Preserving history: Grant awarded for Brindley Cemetery

Grant will help restoration efforts at Brindley Cemetery in Simcoe

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Left to right are Sen. Garlan Gudger, Julie Burks, Drew Green, Benton Buchmann, Ray Buchmann, Randall Shedd, William Peinhardt, Nancy Bhagia, Carole Brindley King and Dean King. (Christy Perry for The Cullman Tribune)

SIMCOE, Ala. – Restoration and maintenance efforts at Simcoe’s Brindley Cemetery received some help Monday as an Alabama Historical Commission grant of $10,250 was awarded to the Cullman County Historical Society as part of the state’s historical preservation program. Rep. Randall Shedd, R-Fairview and Sen. Garlan Gudger, R-Cullman were present at the Cullman County Museum, along with museum staff and members of the Brindley family, to make the announcement Monday afternoon.

The cemetery is located in the Simcoe community, about a mile north of Alabama Highway 69 on County Road 747, near where the Brindley family first arrived and settled in 1832. Mace Thomas Payne Brindley and his wife Nancy Stewart Hanby Brindley are two of the 16 individuals buried in the cemetery.

Mace Brindley served as the Blount County clerk, state representative and state senator. He was also director of State National Bank of Decatur. His wife Nancy was the daughter of Gabriel Hanby, one of the original framers of the Alabama Constitution.

“That’s part of the historical aspect of it,” said Julie Burks, family research associate at the Cullman County Library. “This is the first Alabama family and we have invested time and energy in protecting that cemetery. We just need to do what’s diligent so that it’s available for other people to learn that part of our history.”

Nancy Bhagia with the Brindley International Historical Foundation explained that the Brindley name is not as common today because so many of the sons were lost during the Civil War.

Ray Buchmann, the great-great-great grandson of Mace Brindley was also present at Monday’s grant announcement and spoke of his efforts to save the nearly 170-year-old cemetery from further erosion. He explained that by the time he learned of the grant, only a few days remained to complete the application.

“Everyone else had a year’s lead on us and we almost missed it. At the 11th hour, Julie was calling down at the headquarters in Montgomery,” he said.

Repairs to the sign and fencing are needed, but the main expense is to reestablish the rock wall around the gravesites.

Burks explained, “Part of that rock wall actually holds up a couple of the graves. If the rocks continue to deteriorate, one good rainy season, the two people on the end, their gravesites will be destroyed. All of that happened when they relocated the road from the front of the cemetery to where the county road is today. They dug around and really changed the layout of that little grassy knoll where the cemetery is located. That is part of the reason why the rock wall was put there was to help secure up the ground.”

Besides Mace and Nancy Brindley, two of their sons, one son-in-law and four grandchildren are buried at the cemetery. The other seven graves belong to one confirmed neighbor child, three unconfirmed neighbors’ children and three unknowns.

So, who owns the land where the cemetery is located? Looks like Mace Brindley does.

Burks said, “Mr. Buchmann had someone go and do a deed search and she couldn’t find anything. I got in touch with someone at Blount County Records and we looked. If the land was ever deeded from his to someone else it was either never recorded or it was lost. If it was land given to one of his children at his death, they never recorded it. We find that it’s a separate piece of property, but we have not confirmed who the original owners are so it could go back to Mace. He already had children buried there when he died so it might still belong to him.”

“Senator Garlan Gudger and I will be looking at every cupboard in Montgomery and Cullman trying to find a little more money,” said Shedd. “Nearly every person in my district is related to these folks. We are all concerned about it and appreciate the Historical Society here and in Montgomery funding this much. It is definitely a historical site.”

“This isn’t just Blount County and Cullman County; this should be a state recognizable site that is significant for everybody in the state if they helped frame the Constitution of Alabama,” added Gudger.

Also attending Monday’s grant announcement were Carole Brindley King and her husband Dean.

“We have learned that if you need $20,000, ask for $40,000,” Buchmann smiled.

The estimated cost to complete the restoration is $30,000. The Cullman County Historical Society has received the $10,250 but an additional $20,000 is needed to fully complete the desired restoration. Donations can be made to the Cullman County Historical Society.

To learn more about the Brindley family and ancestry, visit www.brindleymtn.org.

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Christy Perry

christy@cullmantribune.com