Cemeteries can be a gold mine for genealogists

Oak Hill Cemetery - Photo by Marc Parker
Oak Hill Cemetery - Photo by Marc Parker

Prattville – Genealogy comes alive in a cemetery, pardon the pun. What I mean to say is, one can gather much information from perusing the headstones of families who have been laid to rest.

A case in point is Prattville’s Oak Hill Cemetery, where you can find the remains of the city’s oldest pioneer (according to her obituary). That was Fannie Holt Davis, who passed away on January 16, 1929, at the age of 89. A niece of Prattville founder Daniel Pratt, she was born in Temple, New Hampshire in 1840, and came south to settle in Prattville. Fannie married Dr. Frank Davis in 1874, but sadly had only six years with him as he died in 1880. Curiously, she never remarried.

Also interred at Oak Hill are husband and wife, Harry Martin Doster and Evelyn Flournoy Doster. Evelyn outlived her husband by almost 49 years, yet she never remarried. Purchasing The Prattville Progress newspaper in 1931, she served as editor and publisher for five years while her husband served in World War II, and then continued as owner and editor after Harry’s death seven years later.

Evelyn’s career spanned 69 years with the newspaper and she retired at the age of 96. She was, at that time, the oldest practicing female journalist. Evelyn was inducted posthumously into the Alabama Newspaper Hall of Honor in 2007.

In that same area, Corrine Doster Alexander is buried. She was born on October 15, 1866, to Charles Springer Graves Doster and Caroline Elizabeth Slaton Doster. Her grandfather, Absalom Doster, migrated from North Carolina to Georgia and finally to Autauga County, Alabama, engaging in the mercantile business and in farming. He served in the War of 1812.

Corrine’s father, Charles, was a justice of the peace, served as Superintendent of Education for Autauga County, and served in the State Legislature, was a circuit judge, and was a large stockholder and a director in the Prattville Cotton Mills and Banking Company. His other accomplishments are too numerous to mention here. Corrine married John Loftin Alexander on June 1, 1892 and they had two children, Cecil and Shirley.

By observing the dates on the headstone of James D. McQueen (September 15, 1837-October 7, 1876) and seeing the Confederate flag also there, we can conclude that James served in the Civil War.

Upon further research it was discovered that James was with the 33rd Alabama Infantry Regiment, Co. H. His twin brother, Samuel, who was killed during the war, served in the same unit. James married Gillie Merrit and a son, John, was born to them. John died on March 15, 1873, his mother died on August 10, 1875, and his father died on October 7, 1876.

Granted, I did not find all of these facts from just perusing headstones in the cemetery. But, I would have to say that it’s a very good place to start.

(This is the first in a series of genealogy articles)

Article by Melissa Parker

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