William Trainum was a hometown hero who otherwise drew little attention during his brief and tragic life.
Mildly retarded -- and orphaned as an infant -- the teen-ager worked for the Huntington family, with whom he also lived.
He perished during a house fire one cold February night in 1827 trying to help others escape. The grateful family buried him near their home.
And a tradition was begun.
For 22 years, his solitary grave occupied a plot in what once was the mill town of Rollersville. In 1849, the first of several members of the Huntington family were interred there.
The Huntingtons and another family, the Bohlers, donated the site to Rollersville in 1867. Mill workers, Civil War soldiers and slaves were buried there, but the exact number is unknown; no records were kept.
In 1883, Rollersville was absorbed by the city of Augusta and a caretaker began recording burials there. By the time the cemetery was closed in 1910, there were 3,598 graves.
Today, the original cedars and magnolias still stand guard over the cemetery, located in present-day Harrisburg, just off Calhoun Expressway. But the legions of tombstones that once dotted the landscape are gone.
"Vandals did a lot of it," said 85-year-old Everlene Anderson, who has lived across the street more than 55 years. "Boys would tear them apart. It was going downhill long before I came along."
By the time the city tried to preserve the site in 1982, only a handful of tombstones were left. Today there are none.
A stone monument was erected by the city in 1982 to help future generations remember Rollersville, William Trainum and the forgotten dead -- whose names fill a dusty leather ledger stored at Magnolia Cemetery.
"Our records show the last burial there was in 1910," said Jerry Murphy, a caretaker at Magnolia Cemetery, where some graves from Rollersville supposedly were relocated.
"Some were moved to Magnolia and West View, but most are still there," he said. "I'd say the majority are still over there somewhere."
Mr. Murphy even found one of his ancestors in the Rollersville Cemetery ledger: James Hendricks, who was born in Edgefield in 1828 and died in 1896, interred at Rollersville.
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