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Mystery At Pine Log Cemetery - SOLVED

Remember back in November when I told you about the mystery grave at Pine Log Cemetery? Well the mystery has been solved by Cassie Sanford Clark form The Sanford Family Misfit.

Cassie is a genealogist and was so intrigued by the mystery that she couldn't rest till it was solved. 2 Blind Pig readers, George Long and Ed Ammons, started her on the trail of R.A. Rickman and M.J. Coffey. After those first few leads, Cassie dug in deeper and deeper till she figured out most of the mystery-then with the help of a descendant of Rickman and Coffey she solved the rest of it as well.

Pinelog cemetery

Part 1

Solved: Mystery at Pine Log Cemetary written by Cassie Sanford Clark.

About a week ago I was browsing through Blind Pig & the Acorn (as I’m known to do whenever I’m fighting off a nasty case of homesickness), when I ran across a post that caught my attention and sparked my curiosity. Tipper of Blind Pig had run across an interesting burial site at Pine Log Baptist Church Cemetery in Clay County, North Carolina and mused about the oddities of the site and occupants of the grave. The grave features two concrete slabs indicating two burials and is completely enclosed with a stone border that features a pipe in one corner that cuts completely through the stone. Tipper wondered if this site had once been enclosed by a burial house that had rotted away over the years. She also discussed why there may have been two people with different last names buried beneath the same stone. At the end of her post, Mystery at Pine Log Cemetery, she listed off several questions that made my inner genealogist hungry for answers:

  • Why one stone for 2 graves? Someone said they were probably married-but I don’t think so since their last names are different. Maybe the families chipped in and bought one stone together?
  • Why were they buried together? Were they related or maybe best friends?
  • Did they die in a freak accident-with R.A. living 3 days longer? Or maybe they died in the flu epidemic?
  • The block foundation looks newer than the date of the stone-so does that mean someone built the house or foundation at a much later date?

Being that I can’t fully rest until I have at least partially satisfied my curiosity, I shot off an email to Tipper and asked for permission to research her mystery and write a follow up. Tipper is always such a sweetheart – she not only said yes, but also forwarded me emails from others who were trying to solve the mystery and gave me permission to use the photos from her post! I adore that woman!

I was too excited to put my research off, so with Tipper’s permission I kicked off my research by taking notes on her post and all the emails she had received. According to a few of the emails, M. J. Coffey and R. A. Rickman were sisters who died within days of one another in Cobb County, Georgia. I started my research with this information alone and here is what I learned:

According to the Georgia Death index available on, there was one Jane Coffey and one Rozalia Aveline Coffey Rickman who died in Cobb County, Georgia within days of one another in 1924. Unfortunately, Ancestry does not have copies of the actual death certificates, so I needed another avenue to prove the two were sisters. Thanks to all of my great friends on Facebook, particularly Tarah Marissa Thomas, I was able to get my hands on obituaries for the sisters:

Appeared in the Cobb County Times

Appeared in the Cobb County Times

Appeared in the Cobb County Times

Appeared in the Cobb County Times

RA Rickman

The obituaries alone cleared up the question of who M. J. Coffey and R. A. Rickman were and why they were buried in one site. To me the evidence seems to suggest that Jane was a spinster who lived near (if not with) her sister, Rosie. The two fell ill together and died within days of each other. The bodies were transported back to their hometown to be buried in what I’m guessing is the cemetery of choice for their family. I would also speculate that the family decided to save money by having just one stone mark the burial for both of the sisters – especially since they already carried the burden of paying for the transport of two bodies and two funerals all at once.

I still needed to know more. How had the sisters died? The paper would have mentioned if some freak accident had occurred and I could find no mention of any epidemics hitting Georgia in 1924. In order to answer this question, I had to track down Jane and Rosie’s Cobb County death certificates.

Jane coffee

Jane Coffey’s Death Certificate

Rosee a rickman

Rozalia A. Rickman’s Death Certificate

Finding the death certificates was no easy task, but I did eventually find them. The certificates proved beyond a doubt that Jane and Rosie were sisters. They were born to John Coffey and Mollie McDorce/McDearce in North Carolina (which I further proved by tracking down Cherokee and Clay County census records). The death certificates also gave me the cause for the sisters’ deaths, which are cited as being the direct result of the flu. This confused me since I hadn’t been able to turn up any information on a flu epidemic in Cobb County, Georgia during 1924. I did a little more research into this and discovered some historians say La Grippe or the Spanish Influenza epidemic lasted from around 1918 – 1924.

Of course, I couldn’t stop my research for the sisters there… I was too enthralled with their story. I discovered that Jane and Rosie’s mother had died before 1880 and their father had lived to a ripe old age (not passing away until sometime between 1900 – 1910). I also found that Rosie and Jane had lots of half-siblings… some from both their mother and their father. It turned out that at least one of their brothers fought in the Civil War and some of his descendants are buried in Pine Log Baptist Church Cemetery – confirming my suspicion the two sisters were buried in a cemetery with strong links to their family. I completed a decent portion of a public Coffey family tree on for those who are interested in learning more about the family.

