ZION BAPTIST CHURCH AND CEMETERY
By: Vera Tomberlin Rhodes
to the Land Deed, Deed Book K, Page 35, in the Wilcox County
Courthouse, Abbeville, Georgia (then Irwin County), James L. Willcox
did deed 20 acres of land, more or less, as the deed called for in Lot
the two holes of water known by the name of "Spectackles," the old
church, and well, and the grave yards. Also, the new church, and lands
whose title now stands, given to the said Baptist Church of Mount
Zion, and I do desire a committee to manage and see that the church
has her rights, and to sustain her cemetery.
was made the twenty-sixth day of April 1857. His death shows that he (Willcox)
passed away July 14, 1861, four years after making the deed to the
church and cemetery. He died in his 58th year.
show that this was a cemetery before the church or before he gave the
Willcox, a child of James Lea and Elizabeth Willcox, was buried there
I find 14
graves put there before James Lea Willcox gave the land. It was
believed by old settlers that this was a family cemetery and he gave
the land later.
Willcox Tomberlin, Mother of James W. Tomberlin, was the first grave
to be in the upper part of the cemetery, referred to as the new
cemetery. She died on Feb. 15, 1875; as her grave was dug it filled
with water. After trying four times, her remains were buried in the
new cemetery was started. Although the dates show that the old
cemetery was still in use, as some dates are as new as 1910, and the
McDuffie couple, and the Vicker's Child was 1911.
14 old brick stacks
4 baby graves
numberous places that are sunken that resemble graves.
found 26 names, birth dates and death dates that are buried in the old
We are a
small group of Willcox family descendents who have met together, and
made the decision of updating the James Lea Willcox family cemetery at
Mt. Zion Church, once called Spectacle Church.
thought was to repair all the graves that had begun to fall apart
through weather conditions and age. All but three names had been lost,
but thanks to church records, family records and court house records
we do have a list of _ all buried there, along with their births and
started a fund for the work and materials to rework all the graves,
and to add a few markers where the original markers had disappeared,
leaving only a sunken spot in the earth.
collected a little more than $900.00 among ourselves and from our
close relatives, thus we were able to get the work done. We were
advised by a funeral home to use the old hand made brick without
cleaning them in order to keep the old look that we like.
the graves have been repaired we have decided we need a memorial
marker in the center of the plot, with names, births_ and deaths
listed on the monument. We want the monument to be 5 or 6 feet tall
and 20 inches square, with room for 10 names on each side (20 inches).
Lea Willcox donated 20 acres of land for the two churches very near
his family cemetery, with plenty of room for the present church
cemetery, where your loved one is buried. This new monument would be
in his honor. Also, honoring members of his family not buried there,
as well as, preserving the names of his relatives buried there.
need your-help in buying and placing the memorial monument.
We have started a fund for this and we want you to have a part in this
project if you feel you want to help. Any amount would be appreciated,
from $1 to $50. If you are not interested, or do not feel able to
help, please remember we will understand. We would like to hear from
you either way. Also let us know what you think of this plan.
kindest regards to you,
Tomberlin Harrell Vera Tomberlin Rhodes
Gretchen Fuller Cox
send contributions to: Mrs. Vera T. Rhodes Rt. #2 Box 99
CHURCH AND THE CEMETERY
Willcox donated twenty acres of land for a
and cemetery for both white and black people. In the center of this
land were two ponds, separated by a small strip of ground, forming an
imaginary pair of glasses or spectacles, On the east side of the ponds
Mr. Willcox's family plot was already established, with his son, Mark
Willcox being buried there in 1829. According to a sign on the highway
this church was constituted in 1844 and named Mt. Zion. It is located
8 miles south of Abbeville on Highway 129, one mile west of the
Willcox's family continued to use his family plot for burials until
the death of his granddaughter, Elizabeth Willcox Tomberlin, a
daughter of his son John Woodson Willcox and Nancy Reid Willcox on
February 17, 1875. Three attempts were made to dig a grave for her,
each grave filled with water. Thus, the church cemetery was begun.
Willcox Tomberlin was the daughter of John Woodson Willcox, James
Lea's oldest child, and wife Nancy Reid Willcox. She was the wife of
John A. Tomberlin. She died from childbirth, leaving a three day old
baby boy, James W. Tomberlin, who became the father of Dale Tomberlin
Harrell, Vera Tomberlin Rhodes, Jamie Tomberlin, Sallie Mae Tomberlin
Dowdy, and Verlyn Tomberlin Willcox.
