Memorial Day is a day that we look back and remember the lives that were lost fighting for our country. Newton County’s historic district has many cemeteries that were burial sites for soldiers who lost their lives during the Civil War. During the Civil War, Oxford College postponed academics and became a military hospital for soldiers returning from Civil War battle sites from both the North and the South. This Civil War cemetery is located on present-day Oxford College’s campus near the “Old Church” which is the school’s first chapel. The Oxford Cemetery was established in 1837 for the residents of Oxford and those related to Emory college.
There are also Confederate cemeteries dotting the beautiful countryside of Newton County. these memorial cemeteries were erected by families, Confederate military units, disbanded churches, and makeshift hospitals during and after the end of the Civil War. Some of the eternal resting spaces are carefully tended by those who wish to preserve the past; others are overgrown, long since claimed by the flora and fauna of the land holding its secrets.
One such eternal resting space is the Middlebrooks family cemetery in Porterdale. This space was once abandoned, the tombstones broken or simply missing. Our research team learned of the reclamation efforts of the Middlebrooks family plot from Debbie Autry. According to an article written by the Rockdale Citizen, “Autry’s late mother, Peggy, was born in Porterdale, but grew up in Macon. Autry's grandparents maintained a home on the Middlebrooks plantation, but after they died their home was sold, and the family lost its immediate connection to the area. Autry and her mother still made an annual drive, and over the years, the cemetery showed more and more ruin.” There are two Confederate soldiers buried at Middlebrooks cemetery: Autry's great-great-great grandfather, 2nd Sgt. Zere Pendergrass Middlebrooks (d. 1862) and his brother-in-law, Private James Christian (d. 1864). In addition to the relations, the members of the Sons of Confederate Veterans uncovered more than 100 graves. More than 90 of those were unmarked, assumed to be slaves and their descendants.
In addition to the Middlebrooks cemetery, the Sons of Confederate Veterans are also clearing the Meadors cemetery at County Road 213 and Ga. Hwy. 36, where three Confederate soldiers are buried. They also maintain the Scott cemetery at Kinnett and Brown Bridge roads and the Confederate cemetery behind Oxford College.
On this upcoming Memorial Day, if you aren’t spending your day grilling out with family, take a self-guided walking tour to one of these cemeteries and remember the lives that were lost of soldiers fighting for our country, and pay your respects.