The very first real job I ever had in my life was at Wal-Mart, on Watson in Warner Robins. I had plenty of “jobs” way before then, but it was all under the table and tax-free. The good ole’ Uncle Sam (and my Grandpa/Aunt) decided it was time for me to pay my fair share. I can’t remember how old I was, but I do remember still being in high school. I would be a student by day and a cart pusher by night. Ah, yes, the good times in life. Back then, Wal-Mart was fairly new, having moved from the old location where the Big Lots is currently, but it wouldn’t be alone for long. No, no, Wally world decided Warner Robins was too big for just one store, so the Booth Road store was later built. What do I remember most about that particular store opening? The immediate rumors of there being a cemetery in the parking lot. Indeed, there is a fenced off area surrounded by parking spots in the back of the lot. So, finally, we discuss our first case together as Middle Georgia’s History Uncovered.
The coolest thing about being a member of the Perry Area Historical Society is the fact that I get to hear so many amazing stories. I get to learn so many truths about myths, legends and long-forgotten tales. It’s no secret that I have become a popular person to ask about these stories. Most of my family and friends know that I will definitely get to the bottom of a historical question, as soon as possible. Well, this parking lot is probably the second most requested subject out of all of middle Georgia, at least to me. The first being Oaky Woods, which I will write about at a different time. So, to answer all of your questions, yes, there is indeed a cemetery in this parking lot. In fact, it’s not hard to miss if you’re actually looking for it. There is a near perfect square of overgrown land, right in the middle of a busy asphalt jungle. Many times I’ve walked up to the fence, looking for a head stone, only to never find one. So I always dismissed the rumors. I was wrong in doing so.
I’m not certain about today, but at the time, there was no city ordinance banning Wal-Mart to build around the plot. With that said, they one hundred percent couldn’t pave over it. As big as that corporation is, you would think they would have checked it out prior to building the store. Actually, that’s exactly what they did. From the source’s I’ve been given, Wal-Mart called out a ground penetrating radar expert and did, indeed, discover human remains. That came from the city attorney, at the time, who said the city of Warner Robins is aware of the graves. Unfortunately, their tombstones were either wooden, non-existent or stolen over time, and there’s no definitive proof of who is buried there. Now, I love facts more than anything, but in a case like this, we have to speculate.
The biggest rumor is that it was an old slave cemetery from the Civil War era. If that’s true, it’s a rarity in the city, because most cemeteries, places and buildings only date back to World War II at the oldest. Sadly, it does make the most sense. We do know that enslaved people were not treated well, even in death. Throughout my time studying history, I have personally come across countless “unmarked” graves that belong to those souls who were once owned. On the other hand, it could simply be someone who was poor, or couldn’t afford a headstone. There is no telling how many pauper graves there are in the area, but I do know (thanks to ground penetrating radar) more and more are being discovered. It’s not entirely impossible to discount the idea.
Sonny Perdue, our former state governor, believed that the whole road was named after the family of the woman who once owned that land. Her name was Edna Booth. She was a teacher from Alabama who came here in the early 1900s. Besides the Wal-Mart graves, there are other cemeteries in and around Booth Road, in fact it’s not hard to find one right next to the Taco Shed’s parking lot. There’s one right off the road on Highway 247 as well. Now that I’ve mentioned them to you, they may seem familiar. Regardless of who they are, or where they come from or even the size of their tombstones, you should always remember one thing: Every one of those bodies underground was once a life. They laughed, they cried, they sang and they died. They enjoyed sunny days. They loved a tall drink of water on a hot summer day. Just like you and I, they pulled air into their lungs. They mattered. Remember that next time you see a cemetery of any kind. Write down a name, come to the museum in Perry and research them. You never know what you’ll find!
©️ TIM MOSELY 2023 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
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