A Brief History of Sumter Cemetery

Presenting an atmosphere of serenity, reverence and beauty, the Sumter Cemetery is a well-kept, revered landmark on Oakland Avenue in Sumter, South Carolina. Over 11,400 beloved Sumter citizens have chosen these 65 acres of hallowed ground as their final resting place. It was established in 1831, starting with only 5 acres of land donated by Mr. Thomas Flowers.

In the beginning, very few records were kept, little is known about some of the early history of the cemetery. In time, those in the community having a special interest conceived the idea of forming a non-profit association to carry out the affairs of the cemetery a more businesslike mindset. A charter was granted in 1857, and the Sumter Cemetery Association became a reality, with the first president being C.M. Hurst.

The list of presidents and board members who have served the association over the years reads like a list of "Who's Who in Sumter ". Many of those buried here have played vital roles in the development of not only the city and county of Sumter, but also the state of South Carolina and the United States.

Interred are former United States Congressional Representatives, State Senators, County Council Chairmen and Sumter Mayors such as Fulton B. Creech, who served as mayor for 12 years.

In 1912, Sumter was the first city in the world to adopt the Council Manager form of government. This form of municipal management is now universally accepted as the norm and several of the city fathers that instituted this system nationwide are buried in the Sumter Cemetery.

Also interred in this cemetery are veterans of all the wars this country has fought since 1831. Including George Edward "Tuck" Haynsworth, a Citadel cadet at the time, who fired the first shot of the "War Between the States" in 1861. Haynsworth became a lawyer and magistrate, he was buried here in 1887 after being shot and killed in the Sumter County Courthouse when he was unfortunately caught in crossfire between rival factions.

Among the Confederate and Union Civil War veterans buried here is the son of Sumter's First Presbyterian Church minister, Lt. W.A. McQueen. He was killed at Dingle's Mill while defending Sumter against Union General Edward Potter's advance. At least two Confederate veterans buried here have received the Confederate Medal of Honor.

We also have other graves that memorialize people with less-than grand circumstances. One is the grave of an outlaw who was killed on Main Street when Police Officer Kirven, while attempting to arrest this criminal, found it necessary to shoot him. The man's brother came from Chicago to bury his crime-driven family member. He said his niece, the dead man's daughter, was looking forward to graduation in a short while, and rather than upset her by taking the body home, he arranged for burial in Sumter Cemetery.

Another lone grave is that of a man who walked here from somewhere unknown and died of smallpox. He was buried in the community burial section and a marker placed that said one word, "Stranger".

At Sumter Cemetery rest all members of society, the high and low, rich and poor, renowned and humble, beloved and friendless, good and bad - all lying together in the "silent halls of death".

Sumter Cemetery is a historic place that portrays the history of Sumter County in addition to being a hallowed spot of reverence and love.