The last of the questions Tipper asked in her post about the grave site concerned the stone border that surrounds it. I talked in great length with Mike Rayburn, Beverly Harper, and Tarah Marissa Thomas on Facebook concerning the various possibilities over why the border was there. We discussed the possibilities of fences, burial houses, and other structures – however, there is no indication in the photos these structures ever existed by looking at the stones. Unfortunately, we couldn’t completely solve the mystery and the best answer I could come up with was a theory I borrowed from Mike: I think the border was placed simply as decoration and the pipe serves as a way of ensuring the closed in grave site does not flood.

For now I am satisfied with my research and feel like the mystery at Pine Log Baptist Church Cemetery has mostly been solved. After solving the mystery I came up with several questions of my own:

  • Why wasn’t Rosie’s husband buried in Pine Log Baptist Church Cemetery with his wife (especially considering I found no proof to suggest he ever remarried)?
  • Where were Jane and Rosie’s parents buried? Surely one of them were buried in Pine Log Baptist Cemetery too.
  • What happened to all of Jane and Rosie’s siblings? Are any of them also buried in Pine Log – perhaps in unmarked graves?

I suppose I could have gone on to answer these questions myself, but I have too many mysteries in my own tree that keep whispering my name and demanding my attention. Hopefully someone will pick up the torch from here and answer these questions while I throw myself back into my own tree.

Part 2

After I made yesterday’s post, Solved: Mystery at Pine Log Cemetery, I was contacted by a descendant of Rozalia Aveline Coffey Rickman. She was an absolute sweetheart by passing along information she thought I might be interested in and I thought I would share it with all of you today:

Tipper of Blind Pig & the Acorn was right in her assumption that the stone border was newer than the graves themselves. According to Rosie’s granddaughter, one of Rosie’s sons and grandsons built the border and poured the concrete slabs some years after the deaths of Rosie and Jane. They did this because they knew it would be difficult to get back and keep the graves clear of grass and weeds. The concrete slabs were later cemented again by Rosie’s granddaughter and her siblings, who also reset the monument because it had fallen over.

Rosie’s granddaughter also supplied an answer to my question of why Rosie’s husband, Joseph Rickman, had not been buried in the same cemetery as his wife. It turns out that their son, Bob, was working for a funeral home when Joseph died. It is likely that this coupled with the previous deaths and burials of another of Rosie and Joseph’s sons and family (who were buried in Georgia) can explain why the couple were buried apart.

Rosie’s granddaughter didn’t have any information she could share about the burials of the other Coffey family members or the lives of Rosie and Jane’s siblings, but the fact she was able to give me so much information about a grave site from 1924 was purely amazing. She closed her email by telling me thank you for all the information I had posted. It goes without saying that she is more than welcome… it was a pleasure to research her ancestors and I feel like I gained more from the experience than I gave.


All fascinating stuff! I hope you enjoyed Cassie's findings as much as I did-I'm so grateful to her for solving the mystery I found at Pine Log Cemetery-and for sharing the documents she discovered with us too. The story seems especially meaningful to me-since NC is being hard hit with the flu right now. I've never been more thankful for modern medicine-than when I had a the flu several years ago.


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Great to learn the 'rest of the story!' Really appreciate the research. Am sharing this post with several friends who are also 'into' cemeteries.
The website of the Association for Gravestone Studies is one to checkout for those with this interest:

Wow, how interesting. I've been waiting to see if that was ever solved..Many thanks to all..

I sympathize with Cassie, because I am a serious hobbyist genealogist (not professional), and a good story gnaws at me until I chase it down. This one did, too, but I am still working for a living until next year and my wife cracked her shoulder blade, then had foot surgery, then her aunt passed, so the last two months have been a bit preoccupied.

Great research and write-up, Cassie. Sounds like we are kindred spirits! Genealogy has us hooked!

I'm with Tim and Rush. I've never had a flu shot and have no intention of starting. I use astralagus any time I don't feel well. Other herbs as well. I don't know elderberry, I'll have to research it.
I'm extremely healthy except for a little arthritis. The primary secret to my health is to avoid doctors just like I'd avoid the plague. LOL!

Ed, I think you should give us a sample story from your Druid book.

Great post and thanks Cassie and others for the research....
My comment got missed yesterday, but it was very long...
Ed, careful about Druids, faeries and such...they are around...sometimes they co-mingle in the Oak, Fir and Mistletoe...
Thanks Tipper,

WOW that Cassie is a dream! Maybe I should tell her about my broken limb in my family tree and she can get it glued. Seems we don't really know who we are becasue my great, great great grandmother had my grandfather out of wed lock and he took her maiden name.

what a great story -- and the satisfaction of knowing who, what, why. Thanks for sharing.

As one who has dabbled in genealogy for over 20 years I am impressed by her research. I spent my life in law enforcement, most of it investigating various crimes, mostly homocides. I loved the work and genealogy is much like detective work. That was a great piece of work on her part and the research was well documented. I wish that I could get her to find my great great grandfather's parents.

