On Memorial Day, May 27, Friends of the Bluegrove Cemetery decorated the graves of the veterans interred in the cemetery. Like many cemeteries in Clay County the earliest veterans served during the Civil War. There are seven Confederate veterans and five Union veterans buried in close proximity in the Bluegrove Cemetery. Among the Civil War veterans are J.L Childs who served in the 46th Alabama Infantry for the Confederacy and G.W. Mann who served in 11th Illinois Infantry for the Union.
On May 16, 1863, J.L. Childs, along with most of his regiment, was captured in the Battle of Champion’s Hill as part of the defense of Vicksburg, Miss. G.W. Mann and his regiment were unable to participate in the battle due to the long distances they had traveled as part of Gen. Grant’s campaign and took the field two days later driving the Confederates back into Vicksburg. If the 11th Illinois Infantry had been available on May 16, they would have joined the other two regiments of their division and attacked the 46th Alabama Infantry.
J.L. Childs and G.W. Mann came within hours of fighting each other on the battlefield in May 1863, and 30 years later, in May 1893, they served as two of the five members of the building committee that oversaw construction of the Bluegrove Baptist Church building. I do not know about the relationship between these two men who stood on opposite sides during the Vicksburg Campaign of the Civil War, but I do know that their graves are 20 feet apart in the Bluegrove Cemetery. I know they worked together to build a church.
On June 30 the Bluegrove Baptist Church will celebrate the 135th anniversary of its founding in the Bluegrove School in April 1878, and the 120th anniversary of construction of the first building on its present grounds. The Bluegrove Baptist Church will commemorate those men and women like J.L. Childs and G.W. Mann who did so much to build the church and community. Former pastor Paul Lewis will be the guest speaker on June 30 at 11:00 with dinner-on-the-grounds to follow, and a special singing service to follow the meal.
While this column is about Bluegrove, it is likely that there were similar occurrences in the communities and churches of Clay County.
I encourage anyone with knowledge of cemetery, church and community records to do research and find other stories of how so many people with such different backgrounds came to live together and build the foundations of this county we love. It is through the lives of those who came before that we can truly understand what life was like in early Clay County.
Editors Note: Travis Childs is a history instructor at Cameron University in Lawton, Okla. He is a graduate of Midway High School and lives in Bluegrove. He is president of the Clay County Historical Society.