Mt. Zion Cemetery

Mount Zion United Methodist Cemetery entrance monument

Location: 5308 Liberty Chapel Rd, Florence, SC 29506

Upon entering the cemetery, there is a monument that reads, “Mount Zion United Methodist Church Cemetery Est. 1876” on the front, and on the back is a list of names featuring the founders and members of the church. 

Members of the Mt. Zion United Methodist Church established the Mt. Zion Cemetery so they would be able to bury their loved ones; this cemetery is one of the earliest existing cemeteries for the African American community in the Mars Bluff area. 

The Mt. Zion Cemetery held huge significance for the community because prior to its purchase, members of the church were buried in unmarked graves. This cemetery section still exists in the far eastern corner of the acre and is known as the “Odd Fellows Graveyard,” in reference to The Grand United Order of Odd Fellows, an African American fraternal society, established in South Carolina during the late 1880s. The land for the cemetery was purchased on May 20, 1876, for one dollar from R.B. Fladger, who gave the land to the Mt. Zion United Methodist Church’s Board of Trustees. 

Sometime after the cemetery was in use, Amelia Wallace Vernon and Louise Sallenger gifted additional land. The headstones in the foremost section of the cemetery are from the original one-acre donation, and towards the back is the land given by Wallace and Sallenger.

Some notable members of the community who were buried here, and still have headstones you can visit include Anthony Howard, Alex Gregg, Sherman Williamson, and Ernest Sellers.

Anthony H. Howard was born in 1840 and passed away in 1908. Howard was a South Carolina State Legislature Black representative in 1874, during the Reconstruction era. Howard was also a board member of the Mt. Zion United Methodist Church and was known for being a prominent Black leader in the community.  Howard’s headstone is a taller, thin, and rectangular shape, a stark contrast from the other headstones that are much wider. This headstone shows Howard’s important role in the community he provided for as well as his wealth and status overall.

Alex Gregg, buried with his wife Emma Gregg, was born around 1845 and passed away in 1938. Gregg’s life inspired the book African-Americans at Mars Bluff, South Carolina, written by Amelia Wallace Vernon. The Gregg family members were enslaved on the Gregg plantation and lived in the Hewn-Timber Cabins that remain on the Francis Marion University campus. 

Sherman Willie Williamson was born in 1873 and passed away in 1950. Williamson wore many hats within the community; he was a carpenter, a butcher, a choir leader, and a trustee of the Mt. Zion Rosenwald School. Williamson married Mary Elizabeth Howard, the daughter of Anthony Howard, who passed away five years after Williamson.

Ernest Jaybuck Sellers, Sr., was born in 1910 and passed away in 1989. Due to education for Black students ending at an elementary level, Sellers only received a 6th-grade education. As Sellers got older, he served in World War II and worked for the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad. Henry Johnson, father of William Johnson, also worked for that railroad. You may learn more about them on this tour. 

This cemetery is the resting place of many of Mars Bluff’s leaders, and their lives are a testament to the contributions of African Americans in this part of South Carolina.