Oak Grove Cemetery is located near the site of the original Oak Grove Church, just north of the present sanctuary, about six miles from the square in Decatur. The cemetery is located on a hill to the east of a small lake near Private Road 2432. It lies on private property, so to enter, one must contact the owner for a key to the locked gate.
The cemetery itself is surrounded by a chain-link fence erected in 1968 by Dean Gann, and it contains 42 headstones, many of them stuck into the ground on edge or broken and fallen into disrepair. Some gravesites have no markers at all. The cemetery is believed to contain the remains of at least 46 people, the earliest bearing the date of 1883. The names on the tombstones reveal some of the county’s early settlers: Baker, Boyd, Brewer, Chance, Clement, Copeland, Copp, Doss, Fullingim, Hall, Harding, Loyd, McCarroll, Parish, Penner, Rayborn, Sloan, Smith, Stewart, Teasdall, Thomason, and Walker.
One of the early graves has a rock monument three feet high covering the entire grave. A group of people were traveling through the county, and when their child got sick and died, it was buried there. No one knows the name of the child, and no one has ever returned to the gravesite.
One of the graves in the cemetery is that of a slave owned by Uncle Jess Fullingim, who had migrated to Wise County from Georgia. That man, Bill Copeland, died in 1902 at the age of 50 years and is buried in the northeast corner of the cemetery.
Two veterans of the Civil War are also buried in the cemetery: Robert K. Brewer and A. S. Doss, both of whom served in the Confederacy.
Until 1915, it was not difficult to reach the cemetery because a public road was nearby, but as a small stream began to enlarge, entrance to the cemetery became very difficult. Caskets had to be carried from the road across the stream and uphill by hand. As a result, many people chose other more accessible burial sites. The last person buried there was Mrs. Julie L. Smith in July 1953. She was 94 years old and was buried next to her husband H. M. who had died twenty years before. Her funeral had to be delayed a day in order to make a road to the cemetery.
As long as the road was passable, the cemetery was cared for. People came in wagons and spent the day working and cleaning the grounds, enjoying a day of fellowship together. After present owner John Parish passed away in 1939, the land was leased with the understanding that the fence was to be maintained. It was not, and cattle subsequently knocked down many of the markers. The land has had several owners since then.
About two miles east of the cemetery is a single tall headstone on top of a hill. It is the headstone of John Holden who died September 22, 1879. No one knows why he is separated from the others.
Tied to the cemetery and church unofficially is an old rock house which stands near the site of the first church building, visible to all from Greenwood Road. It is believed that the organizational meeting for Oak Grove Methodist Episcopal Church South was held at this old rock house.
In early 2008, members of Oak Grove United Methodist Church trekked to the Oak Grove Cemetery in preparation for the church’s 130th Anniversary Celebration in May. The cemetery was in great disrepair, with overgrown weeds and toppled tombstones.
In late 2008 and early 2009, a group of teen community volunteers, along with members of the church, worked several days to mow, trim, clean, and repair the cemetery. The result of their hard work is evident in the pictures below. Further information is here.
Assessing the Cemetery in 2008
Cleaning and Repairing the Cemetery