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Reaves Chapel Cemetery, Church 

and School History


Reaves Chapel Church 2005

Wilcox County, AL

Information on the Reaves Chapel Methodist Church, School and Cemetery was written by Florence Lambrecht Swanson. Mrs. Swanson is a direct descendant of James Leon Reaves, the founder of Reaves Chapel Church and has done quite a bit of research on her family. 


This report is not only devoted to the listing of graves in the Reeves (Reaves) Chapel Cemetery and the Reeves-Farish-Mallard Cemetery, the first cemetery of the immediate community, but is also an attempt to record a brief history of Reaves Chapel Methodist Church and the Reaves Chapel School.

The work was undertaken because of the belief that there should be a written record of the many graves in the two cemeteries and of the knowledge that if not done now that, with the passing of the present senior citizens of the community, the early history of the area and the identity of those resting in the unmarked graves would be lost forever to the present and all future generations.

It is by no means a complete record of all graves in the two cemeteries, but every effort was made to research, identify and record information as accurately as possible.  There may be mistakes, information and dates inaccurate and some information left out as, in many instances, all attempts to locate information and records failed.

Many of those resting in these hallowed grounds were amont the pioneer settlers of Wilcox and Monroe Counties, having migrated here before 1820 and through the 1850's from South Carolina, North Carolina, Kentucky, Tennessee and Georgia, in the main.  These early settlers braves many hardships for the safety of their families and for the privilege to settle here and establish homes. 

This report is a memorial to our ancestors, a symbol of our love and respect, and of the belief that there is Eternal Life.

"For God so loved the world,

that he gave his only begotten Son

that whosoever believeth in him

should not perish, but have

everlasting life

 John 3:16

Reaves Chapel Cemetery

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Reaves Chapel Cemetery was established in conjunction with Reaves Chapel Methodist Church on land received by James Leon Reaves and wife, Sarah S. Vinson Reaves, under U.S. Land Patent Certificate No. 40,863, dated December 1, 1852 and deeded to the church by their son, Jesse Thomas, and his wife, Elizabeth F. Caldwell Reaves, in 1901.

The cemetery is listed in Sections "A" through "D" for the area now in use on the left of the church, and "E" through "I" for the new area on the right side.  At this date, no graves are located in the new area, Sections "E" through "I".  This arrangement in sections was followed because graves are not in exact rows and it was thought necessary to aid in the location and identification of them.

Names are listed in alphabetical order with section and grave number given.  Family information not found on marker is enclosed in brackets.  For location and identification, check alphabetical list for name, then refer to the grave and section number on the cemetery chart.  Family information was obtained from marriage records, family Bibles and records, and from senior citizens in the area.

There are 245 known graves in Reaves Chapel Cemetery; 232 identified, marked and unmarked, and 13 unidentified and unmarked.  Unmarked graves were identified by Mrs. Ora Thompson Kennedy, Mrs. Edna Tait, Mrs. Minnie Knight Jordan, Mr. Jesse T. Reaves, and Mr. Henry Geck.

It is reported by senior citizens that one of the first persons to be buried in Reaves Chapel Cemetery was a Mr. Tucker (or a Mr. Freeman), there is some confusion concerning the name, in about 1870 (?) in an unmarked grave.  E. A. Tucker married Mary Moore October 14, 1860 (Wilcox County Marriage Records, Vol. 4, page 360).  Mrs. Mary L. Tucker listed in the 1870 Wilcox County Census, Blacks Bluff Beat, married Whitman Cotton February 14, 1871 (Wilcox County Marriage Records, Vol. 9, page 68).

The earliest marked graves in Reaves Chapel Cemetery (marked until 1978) are Betty Sue Reaves, March 3, 1872, and Bobby and Charley Reaves, December 18, 1874, all children of Jesse Thomas Reaves.  It is thought that they were buried in the old cemetery.  Other graves in the cemetery with dates from 1875-1900 re:

John Carter, January 22, 1875, and Hattie Carter, October 19, 1875; Violet Brown Reaves, first wife of James Davis Reaves, 1880 (unmarked); Russell, son of John and Buford mcMurphy, March 23, 1882; Bartlett, son of Bartlett & Rosa J. Peavy, August 2, 1882; Nora, daughter of John & Buford McMurphy, February 21, 1883; Willie Bell Moore, child of N.F. & Buford McMurphy, February 21, 1883; Willie Bell Moore, child of N. F. & A.P. Moore, September 13, 1884; Nannie, daughter of John and Buford McMurphy, April 5, 1885; Hillard Hunter, son of John and Buford McMurphy, December 5, 1888; Wm. M. Lee, 1889; Alfred Monroe Martin, 1890; Sarah Caroline Kennedy, 1890; Daniel Joseph Martin, June 27, 1892; John McMurphy, Oct. 1, 1892; Mrs. E. A. (Eugenia A.) Reaves, first wife of John W. Reaves, October 10, 1892; Mary Geck Rayburn, 1893; Ellen Alabama Preston, April 18, 1894; Julius Edna Stillings, July 25, 1894; Sarah A., daughter of E.S. & T. L. Farish, September 13, 1895; Twins of Wesley Peavy, 1896; Frances Ann Rebecca McIntosh, 1897 (unmarked); Thomas S. Knight, 1900; Wesley E. Peavy, August 7, 1900; and Tommie Lee Preston Farish, wife of E. S. Farish, Jr. No. 2, September 11, 1900.

