Ancestral search leads family to Woolsey to clean slave gravesite

Descendants of Reuben Gay were joined by members of the Fayette County Historical Society and other volunteers in the first day of cleaning slave grave sites at Antioch Baptist Church in Woolsey. Those working in the morning included (Standing L to R) Stanley Blackburn, Donald Grooms, Jr., Donna Hann-McCoy, Rickey Cooper, Nicole Gilbert, James Ray Matthews, Donald Franklin Hann. (Seated L to R) Audury Prayor Clark, Rachel Hann Pittman, and Thomas M. Lee. More helpers came throughout the day, including the pastor the church. (Staff Photo by Christopher Dunn)

A search for ancestral history has brought distant members of a family together to help preserve a vital and forgotten piece of Fayette County’s past.

Studying the history of Reuben Gay and his lineage led his descendants to Antioch Baptist Church in Woolsey, where Gay and other family members attended church, both during and after the slavery era. Ancestors and slaves alike are buried in the cemetery adjacent to the official church cemetery, but the overgrowth had covered up many of the headstones.

Members of the Gay family and the Fayette County Historical Society recently gathered to clean the graves. They attacked the brush covering the headstones, revealing new bits of history such as graves adorned in seashells, a mourning custom enslaved peoples brought with them from Africa.

Cleaning of the cemetery will be an ongoing project to restore it to a previous, more presentable state.

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About

Christopher Dunn has been the sports editor for Fayette Newspapers since 2011, in addition to running Fayette Game Day magazine. He is a graduate of Fayette County schools, as well as a graduate of Georgia State University with a degree in journalism. Follow him on twitter @fayettesports.


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