Stone College Volunteer Dig
December 19, 2014
By Kelly Sowell, Elmwood Historian
This past Saturday, some graduates of our Stone College classes were invited to volunteer in the cemetery. Volunteers Lisbeth Redden and Maryellen Eaves, as well as former Elmwood Historian and Stone College instructor Dale Schaefer joined me Saturday afternoon to raise the monument of Benjamin Ward Avent. His cradle marker was almost completely sunken. Only a very small piece of stone was visible but we were certain that it was part of a cradle since all the other graves in that family lot had them.
The first thing we did was use a probe to determine that it was an adult sized marker. We used plastic hand trowels to clear the thin layer of dirt just above the stone away. Then we loosened and dug out all the dirt around the perimeter of the stone. Once we’d dug deep enough to reach the base of the stone, we used a long pry bar as a lever to raise one side at a time. The stone had shifted somewhat as it sunk and settled, so we realigned it with the rest of the monuments in the family lot and made sure it was level.
Finally we filled in the dirt in and around the cradle. We rinsed and brushed the dirt from the stone, but decided not to use cleaning solution. Since all the rest of the stones in the family lot have a patina, we didn’t think this one should be bright and clean. We did however use solution to clean the inscription on the front of the marker so it would be easier to read.
We have no way of knowing for sure how long the stone had been sunken and obscured, but now it can be easily located again. Capt. Benjamin Ward Avent served in the Confederate Army, as did his father, Dr. Benjamin Ward Avent. He later owned a dry goods store in Hickory Hollow, Mississippi. One evening while he was in his store, a man entered to inform him there was a band of thieves nearby who might intend to rob the store. Avent and a small party of other men armed themselves and waited, but the thieves never showed. Though his store was not robbed, Avent decided to track down who he thought was responsible for the recent thefts in his town. A man named Reynolds had previously been driven from town for theft, so Avent went to pay him a visit. Reynolds’ wife told him that her husband was not home, but Avent forced his way in the front door. Reynolds was in fact home, and ready to attack. As Avent forced his way inside, he was shot with a double barreled shotgun in the face and chest. He wasn’t killed immediately, but made it to a friend’s home where he later died from his injuries. He now rests here at Elmwood Cemetery in the South Grove section, and his monument can once again be seen thanks to our volunteers.