Stewardship by Angela Boynton Cassidy

In past years, we have introduced each of the major families represented in our cemetery. We have honored our Florida Indian War veterans and our Civil War veterans and told of their service to our country. Pretty soon, we’ll be talking about our more recent veterans.

We’ve had a program on every family except the Perkins and the Bradys, and we would have one on them, too, but we have not had but a couple of visitors from those families.

But this year, we are going to talk about stewardship. We know that our cemetery has been taken care of by dedicated men and women of the Vickers and Walsh families since 1845, when Simeon Vickers’ wife, Nancy, died. Simeon was a son of Joshua and Martha “Patsy” Vickers. They were the first of one Vickers family to come to Florida. Although there is no record of Joshua ever living in Gadsden County, and no record of his death anywhere, we know that his wife, Patsy lived out her old age in Concord. She lived in the home of her son Alfred and was 90 years old on the 1870 census. Patsy first shows up on the 1840 U. S. Census for Gadsden County, with no adult male in the home. So Joshua had probably died, or more likely, he went to Texas, with his son Harris, to get land.

In 1840, Simeon was grown and had already left home. In the 1845 Vickers Family Letter from Ezekiel Vickers to his brother Harris in Texas, Ezekiel gives the family news. He said “Only Simeon had the misfortune to lose his wife.” My mother, Barbara Boynton, has talked to many of the older generation now gone, and she is convinced that Simeon’s wife Nancy is buried here.

For a time, this was known only as the “Vickers Graveyard” because it was just for family and it started out small. From 1845 to 1905, a lot more people were buried here. Many of those people line the top row of the cemetery and the left boundary of the old section, about where the cedar tree is. Their markers of wooden crosses and wooden head boards have rotted away. But they were here when Mama was a little girl and came with her grandparents for cemetery cleaning days.

We don’t exactly know who took care of the cemetery then, but probably everyone pitched in once a year and came to the cemetery to have a cleaning day. There was no such thing as grass in the cemetery then. It was clay and sandspurs. There were big oak trees that shed lots of leaves. In Mama’s childhood, somebody put the word out that there would be a cemetery cleaning next Saturday, and people showed up with rakes and slings and they cut back the weeds and briars and raked up the leaves and burned them. At midday, everyone would sit down and pull out a picnic lunch and eat, and visit among the families grouped on the grounds. My mother and Bobby Ray remember that Mrs. Ettie Vickers Joiner played a significant role in rounding up people to have a cleanup day.

It wasn’t until 1905 that Eli and Mattie Sanders deeded this piece of land known as the Vickers Graveyard to Don Vickers and Walter Walsh, as Trustees for their children and their children’s children through the coming generations.

We know at that time Don Vickers was Don Albin Vickers. He was born in 1847 to Jordan Vickers and Mary Vickers (both named Vickers). In 1905, he was 58 years old, a man of good character and respected by the family, or he would not have been chosen to be the person in charge on behalf of the Vickers family. Perhaps his deeds had already established his leadership and his dedication and he gladly accepted this new, titled role as Trustee.

The Walter Walsh named in the deed as the other Trustee, was not the first Walter who was born on the Atlantic Ocean, but his son, who was called “Walt.” Walt was 47 years old in 1905. Of all the Walsh brothers, he was the most affluent. He had the biggest house in Concord, a big two-story white house just west of the Concord crossroads. He had to, he had 12 children. He didn’t just depend on farming for his livelihood. He also had a freight business and hauled freight and the mail from Cairo. So he had cash coming in regularly and wasn’t at the mercy of the weather to provide him a good living off the land. He probably contributed more to the cemetery cleaning and upkeep than most people because of all the sons he had who could come work.

After 1905 and up to about 25 years ago, we don’t know the names of the persons who were Trustees of the Cemetery. There are no written records, or if there were, they died with Willard Vickers. The only surviving written records when I became a Trustee in 2004, were the deed and the by-laws that had been drafted when Vickers Cemetery became Vickers Cemetery, Inc. Now we have minutes of our annual meetings and copies of the Treasurer’s reports.

One of the staunch supporters of the cemetery was Willard Vickers. Willard was a son of Benjamin Hardy Vickers and a grandson of Don Albin Vickers. Willard was the treasurer, and he guarded the funds of the cemetery so tightly that not even the other Trustees were ever really sure how much money they had. Willard had no children, and after him came his nephew, John E. Vickers, son of Earl. John also took over the treasurer’s position.

Mr. Hardy Vickers’ step-daughter, Annette Barber, was the first woman Trustee. Miss Annette served More than 10 years. We just don’t know how many. She was in failing health this last year, but didn’t want to relinquish her position as a Trustee. I asked her if it was too much for her, and she said no. She died in the position.

