Forgotten Cemeteries – Shanks and Liberty Hill

During my document gathering phase in 2014, I found the index listing and ordered the death certificates for my 2nd great grandparents on my EDWARDS line.  While quickly reviewing their death certificates (I was supposed to be focused on getting ready for my little one’s arrival), I noticed that the cemeteries listed were ones that I did not recognize.  They were listed as Shanks Cemetery and Liberty Hill Cemetery.  I went to Find A Grave and searched all the cemeteries in Clarke County, MS and could not find them listed.  I also googled the names and still found nothing.  I started asking around and no one could tell me where these cemeteries are located. My mom got on the phone and asked around and people said they remembered one of the cemeteries but couldn’t quite tell us how to get there.  There was quite a stir.  Several people became interested and wanted to locate them as well.  When it seemed as though no one would be able to help me locate the cemeteries, I resolved that I was going to have to research the land records somehow to see if I could pin point them myself.  Researching the land records would require a trip home to Mississippi.  So, until I was able to make the trip home, I had planned to try to research through census and death records.

That was my plan until finally, earlier in 2015 I received a call from my mom saying that our cousin had spoken to an older gentleman who could take us to the cemeteries. They were in the woods and not easily accessed by car.  We would need 4×4 wheel drive.  In fact, he says that there are three cemeteries in those woods.  I was so excited!!!  Of course now I can’t just jump in the car and drive down for a weekend trip because I have a little one.  But I was making plans to get there since I was told this good news!

I finally got to go home for Thanksgiving 2015 and we met with the gentleman to find one of the cemeteries.  I’ll tell you more about what I have found when visiting in a later post.  Just know that I later found out that this cemetery was not the one I was looking for.   Since we would possibly need 4 wheelers to access the other cemeteries and I had my little one in the truck, I only got to visit the one.

Before going, I did put together a research plan, but since returning, I realize I need to add more to it.  There are more African American cemeteries in those woods than I thought.  The elders of the community named two more, bringing the count to five.  Five forgotten cemeteries.  My heart has sunk.  Most of my ancestors on my mom’s side lived back there.  The question that has been bouncing around in my head since that trip is: What happened to the communityand why did they abandon the area leaving their loved ones to be overtaken in an unkept resting place?  I guess I have to expand my research plan to find out.

If you have some tips on researching a cemetery and unearthing the community that surrounded them without being physically there, please share them in the comments section.  


52 Ancestors #2: Maudie Lee Sterling Edwards (1919 – 1990)

It was only natural that the second ancestor be a woman who is dear to me. I call her “My Strong Black Grandmother”1.

Maudie Lee Sterling Edwards

Maudie Sterling Edwards
(1919 – 1990)

Maudie Lee (Sterling) EDWARDS was born on January 13, 1919 to John and Bessie (Stokes) STERLING in the village of Carmichael, Clarke County, MS.2

She is my maternal grandmother, the only grandmother I ever got to know, so I cherish the my memories of her. She was a beautiful woman. Her hair was long and her skin was dark like chocolate. I seemed to have inherited the chocolate skin color.  It took me a long time to love the skin that I’m in.  I now realize that my skin color is the perfect combination of my ancestors before me, so I now wear it proudly.

She was a pleasant person and a Christian woman that was very kind, free-hearted, understanding, and lovable. She always spoke the truth and she definitely meant what she said whenever she spoke. Nothing ever got past her!

At the age of nineteen, she joined Richard EDWARDS in holy matrimony on August 14, 19383. From this union came eight children and she began the long journey into motherhood: Mae, Richard, Jr. (1940 – 2013), Audrey, A.V., Jerlean (my mother), Willie, Levon, and Vernon (1956 – 1989).

To me, she was a wonderful lady and a strong woman. She took care of her family with what she had. Even when my granddad grew ill and could not work, she managed to feed and clothe a household of eight children and tend to her sick husband on about $50 dollars a month. Can you imagine having to do that with eight children?

She was a talented seamstress.  She was also one to match her clothes. Her dress, shoes, hat, gloves, and purse matched. She made sure of that. She made sure that what she sewed was sewn right. This talent was honestly passed on to her three girls. It was also passed to me and my sister by my mother, but we don’t use it as much as we should. My mom says that grandma would teach them that if they were going to sew, they had to do it right. Whenever they made something, my grandma would inspect it and if it was not right, she would take it apart and they would have to start all over again. She sewed with perfection and it was during the tough times that she used her talent to keep clothes on her back and the backs of her children. When I was home, I found a pattern that she cut out of an old newspaper. It was a priceless find for me. It looked to be a pattern of a shirt for a small child. Based on the year on the newspaper, it could have been for one of us grandchildren. I guess I may never know.

