I’ve known of this “one-man cemetery” most of my life, and just photographed it last June. I initially thought it was perhaps an eccentric member of the Coleman family, who were large landowners in this part of Irwin County in the late 19th century. I had heard from a commenter that Mr. Coleman might have been a slave but I got busy and didn’t follow up. When I was in the area last week, my friend Jackie Fussell Golden confirmed the site’s importance, sharing this information from a family history:
Silas Coleman was born a slave in Tennessee on 2 January 1837, died 22 April 1921. He was the beloved slave and house servant of Elisha Coleman. One thing very evident about this black gentleman is that the Coleman, Mann and McDaniel families had very warm feelings of love and affection for him.
The following history of Silas Coleman passed down to Mona McDaniel by her father, T. B. McDaniel, son of Fort Jasper McDaniel and Elmina Mann, and other family members, as well: After the Civil War it appears Coleman was in or had emigrated to Alabama. Since travel was so difficult for blacks during that time, Silas decided to stay and work with Elisha Coleman. When Elisha died, James Mann and Elisha’s daughter Mary lived with her mother. James died soon after 1880 and Silas helped his widow Mary Ann Coleman Mann with the rearing of her five young daughters: Sarah Elmina (McDaniel); Matilda Jane (Hogan); Idella (Luke); Lindsey Columbus (Mann); and Anna Bell (Mann). It is to be noted that their love and respect was such that Silas was allowed to chastise and even spank the girls if necessary.
Silas was said to be a very stern man and did not put up with foolishness. He could not read or write but controlled his money by having someone wrap it up in colored cloth by different denominations. Silas seems to have been a very caring and loving individual as he stayed with these families and helped them for over 60 years, from the time of the Civil War until he died in 1921.
Silas did live alone at one time but as he advanced in years, he moved into the house and lived with Morris and Maurine Mann. When he passed away he was “laid out” in their living room and the funeral was in the woods near the house, in the place that he had stated he wished to be. Lola McDaniel Harper, her mother Elmina, and sister Ruby attended his funeral. This love for him is evidenced by the beautiful monument erected and placed on his grave by Vianna Mann Fletcher.
Data provided by Mona McDaniel Temples and Joy Wilson McDaniel*
*Joy Wilson McDaniel is also the author of Irwinville Farms Project: The Making of a Community
For another photo of the headstone, and comments from others: