Forrest Cemetery History
Forrest Cemetery, one of the most beautiful cemeteries in Alabama, dates back to 1872 when Captain A.L. Woodliff selected the site, negotiated for its purchase and began clearing away the timber at his own expense. His sons, Augustus W. “Gus”, James F. “Pompei” and Thomas J. “Jeff”, all mere boys, cut the trees and prepared the 10-acre tract for the survey into burial lots. There were many large trees on the land and the brothers had a hard time felling and removing them. Captain Woodliff selected a site in the far western end of the city and at the then extreme western end of Chestnut Street overlooking Black Creek in the belief that the city would never grow out that far. Of course in years to come it has been surrounded by homes, churches and schools. There are now approximately 40 acres of land available for graves.
Captain Woodliff organized Forrest Cemetery, incorporated it and was chairman of the first board of trustees with four other prominent citizens as associate members. The charter was secured in 1872 and was to continue 50 years. Under the charter the association sold lots for pecuniary gain and to provide a fund for upkeep.
The trustees were a self-perpetuating body, since it elected its own members. It was a private enterprise, but they never lost sight of the fact that they operated the cemetery as a public trust.
In 1926 the trustees found that they had been operating for four years without a charter, which meant that all of their official acts for four years were not entirely legal. On advise of legal counsel they went into the equity division of Circuit Court and asked that the property be transferred to the City of Gadsden. The City would administer the assets of the corporation and continue to furnish a burial ground for the white race. Judge Woodson J. Martin rendered a decree confirming the sale of lots after the corporation life of the association had expired by limitation. Everything would be turned over to the City of Gadsden “which shall at all times keep, care for and maintain the cemetery in proper condition, use the funds for improvements and upkeep and set up rules and regulations for operating.”
The late Mayor W.E. Wier and his board of Aldermen accepted the trust and appointed Alto Lee, Jr., W.M. Mayben, Mrs. Charlotte Cox and the Mayor as trustees. That was May 1926. At that time a total of 4,657 persons had been buried there.
The first person to be buried in Forrest Cemetery was Captain Woodliff’s own daughter, Sallie Law Woodliff who was born Feb 4, 1871, and died July 13, 1872.
-by Doyle Johns from an article in “The Messenger” 4 March 1998