An excursion to Dunnavant, Alabama, on Saturday, 03Feb2007, was interesting.
We learned that ground-penetrating radar has its limitations. We didn't actually use it, but Robert Perry, an expert in its use, was along to scout the situation, and he told us quite a bit about it, in layman's terms, sort of.
We learned that the date of establishment of Sand Ridge Cemetery is tied to the date at which some members of the Howard family left an area a few miles to the east, where they have been living in proximity with the Isbell family (sometimes "Isabell"). The family historian who told us this, however, didn't have her notes with her and didn't trust her memory for exact dates. We will check that out later. She thought it possible, but was not certain, that Sand Ridge Cemetery was in existence by 1887.
We learned that the fence around Sand Ridge Cemetery was put there fairly recently. In its early days, the cemetery was simply an open area with no particular boundaries. The grave that we thought we had spotted two years ago, a few feet west of the western fence, looks less clearly like a grave than it did then. Perhaps that is due partly to erosion and partly to the filling in of pine straw, twigs, etc. Even so, it was agreed that it could be a grave.
We learned that there is a story that a black man was buried just outside the present-day fence at the northern boundary of the old section of Sand Ridge Cemetery. This spot is another candidate spot for John Henry's burial.
The ground was wet from recent rains. The road that had looked distinctively white to me two years ago looked more red (from red clay) Saturday. It was still clear, however, that the soil is sandy.
The opinion was expressed that it is unlikely that an itinerant black railroad worker would have been buried so far from that site where he died at that time and place (1887 and the backwoods about 15 miles east of Birmingham). This is a reasonable opinion but it does not cause me to give up on Sand Ridge Cemetery yet. It is likely that John Henry and Captain Dabney were close friends - they had probably known one another for 37 years, the first 15 being while John Henry was a slave, perhaps to Captain Dabney's father. I imagine that Captain Dabney might have wanted to give John Henry a good burial.
Tune in for later developments.