She was the sweetest grandmother a person could ever have. I remember when me, my sister, and my brothers visited her, she would bake chocolate cakes for us and put them in this tall white cabinet and inside was that glorious chocolate cake. It would be so good! To me, no one could cook like my grandma. She knew that cooking these cakes made us happy. She would also always give us money whenever we visited. She was a great grandmother, indeed.

I believe it was around 1985 that she was diagnosed with cancer. At one point she was very sick, she got well and then sick again. She fought this degrading disease for five long years. On the night that she passed, I stayed with her, my mom, my uncle and my granddad. To this day, I can’t remember why I wanted to stay that night because we lived just across the street. But on that cold night, October 28, 1990, my grandma passed away4. She passed while I was sleeping. I knew she was tired and weak, but she was the only grandmother I had. My heart was definitely broken, but I now know that as long as I live, she will still live on in me. We buried her on November 1, 1990 at the New Hope Cemetery in Quitman, Clarke County, MS5.

Grandma, I thank you for the works that you have done, for the cakes you baked, for the smiles you gave and the love you shared. You inspired me to go on, no matter what trials come my way. For to me you were a strong black woman. A strong black woman indeed! I love you!!6

This is my second post as a part of the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge, created by Amy Johnson Crow of No Story Too Small.


1. Pruitt, Amy, “My Strong Black Grandmother.” Typescript, 18 November 1996. Cole Family Papers, Georgia.

2. Mississippi State Department of Health, birth certificate 44945 (1921), Mauddie Lee Sterling; Vital Records, Jackson.

3. Clarke County, Mississippi, “Marriage Record, Colored; Book 7, 1932 – 1938”, page 608 for Richard Edwards and Maudie Lee Sterling, Office of the Clerk of Circuit Court, Quitman.

4. Mississippi State Department of Health, death certificate 123-90-20190 (1990), Maudie Lee Edwards; Vital Records, Jackson.

5. Maudie Lee Sterling Edwards funeral program, 1990. privately held by Amy (Pruitt) Cole, Georgia.

6. Pruitt, Amy, “My Strong Black Grandmother.”

© 2014 Amy L. Cole and Tracing Amy: My Ancestral Journey. All rights reserved.

Cite This Page:
Amy L Cole, “52 Ancestors #2: Maudie Lee Sterling Edwards (1919 – 1990),” Tracing Amy: My Ancestral Journey, 02 March 2014 ( [access date]).

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The Debut of Tracing Amy

Welcome to my first blog post!  My name is Amy L. Cole.  I am the 4th child born to Lee Roy Pruitt & Jerlean Edwards Pruitt of Quitman, Clarke County, Mississippi.  Tracing Amy: My Ancestral Journey is about my quest to learn more about my family history.

I started the blog after reading the appeal by Luckie Daniels, founder of African American Genealogy & Slave Ancestry Research, to make more of the research of African-American ancestry available online.  After much consideration and a nod from my family, I decided to start blogging!  My goal is to be able to provide a space where family members can follow and participate in my research.

Now that the blog history is out of the way, I think I should tell you a little about the names and places that I am researching.  I decided that I wanted to do research on both my paternal and maternal lines.  From what I know, both lines have deep roots in Clarke and Jasper Counties in Mississippi, post emancipation.  My paternal lines are Pruitt, Dukes, & Carr and the maternal lines are Edwards, Sterling, Shanks & Stokes.  I will tell you more about what I have found for each line in other post.

I have been able to take 3 of the 4 maternal lines back to the 1870 Federal Census giving me the names of ancestors that were possibly born into slavery.  I was able to accomplish this by sifting through family records, conducting interviews with family members, visiting cemeteries, and collecting obituaries.  Although I believe I have the name of the ancestors who would have been born into slavery, I have not yet started slavery research for my maternal line.   I want to ensure that all of my information post civil war is correct.  So, I am busy collecting birth marriage and death records as well as other records that will assist the search for my grandparents and great grand parents generation.  I plan to continue to go back one generation at a time collecting these records and learning as much as I can so that I have a solid beginning to enter into slavery research.

On my paternal line, I have only been able to get back to the generation of my great grandparents.  I will have to gather more information on this side because not much is remembered by those still living.  So I have some…..lets call them speed bumps on the paternal side, they haven’t turned into brick walls just yet. 🙂

So that is a summary of how far I have gotten on the family tree as a whole.  I have a couple of family reunions coming up in 2014, so I will probably focus on those lines the most in the coming months.  I will try to keep you posted along the way.


© 2013 Amy L. Cole and Tracing Amy: My Ancestral Journey.  All rights reserved.