Lamar Durden was another of the long-time trustees. Lamar was the son of Tillie Vickers and Marion Durden, and a great-grandson of Alfred Vickers, and a gg-grandson of Martha “Patsy” Vickers. He married Lizzie Walsh and through her became part of the Walter Walsh family. Today, Lamar’s son Bobby is chairman of the Trustees.

Fred Joiner was another Trustee. Fred was the son of Ettie Vickers and John Benjamin Joiner, and a grandson of Don Albin Vickers. With Miss Ettie’s zeal for taking care of the cemetery, Fred either grew a fondness for it or felt a duty to carry on for her. Now that Fred is gone, his son, Dale Joiner is a Trustee.

Do you see the pattern here of passing the stewardship of this cemetery from father to son or uncle to nephew and step-father to step-daughter? Dedication has run strong in these families.

Let’s talk about the current Trustees. We don’t all descend from either Don Albin Vickers or Walt Walsh anymore, but we do all descend from some Walsh or some Vickers.

Bobby Ray, our chairman, descends from Patrick Walsh, son of Walter the first, and also descends from Martha “Patsy” Vickers from one Vickers family and from Bryant Vickers from the other Vickers family. He descends from what we call “the Big Three” families.

Venice Walsh descends from Edward “Ned” Walsh, son of the first Walter Walsh, and also descends from Bryant Vickers from one Vickers family and from Don Albin Vickers in the Martha “Patsy” Vickers line. He also comes from “the Big Three” families.

Douglas Walsh descends from Walt Walsh the junior, the one named in the deed. Douglas’ father was Loren Walsh, one of those boys of Walt and Mary Catherine’s. Through Walt Walsh, he also descends from Bryant Vickers. Douglas was cheated—he only comes from two of the Big Three Families.

Dale Joiner’s great-grandfather was Don Albin Vickers. Since Don Albin’s father, Jordan was from the Bryant Vickers family and Don Albin’s mother, Mary, was from the Martha “Patsy” Vickers line, Dale descends from two of the “Big Three” families.

My aunt Donna Warlick and I didn’t inherit a spot on the Board of Trustees through our parents or grandparents. We both sort of pushed our way in, because we came to the Board when the Concord Chruch decided not to let the Vickers Cemetery Trustees or the Concord Cemetery Trustees hold their fundraising activities at the church anymore. I have a lot of fundraising experience through Kiwanis club and the Daylily Society, and I knew I could help raise money for this cemetery. I dragged my aunt Donna along for the ride. She had also been the president of the daylily society in Tallahassee, and had done fund raising of her own. We asked the current Trustees if we could try to raise money for the cemetery by writing the descendants of people buried here and just asking them for a donation. They were skeptical but said go ahead. The first year, we received more money than the Vickers Fish Fry had ever made, and no one had to fry one fish or clean out one greasy pot. After two years, the Trustees had two openings on the Board and they voted us in as Trustees. Both of us descend from Patrick Walsh, a son of the first Walter Walsh and brother to the Walt Walsh in the deed. Through Patrick Walsh, we also descend from Bryant Vickers. We descend from only two of the Big Three Families.

After Miss Annette Barber died earlier this year, we had an opening on the Board and we needed to find one more Trustee. Last year we started a Trustees in Training program for this cemetery. Its purpose was to find younger people who descend from the Walsh or Vickers families and groom them to become Trustees one day. We had a Sunday afternoon of training here in the cemetery on the rules of the cemetery, the by-laws of the corporation, the finances, and the guidelines we use to determine whether someone can be buried in this cemetery. Two of Bobby Ray’s children, Augusta Bostick and Pat Durden, attended, and my two children, Jessica Miller and Casey Smith attended. When Miss Annette died, all we had to do is ask which of those four could commit to this job at this time in their lives. Casey was able to. He was voted in as a Trustee in July at our annual meeting.

He has already proved to be handy for he is the one who figured out how to mount our historical marker and poured the concrete footer for it. It’s good to have those younger backs helping us out.

We will probably have another Trustees in Training program in the spring, so be thinking about a young person in your family who would make a good Trustee. The only requirements are to attend the annual meeting and vote on issues, and to come whenever we have a work day, which is not all that often anymore.

So now we have a historical marker to commemorate the 165 years of stewardship that our ancestors have provided for this cemetery, and it also states the names of the trustees today, Bobby Ray, Venice, Douglas, Dale, Donna, Casey, and me, Angela. Our written record is finally here for everyone to see. Because we are a corporation, we have to keep written records. So, in the future, all of the workings of the Vickers Cemetery, Inc. will be recorded for our children and our children’s children down through the coming generations.

Please join us as we unveil our historical marker and take a photograph of the Trustees gathered around it.

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