After Hours: Rambling the path of history

Memorial Day was recognized for the sixth year by the Fort Hawkins Commission with a ceremony honoring the soldiers who served and died beginning in 1806 when the fort was founded by an order signed by President Thomas Jefferson.

As visitors walked the clearly marked path of the old Federal Road, Marty Willett, raconteur and official events coordinator for Fort Hawkins, talked about one of Macon’s earliest settlers, Joseph Willett, and his grandson, for whom Mercer University’s Willett Science Center is named. According to Willett, the Willett Memorial Library was named for the same grandson’s wife.

This year’s highlight was the Fort Hill Cemetery Ramble, exploring gravesites that are little known to most Maconites. Willett never needs a cheat sheet when talking about the fort and its surrounding neighborhood or the significance it holds in Macon’s history.

This year he had about 200 visitors for the ramble, some just curious about the first cemetery in the territory that would become Macon and others looking for the graves of ancestors they knew were laid to rest in this place. Unfortunately, many of the graves are unmarked or their have had headstones deteriorated, removed or destroyed during the last 200 years.

That did not deter 75-year-old Barbara Rodgers’ search for her forbears. Armed with a folder of research notes and documents, she found several relatives’ grave­sites she could verify and is determined to continue her mission to find the remaining names on her list and properly mark them for her progeny.

Willett could fill in some of the blanks for the attentive crowd. He related the story of Melissa Johnson, born into slavery in 1856 in Macon, who married a freeman, Joseph Archibald Johnson, from Washington, D.C. Johnson, who served in the Navy during the Civil War, and his wife are the great grandparents of local minister Victor Hunt, a Fort Hawkins Commission member. As Willett stated, these revelations were part of a poignant and successful Fort Hill Ramble.


Norma and Don Banks chose the Memorial Park observance as the appropriate place to remember friends and relatives who served in the armed services. They were especially impressed by the comments from Curtis Jones, new Macon-Bibb County school superintendent.

Jones graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 1977 and spent 20 years in the Army before pursuing a career in education, one which has been marked by numerous awards for leadership.

Jones honored those who made the ultimate sacrifice to protect this country and praised the leaders he credits with his positive approach to education, one reflected in his personal motto, “Leadership you can believe in.”

The fans of the “boys of summer” at Mercer had reason to rest on their laurels on Memorial Day after the Sunday shut out game against Samford for a record-making SoCon championship, propelling them to Mercer baseball’s third NCAA Regional bid in six years in the SEC Atlantic Coast Conference.

What could be better than watching Eric Nyquist pitch a 5-0 championship final game on ESPN while enjoying the fine weather at Lake Tobesofkee? From Dot Schrimshire’s vantage point, right on the water, the parks were full of holiday revelers, but the lake curiously absent of noisy watercraft, making for a serene holiday weekend.


On Tuesday, the American Legion, Joseph N. Neel Post 3, recognized those who protect and serve in real time and students who have found their niche in the military. Recent Central High School graduate Jerkeithia Moffett could have been a cheerleader, but chose to enroll in Junior ROTC where she earned the rank of cadet captain and company commander. Moffett plans to attend Clayton State University, after which she plans to serve as an officer in the Army.

Major Charles R. Abbott, Junior ROTC department head, accompanied his student to the Tuesday ceremony where he recounted her three years of dedication and professionalism in the high school environment.

Macon-Bibb County Sheriff David Davis honored one of his deputies, Wesley D. Minshew, who, on an off duty night in January, awakened a family to alert them to a fire in the attic, which could have ended with fatalities had Minshew not noticed the small rooftop blaze and called in firefighters.

Assistant Fire Chief Shane Edwards and fire investigator Ben Gleaton recognized one of their own, Steven Dewayne Wesson, who has advanced from firefighter in 2000 to his appointment as fire investigator in 2013. The ranks that work in the trenches rarely are seen in the headlines, but their work behind the scenes is inestimable in maintaining civility and safety in our city.

Katherine Walden is a freelance writer and interior designer in Macon. Contact her at 478-742-2224 or