Lamar County, Alabama
Number 174 on the 2002 Cemetery Map of Lamar County.
Recorded June 17, 2002 by Kawatha Chandler Koonce and James W. Dierking; resurveyed Sep. 3, 2005 by Kawatha Chandler Koonce, James W. Dierking, and Paul Hays.
Directions: From Highway 18 about 8 miles west of Vernon, turn south on Prospect Road for 0.7 miles, then north on Hopper Hollow Road another 0.7 miles. The cemetery is located in woods behind a house on the property of Mrs. Audie Richards. Request permission of the owner before going to the site.
This graveyard contains only one formal tombstone. Mrs. Richards recalls that at one time there were 4 or 5 graves, and that the only names were Hays. There appear to be three or four graves marked by fieldstones in a row beside the inscribed stone, and others identifiable by depressions in the ground and fieldstone markers. One grave is located about ten yards north and west of the others, and unlike the others, it is oriented north and south.
The one tombstone reads:
W. L. Hays
Born Dec. 25, 1829
Died April 11, 1891
Thy virtue and thy worth
Shall fond remembrance cheer
And ease the aching heart
That drops the fallen tear.
William Lafayette Hays was the youngest of three sons of John “Grancer” Hays and his first wife, who remains unknown. Lafayette was a farmer and schoolteacher, and frequent lender of cash to neighbors who needed the means to “make a crop.” Several of those loans are recorded at the county courthouse.
Lafayette remained a bachelor until four months before his death. On December 18, 1890, he married Sarah Catherine “Kate” Vail, daughter of Julia Ann Bradley and the Rev. Michael E. Vail, the first pastor of the Mount Pleasant Freewill Baptist Church. The marriage took place at the home of Kate’s brother, Jeremiah Wilmot Vail.
It would appear that Kate was the mother of as many as seven of Lafayette’s children, stretching back to 1876, although the record of Lafayette’s estate mentions only three surviving children.
John “Grancer” Hays is also presumed to be buried in this graveyard, on land he patented in 1838. He had patented adjacent lands in 1834 and 1835. The property eventually was sold by Grancer’s estate, probably after the death of his surviving second wife, Mahala. Mahala was living on the property at the time of the 1870 census with the younger of her two daughters, Sarah Hays Cast. Mahala’s elder daughter, Eliza Jane, was the wife of Jonas O. Gallop.
Grancer was born in South Carolina in 1804, a son of Lazarus Hays and his unknown first wife. Grancer died on this property in 1864, by hanging himself in his barn.
His estate was not finally settled until 1877, when the last of his property was sold to his daughter-in-law, Sarah Ann (Pierson) Hays, widow of Grancer’s eldest son, Mansfield Hays (1825 – 1863). That land lay about two miles north of this at the junction of Highway 18 and County Road 13, and included the site of the home occupied until shortly before his death in November 2004 by Grancer’s great great grandson, Cloyce Van Hayes. The Administrator of Grancer’s estate was his second son, Andrew Jackson Hays (1827 – 1904).
As one scholarly paper describes ancient burial practice, even predating the Christian Era, “The body of the suicide has in all times been subject to some sort of penal measures.” The position of the suicide’s grave to the north of its neighbors is a reflection of the old Catholic and Anglican practice of reading the Gospel from the north side of the sanctuary. As the same paper states “The underlying idea of this is that the Gospel was preached to ‘call not the righteous, but sinners to repentance.’ Hence the side from which the Gospel is read was delegated to those who, having committed crimes, were in greater need of salvation, and those so buried were said to be ‘out of sanctuary.’” Likewise, another penalty exacted in the burial of suicides has often been the orientation of the grave so that it faces away from the east, whence shall come the Resurrection and the Judgment.
For these reasons, it may be assumed that the grave located on the north of this cemetery, separate from the others and oriented north-south, is that of John “Grancer” Hays.