The Hays Family Cemetery

This small family cemetery lies hidden in the woods on the high bluff overlooking Quarry Lake. It contains an aboveground limestone and brick burial vault, the final resting place of someone not yet known to us. At least two gravestones were discovered buried nearby.

The burial vault built of limestone blocks supporting brick walls and a vaulted ceiling that have since collapsed, is the resting place of one or two family members. Unfortunately, those limestone blocks and bricks exposed to the elements are slowly deteriorating. This burial vault is similar in size and construction to vaults in the Old St. Stephens Cemetery.
Joe Faith, President of the St. Stephens Preservation Society, has a childhood memory of his father unearthing two gravestones as he bulldozed the area in 1958 or 1959. The gravestone of Sarah Maria Hays was accidentally broken, and his father reburied it where it was found. Shortly afterward, an earthen embankment was built to protect the cemetery from nearby quarry activities, but erosion has since deposited more soil over the gravestones.
Nearly 40 years later, the long-lost gravestone of Sarah Maria Hays was rediscovered. In the spring of 1999, while examining the cemetery, St. Stephens Site Director Jim Long and University of South Alabama Archaeologist Bonnie Gums noted near the burial vault a shallow depression the size of a grave. Using a metal probe, they determined that a hard surface lay about a foot below ground. Careful excavation with brushes and small tools revealed a well-preserved and beautifully carved gravestone. Archaeologist Sarah Mattics was quite surprised when she brushed off the last few crumbs of dirt and saw the name "SARAH."
The epitaph of a young wife who died in childbirth during the spring of 1818.

Here lies the Body of
SARAH MARIA HAYS
Wife of
Henry H.B. Hays
Daughter of
Coln George Fisher
She died on 16th of April 1818
Aged 19 Years 8 Months and 11 Days
In the same grave is deposited the body of
an Infant Son who was born and died
on [illegible] of April of the same Year
This monument is erected by a disconsolate
Husband as a testimony of his love for
the best of wives and whose memory
will be always dear to him
Requiescant in pace

[Latin for "Rest in peace"]

Using the metal probe, the other gravestone seen by Joe Faith and his father in the late 1950s was rediscovered, buried at the same depth between Sarah's gravestone and the burial vault. This gravestone remains preserved in the ground until a restoration and maintenance plan for the Hays Cemetery is developed.
After its discovery and documentation, the gravestone of Sarah Maria Hays was carefully reburied until funding is made available to restore this fragmented monument. Sometime in the future we will uncover the other gravestone and hopefully its carved inscription will be as well-preserved, identifying who is buried there. The remnants of the limestone and brick burial vault will be stabilized, and through research we hope to discover who lies within this tomb.

Upon restoration, the Hays Cemetery will become one of the historical highlights for visitors to Old St. Stephens. Historical research should reveal more about the lives of those buried there.

Acknowledgment: We thank Joe Faith, President of the St. Stephens Preservation Society, for sharing his knowledge of the Hays Cemetery.


For information concerning park hours, prices, and availability please contact sshc@alabama.gov
The Old St. Stephens website was created and is maintained by Sarah Mattics
Copyright © 2007 by the St. Stephens Historical Commission.
We welcome your comments.

Last updated Tuesday, April 03, 2007