Harrell and Vera Rhodes have lived their entire lives within five
miles of this church and cemetery. The two sisters attended church,
taught Sunday School and were active members of this church. They also
watched their family plot become a shambles, with graves falling
February 1984 their cousin Guy Fuller died, He had recently shown them
the spot where his great grandmother, Abigail McDuffie Willcox was
buried in James Lea Willcox's family plot, marked only by a rock at
the head and foot. She was the wife of Thomas Lea Willcox, James Lea's
After Mr. Fuller's death Dale and Vera met with Mr.
Fuller's niece Gretchen Fuller Cox, his nephew, A.T. Fuller and great
nephew, Rev. Ken Drew Fuller, all descendants of Thomas Lea and
Abigail McDuffie Willcox. Dale and Vera had already started a cemetery
fund to renovate the family plot. When their cousins John D. and
Pauline Willcox from Eastman, Ga. joined the group wanting to help,
the work soon began. They are both descendants of George Mitchell
Willcox, James Lea Willcox's fifth child. John D. has been updating
old Willcox family cemeteries since his retirement as a building
contractor in Eastman, Ga. His experience and knowledge were most
welcome, especially when he agreed to take care of the detail work to
cemetery fund grew when Willcox cousins learned of the project. Every
donation proved to us that people do care, and do love the memory of
their forefathers. Cousins, Aunts, Uncles, brothers, sisters, and
friends mailed or brought donations to Vera for the fund. Soon we had
the money to begin.
advised to keep the old look by using the old hand made brick without
cleaning them, to reduce the height of each grave from ten to twelve
brick high, to three or four brick high, and to put a cement slab over
the top. All the names were gone from the graves, but we had a list
from family Bibles, church records and courthouse records. We were
very fortunate that Jamie Tomberlin, Dale and Vera's brother, and
Dale's son Billie Harrell would do the brick work.
realized we could not put a name plate on each grave, so a memorial
monument was the answer. There are forty-two names on the monument
with the names of those buried there, Family members not buried there
have a cross preceding their name. This includes James Lea and
Elizabeth Willcox, their eleven children and children's spouses, some
grandchildren and Elizabeth's parents, Murdock and Abigail Currie
McDuffie. A headstone was placed on Abigail Willcox's grave, wife of
Thomas Lea Willcox, similar to Elizabeth's headstone. Thirty-one
graves were reworked.
memorial monument is beautiful light grey granite. Mr. Willcox is to
be commended for the distinctive design, arranging the lettering, and
having it placed in line with his great-great grandfather's
beautiful, tall monument.
Willcox and Thomas Lea Willcox were sons of John Willcox II and Mary
Lea Willcox who settled in Telfair County around 1807. John II was
born in Gulf, N.C., a son of John Willcox I, who was born at Ivy
Mills, Penn., a son of Thomas Willcox and wife Elizabeth Cole Willcox.
Thomas came to the United States from
in 1718 and established a paper mill near Philadelphia, Penn. At this
mill the nations first paper used for paper money was produced, Thomas
and Elizabeth had ten children, John I being the oldest and it was
through him that our Georgia Willcoxes descended, most of them from
his son John Willcox II and wife Mary Lea.
Willcox and Thomas Lea Willcox married sisters, Elizabeth and Abigail
McDuffie. They were daughters of Murdock and Abigail Currie McDuffie.
members of James Lea Willcox's family, a son-in-law
grandsons will be honored soon with Confederate Monuments being placed
in the family plot. One is Abner Brown, private, husband of Mary
(Polly) Willcox Brown, born in 1836, died April 12, 1862. Another is
James V. Hollingsworth, private, son of Sarah Willcox and husband,
James V. Hollingsworth II. He was born
and died 1862. The third is John Willcox Hollingsworth, private, son
of Sarah Willcox and husband James V. Hollingsworth,II. He was born
1846 and died 1864.
Church was destroyed by fire on June 13,1982. A beautiful new church
has been built, completed in the spring of 1985. The wood tone color
of the church blends into the background of trees, and the landscaping
around the church fits perfectly
by Gretchen Fuller Cox