Graves are marked with granite pillows, elaborate slabs and monuments with professional carvings and beautiful epitaphs, simple concrete markers with lettering, some with simple white stone or brick, and a number with just a mound of dirt or no trace of grave left.

The ownership and management of the church and cemetery property is now in the hands of the Reaves Memorial Chapel and Cemetery Association under the direction of a board of trustees.  Individual members of the association assist in the care and maintenance of the church and cemetery. 

Reaves Chapel Church was discontinued May 31, 1970.  The following is quoted from the report to The Annual Conference, Alabama-West Florida Conference, January 1, 1970-December 31, 1970:

"Reaves Chapel, Church No. 2-D, Fred M. Folkes, Pastor, Selma District, Beatrice Charge.  Total members reported at close of last year, 29.  Removed by Charge Conference Action or withdrawn, 29. (Quarterly Conference Minutes for 1970, Beatrice Charge, Beatrice, Ala.)

Reaves Memorial Chapel and Cemetery Association

Former members and descendants of those buried in the cemetery, concerned about the future of the church and cemetery, organized The Reaves Memorial Chapel and Cemetery Association April 20, 1974 under the leadership of Rev. Robert G. Ross, (son of Mrs. Ruth Kennedy Ross, and grandson of Mrs. Ora Thompson Kennedy) Methodist Minister, and petitioned the Alabama-West Florida Methodist Conference for title to the property.

The Trustees of the Alabama-West Florida Conference of the United Methodist Church approved the transfer of the property to The Reaves Memorial Chapel and Cemetery Association in regular session at Huntingdon College, Montgomery, Alabama May 30, 1974.(from Journal of The Alabama-West Florida Annual Conference, The United Methodist Church, May 28-30, 1974, Beatrice Charge, Beatrice, Ala.)

Reaves Chapel School

The original Reaves Chapel Church, a log structure, was used as a church and school until it was destroyed by fire in about 1890-1895.  After the church burned and during the time the new church was being constructed, children in the community attended a one-room school behind the Samuel Ross Thompson, Sr. home.

Mrs. Harriett Issie Reaves Thompson said that her father, William McDaniel Reaves, Sr. told her that one of his teachers was a Mr. Hinson from Blacks Bend.  She also said that Mr. Tom J. Daily, who married her aunt Mary Elizabeth Reaves in 1885, was one of her teachers.

As was customary in the middle-to late-1800's, families of a community hired a teacher and their children attended school from the first grade until the teacher would no longer accept them, which was about the seventh grade.  Some students then attended schools in Mobile, Selma, Montevallo and some even returned to South Carolina to further their education.


With the construction of the present church, a one-room school was built to the right of and behind the church.

Teachers lived or boarded with families in the neighborhood and either walked, rode a horse, or drove a buggy to and from school each day.  Some of the teachers who taught in Reaves Chapel School, or a school in the immediate vicinity, are listed, not in order of their tenure, however:

Mr. (?) Hinson                                                    Miss Frances Emma Reaves

Dr. T. Y. Abernathy                                             Miss Alyce Havens

Mr. Tom J. Daily                                                  Mr. A. B. Oakley

Mr. John McDaniel                                                Mr. Jodie Vaughn

Mr. John Pulliam Vaughn                                       Miss Ella Vaughn

Mr. Bob Vaughn                                                    Miss Ida Shamburger

Miss Lillie Mayton                                                  Miss Rosa Lee Averitt

Miss Gladys Warren                                                Miss Mary Capell

Miss Wilda Williamson

The Reaves Chapel School was continued through the years, with other teachers not named above.  According to Grady Loftin and his sister, Mrs. Mary Durant, the school was consolidated with the Coy Consolidated School around 1929-1930.  They said that transportation was not furnished to the pupils at that time.  They came to the Coy School in a covered wagon pulled by mules which parents furnished.  A responsible Negro man was hired to drive the wagon each day.  (from History of Coy Consolidated School, 1918-1952, by W. J. Jones, former Superintendent of Wilcox County School System.