History of Belew Cemetery

Belew Cemetery was established in the mid to late 1800’s with families caring for their own graves and those of their neighbors.  The first recorded deed is dated October 18, 1880 when Aaron Belew and wife M.J. Belew sold 2.8 acres for $56 to be used for cemetery. While the oldest headstone which can be read in the cemetery at this time is that of Martha R. Hodnett born 2-27-1823 and died 2-10-1848.  It is also known that a small cemetery in the center of Aubrey was moved to Belew Cemetery around 1904, leaving the exact age of the cemetery unknown.  In the far north west end of the cemetery you see many graves dated in the 1870’s and 1880’s.

The oldest part of the cemetery is known as the West End.  As you walk through the area you see sandstones marking graves most are unknown to us today.  You also see familiar family names of those who settled in Aubrey and the surrounding areas: Caddell, Coffey, Hodges, Looper, and Tidmore.  Many of these had traveled together from Alabama looking for fertile farm land after the Civil War.

The Ladies Cemetery Society was organized March 27, 1902, to raise money to help with cemetery upkeep.  Those first six ladies were Kate Hodges, Mollie Henderson, Ola Price, Bettie Catlett, Mary Caddell and Nora McIntosh.  To be a member of the organization you had to pay dues which were used for upkeep and to pay a sexton.  When dues and donations did not come in as needed, ladies were sent to collected them.  The first committee appointed to collect donations for the cemetery was Kate Hodges and Nora McIntosh.  They were paid $1.50 per day.  The Ladies Cemetery Society met weekly in Bible Study before their meeting on the cemetery.

April 3, 1902 during the Ladies Cemetery Society meeting a motion was made: “That we include the little cemetery at Aubrey in our work” and then from the minutes of April 7, 1902 a motion: “to appoint Mrs. Ola Price to see Mr. Belew’s relatives to purchase more land for the cemetery.  Mrs. Mullins and Mrs. Hodges were appointed to see those interested in the Aubrey Cemetery.”

In 1902 a Thanksgiving Dinner was held as a fund raiser.  During the October 15th, 1903 meeting the ladies made the following resolution: “That the Ladies Cemetery Society of Aubrey, set Thanksgiving Day of each year to hold a Union and Thanksgiving service and to give a dinner & supper for the benefit of Belew Cemetery. Resolved, That we kindly ask the ladies of each church represented at Aubrey to respect the above resolution and help us to make the services an earnest, beautiful, thankfully and grand gathering of grateful hearts.  Resolve, That we ask all to come to our dinner and help to make it success.  Also resolve, That the above resolutions be placed on our minutes and that a copy be sent to the Aid society of each church.” On November 12 of that year Nora Mcintosh with drew the motion of the first clause of the resolution for the union services on Thanksgiving Day, but went ahead with the dinner. It was so successful the Thanksgiving Dinners were held annually, missing only once during World War I, for the next 80+ years, when because of lack of participation the dinner was no longer held.  These dinners were held in various locations in Aubrey until 1952 when under the leadership of Homer Coffey, president of the Cemetery Association, led in constructing a community building for the dinners and to be used for other communities activities.

Other noted discussions and actions by the Ladies Society in the early 1900’s were: 1903 the hiring of a sexton to work the cemetery; to put ever greens around the cemetery; to place fence on the line and have lots laid off; to put a drive way and walks around the cemetery in 1905; building a house for the sexton to live in 1906; to buy a tent to protect those who dug the grave in 1907; and a Pavilion was completed by August 1911 when they discussed by chairs for it.

Between 1911 and 1913 we find minutes where the Ladies Cemetery Society talked about incorporation for the cemetery and the need for an endowment fund. October 14, 1915 there was a resolution to create an endowment fund where only the interest would be used to care for the cemetery, and incorporation with the help of Mr. Mustain the local lawyer.

The name changed to Belew Cemetery Association, November 30, 1922.  From the original minutes of November 30, 1922 we read these words:  “The Ladies Cemetery Association and a number of citizens interested in Belew Cemetery met on the afternoon of November 30, 1922 at 3:00 o’clock at the building where the annual dinner was held.

The object of the meeting was to discuss the idea of incorporating the association.  After a great deal of discussion Mr. Henderson suggest we form a trust company.  Mr. Mustain (acting attorney) explained the difference between the two.  Moved by Mr. Henderson and second by Mr. George Tisdell that we form a trust company or association.  Carried.  Moved by Mr. Mustain and second by Mr. Tisdell that we call the society the Belew Cemetery Association.  Carried.”

During this meeting it was also determined the trustee or directors be appointed from each school district surrounding the cemetery.  The first directors and their district were:

  • Belew – L. Hunn
  • Friendship – D. Hollar
  • Spring Hill – W.R. Coffey
  • New Hope – W.F. Fulmor
  • Rockhill – J.T. Mohon
  • Green Valley – T.J. Young
  • Aubrey – Lillie Henderson, Beulah Jones, and Ada Allen.

At a called meeting in April 1924, Decoration Day was set for the First Sunday in May.  This was a change from Memorial Day because everyone decorated with fresh flowers and by Memorial Day there were limited fresh flowers.

We find the opening of a new road over the railroad tracks in 1924 and it being graveled.  In 1925 the Cemetery Organization paid $500 to put 1744 feet of fence and 3 gates around the cemetery.  (This fence was replaced April 2019.) 50 to 75 people brought their lunch and met April 4, 1925 to paint the fence.  Over the years various structures such as sexton house and pavilion were build, used, and removed as the needs of the cemetery changed, and additional land purchased at various times.

There were 1,554 grave spaces counted in November 1938.  Over the years many have been lost because of no permanent headstones.  In 2008, the number of graves identified were 3,152 with another 99 spaces marked with sandstones or unreadable markers.

In the 100+ years the cemetery has been organized the Presidents of the Organization have been:

  • Kate Hodges 1902 – 1903
  • Polly Tidmore 1904-1921
  • George Tisdell 1922-1929
  • Lud Hunn 1930 – 1932
  • Nannie Coffey 1933 – 1934
  • Homer Coffey 1935 – 1961
  • Loren Tisdell 1961 – 1976
  • Kenneth Looper 1976 – 2000
  • Charles Looper 2000- 2007
  • Joe Owen 2007 – 2008
  • Howard Kelly 2008 – 2013
  • Odell Brockett 2013 – 2016
  • Evalois Owens 2016 – Present

In 1973 Belew Cemetery entered into an agreement with the U.S. Army corps of Engineer to sell spaces for the relocation of some of the graves at Jackie Davis Cemetery due to the Aubrey lake project later to be known as Lake Ray Roberts.  November 24, 1980, the Belew Cemetery Association Board of Directors met to discuss the updated letter from the Corps of Engineer.  It was agreed the cemetery would sell 30 spaces at $50/space in Block 15 Lots 4-5-6-7 and Block 16 Lots 4-5 of section D.  The spaces would be provided with the understanding they are to be used for the families of Cagles, Plunkett, Stiles, West, and Peters from the Jackie Davis Cemetery.  These 30 spaces would be held for 12 months after which they would be sold.

Belew Cemetery continues today as a non-profit cemetery which operates on donations and interest from endowment funds.