I am always fascinated to read accounts such as this. I, myself, don't have the patience to spend the computer time it takes to ferret out the facts, so thanks to Cassie!

Wow! I,too, like to walk through old cemeteries and am always wondering about those baried there. Thanks for the story and all the hard work of digging and finding all the information. I know it's not an easy task.

That is a great story! Good job Tipper and Cassie. I'll clean the stone if we can find some "D-2"...and I'd buy your book Ed...if it's not too expensive!

Fascinating and so much fun to read!

Enjoyed the mystery solving!

Go Tim Mc! I use Elderberry too and with great results! In fact I have not been sick from any form of flu in over 27 years and I have never had a flu shot (which I believe do more harm than good - especially the senior citizen form) Even the CDC knows that they do not work in their own documentation. I also use astralagus in late summer for two short stints to stir up the immune system. For me and mine Doctors are mostly good for broken bones and surgery when needed. Herbs work better almost every time! Also, wild leaf oregano oil is super if the lungs get too much fluid and you want to avoid infections like pneumonia. Tip: If you put the oil on a tiny piece of folded bread and swallow it whole with a glass of water you do not get the Italian salad breath all day! :D

This was very interesting. There was a lot of work done on this and I found it quite interesting. Thanks for all your great research and thanks to those who were able to add to the story.

Thanks for the update and conclusion about these women's lives. Just so interesting. I know plenty of people who just have no interest in the past, the lives of those who lived before us, but I am fascinated by their stories, however simple or complex. It must have been a sad and difficult time with the two women sick, then dying. Who knows who else was ill in the home.
Thanks again.

Cassie, thank you for this most interesting story. I am certain Rosie and Jane would be pleased to know how much attention was paid to their story by Tipper and Cassie.
As I walk through a cemetery my mind always drifts to the grieving that surely once surrounded the grave site. It always seems so sad to me when a grave goes unmarked, but we have to realize that times were once very difficult. To place a headstone was hard for families who were barely putting food on the table.
Thanks to Benny for the post on "D-2", and hopefully one day I can get time to restore some old family tombstones. One gr. grandparent who died in 1891 has last part of name illegible. I am so grateful for this blog as I have learned so much.

I am sure these ladies would be surprised and honored to know that this much was written about them this many years later. Nice story.

WOW Thank you, Cassie, for solving our mystery. These old family stories are interesting and every family is full of them.
My grandfather had four sisters who all died around the same time of something like flu or TB. I don't know their story except that bit of information.

We all have a story, thanks Tipper, for uncovering theirs.

Cassie: Your diligence and findings beat all I have ever read about such sad events. Thank you very much. I could use some of your skills of doing research for my next book.

Eva Nell
"The Matheson Cove - In the Shadow of the Devil's Post Office" 2006

What a great story to solve the mystery! I think it's fascinating to delve into the past.

Interesting read this morning! Now I am wondering how Ms. Clark got the images of the death certificates. Many of my family tree members died in Georgia and I haven't found them online. NC, SC and TN all have them. Where is GA?

Thanks, Tipper and Cassie Sanford Clark for a touching and wonderful story! Tipper...for observing and posing the questions that led Cassie to do her extensive research and find the answers. Did you read within this story another story? The utter sadness of dealing with two deaths so close together of these two sisters, and the decision to put the two bodies on the train from Marietta to ship them northward through Georgia and into Murphy, NC in March, 1924? After Jane's death on the 4th, most of the attention of the family must have been directed toward the care of Rosie, who died of the same ailment three days later. And all the time the family was dealing with the sister/wife/mother's final illness, they were also thinking about the impending funeral of Aunt Jane Coffey whose body lay awaiting memorial service and burial (Was the body probably at the funeral home during those three days?). I identify with both Tipper and Cassie Sanford Clark in the mystery nibbling at the edges of thought until it is solved. Things of a genealogical nature affect me that way, too! Thank you both for filling in the missing pieces of the puzzle, solving the mystery, and giving us a tender and touching story. This story shows the depth of our ancestors' caring ways in Appalachia!

I am sticking to my original theory of Druids in Brasstown. In fact I'm thinking about writing a book. The working title is "War of the Ages, Angels and Druids, Battle for Brasstown." Think anybody would buy it?

Great article; geneology always fascinates me, as I have done alot on my family. That gravestone needs cleaning though. We clean many gravestones, especially Confederate, and there is a product that will not only take all the black stuff off, but won't harm the stone, and seals it so the mold and mildew does not get back in. It' called "D-2". If you google it you should have not trouble finding it.

Fascinating story. The flu has hit hard here also, (one word "elderberry"), I'll let you research that, we use it. Some of the schools have closed for a few days in the past weeks so they could sanitize them,, Merry Christmas to you and yours...

Cassie thanks for the most interesting story. Walking through a cemetery often brings questions regarding those that rest there. Thanks for searching out this story.

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