TATE-ASHFORD CEMETERY, (Swanscott Road) LIMESTONE COUNTY, ALABAMA
aka Tate Cemetery aka Ashford Cemetery
Mapping the Location
ASHFORD, Thomas Tate, 27 Sep 1857 - 9 Feb 1930. 8196/8197/8198/8195
TATE, Enos, died 2 Jul 1849, age 67 years. 8193/8191/8194/8199
TATE, Uriah Milton, son of Enos C. & Nancy Tate, 4 Dec 1814 - 25 Jul 1845. 8187/8188/8189
LOCATION: SW quarter. Township 5S, Range 3W, Section 14, just east of what was at one time the Tate-Ashford plantation house, built around 1830. Only the chimneys remained when the Smith's visited here in 1990. Today nothing is there to remind one of the home except a stand of trees which the farm operation works around. This was once a beautiful plantation. Thomas Tate Ashford, the grandson of the builder, Enos Tate. entitled the land -"The Plantation." He was famous for his hospitality through out the state. This cemetery is listed as the Ashford Cemetery on county & national maps.
THE GRAVE ROBBERS (or was its a giant tree falling and uprooting a grave in the cemetery - to see a similar catastrophe in the Andrews Cemetery - see photo: #9672, J.D. Thomas monument.)
When I approached this cemetery it appeared serene with large Cedars and hackberry trees gracing the premises surrounded by a large farming operation tilling the soil for beans or cotton. What I found was shocking. I discovered a grave had been nearly completely excavated by what I believe to be grave robbers. There was a hole in the ground 15 feet long by about 6 feet wide and about 4 feet deep. A grave stone I later determined belonged to Thomas Tate Ashford was near the bottom of the pit. I could only see the one edge of the flat granite marker. After identifying two other inscriptions I set to work digging out the monument to see who it belonged to and if I could raise it from the hole. I could see it was in danger of being covered in dirt as the hole naturally filled over time. Soon I was able to free it of the mud and then I rolled all 180 pounds or so of it back to the surface where I left it for the public as it should be. Since I was totally unprepared for a major filling of this large cavity, I just shoveled some of the dirt piled on the sides and filled in the deepest part of the hole. Next I cleaned the tombstone best I could for the photography.
I also identified what I believe to be a motive for this crime. There was printed in the Cemetery book of Limestone County that the last known person to be buried here in 1930 was Thomas Tate Ashford. He was known to be a wealthy, but philanthropic individual and the last of his family. Some criminal with unrealistic ambitions got their hands on that information and went there and did this dastardly deed. From the looks of it they might have even used dynamite. My determination from inspection of the site lead me to believe this robbery was committed within the last five to 10 years, but no sooner and not much earlier. The soil looked freshly moved, but roots had re-grown into the loose soil making it hard to shovel back into the hole, though I did the best as I could, after I had recovered the almost lost tombstone from 3 feet down in the pit. It is common sense to me that no one would be buried with money in this situation. We know this is just a bunch of desperate idiots at work who did nothing, but destroy this grave. May they rot in the darkest pits of hell for this evil deed.
Note: A rowefred@hotmail posted a photo of this gravestone on Findagrave.com showing the flat granite marker still standing. They posted it during 2010. However this damage must have occurred long before that posting. Likely that photo was a scanned image of an old film photo, so maybe its date is probably not reflected on findagrave.com. Perhaps this is a relative interested in this situation.
Only three stones can be found with parts scattered about the cemetery. One, after I reset it back to the surface, was the flat modern granite marker for Thomas Tate Ashford. The other two older tombs are box tombs, both of which are completely broken, dismantled and the parts scattered about the cemetery. This looks like the work of vandals looking for treasure inside the tombs, but probably is not related to the purported grave robber since that robbery occurred as long as 100 years ago. I am certain all they found in that vandalism was rats, wasps and perhaps black widow or Brown Recluse spiders. These tombs only serve as grave covers, put in place by a grieving family, with nothing buried except their loved one, below the box tomb in the ground.
This cemetery was also reported on page 489-190 of the book Tombstone records of Limestone County Alabama by Wayne & Linda Smith. 8 Apr 1990. Also it is reported on Findagrave.com as the Tate Cemetery, by various reporters. Three photos of the stones are there, but no mapping or overview photos.