Actually there was little underbrush due to the lack of sunshine and only an occasional patch filtered through the canopy above. A thick cushion of old leaves covered the ground.
Here we found the pioneer graveyard with about 20 field stone markers. As I said, at one time it had been enclosed with a wire fence but there remained no evidence of one. The only two commercial stones were:
| John R. Inman
July 5, 1788
March 4, 1837
|Jane W. Inman
March 17, 1791
It has been proven that Jane died in 1832 at the
birth of her last child, Mary, and the stone erected at a later date. The stones were
of marble, about 2 by 3 feet in size and mounted on a small base. They were well
preserved due to the protection of the forest, but discolored with age and moss.. Jane's
stone was broken in two midway, but we replaced it for pictures, then propped
the top half against the base to keep it from falling. John's stone was
lying flat on the ground, the slope of the ground made it next to impossible for it to
stay erect. We took pictures then returned it to former position. Thrown against a nearby tree
was the broken foot-marker bearing the initials "J.R.I." and this Howard picked up and brought back
with him. We figured that since these were his great, great grandparents,
he wanted to preserve it, and that many years may pass before anyone finds their
way to the cemetery, let alone have an interest in it. I picked up several pine
cones from the area.
The guide told us that if we followed the 2nd. creek we would come to the remains of the old homestead about a quarter of a mile or less up the side of the mountain. It was in the last stages of decay when he was a child and doubted if we could find much. This was without a doubt the homestead of the Inman's but because of the snakes I hesitated to go that far into the woods. I do knew that pioneer families buried their dead within a half mile of the house.
On the return trip we stopped at another place about a mile from the cemetery where our guide recalled another pioneer graveyard, all field stone markers. We fanned out in all four directions but were unable to locate it. As I study the map it appears to be located in section 26 which would be the land owned by Joseph Phipps Woodruff in 1835. We clocked our mileage and we had traveled 3.7 miles into the woods after leaving the black top road. This would be in a S. W. direction from Owens Cross Roads.
For the sake of a good story and for those that might ask, we did see a snake. Not a coiled up rattler ready to strike, but a little gray timber snake about 18 inches in length, that wiggled off in one direction while I ran in the opposite.
Mrs. Howard W. Woodruff
On file at:
Mid-Continent Public Library