Historic preservation firm to provide proposal for restoration
What lies beneath a pile of rubble at the community’s historic cemetery is now revealed but additional questions remain unanswered.
A father and son sleep in similar-style crypts at the Old Clarkesville Cemetery. Because of storm damage and the curse of time, this was previously unknown, according to Brooks Garcia, board member for Historic Clarkesville Cemetery Preservation, Inc.
Three members of the Durbec family are interred in the walled plot located near the southwest corner of the cemetery – Claire Eugenia Durbec [1887-1889], Francis Joseph Durbec [1889-1892] and Frederick Eugene Durbec [1836-1894].
In addition to the domed-shaped brick tomb containing the father, the square box tomb containing the daughter’s remains was visible. The tomb of the son had become obscured from view, littered with broken bricks, mortar and other debris.
Greg Jacobs, managing partner with Savannah-based Landmark Preservation, LLC supervised an excavation and assessment of the Durbec burial plot on Jan. 26-27.
“I think the story that ‘a peculiar looking structure’ evolved to include a father and two children and is now being restored more than 100 years later is compelling,” Garcia said. “What I find fascinating is how all of this has transpired. The story has unfolded as the tomb has been explored and the various pieces have come together to help us complete the narrative.”
Civil war expert Andy House of Charlotte, NC had previously provided vintage photos that provided clues to guide the Landmark crew. House conducted extensive research on Frederic Eugene Durbec before visiting Clarkesville in 2016 to place a military marker on Durbec’s grave.
“Conjecture and supposition have played a major role in the story of the evolution of this tomb,” Garcia said. “I am in awe of Greg’s detective work in understanding the construction of this grouping of tombs. This work and the three photographs have been invaluable.”
What’s not known is what it will take to restore the site, Garcia said.
According to Jacobs, the site was in poor condition. After two days of work, the majority of the debris is now gone and bricks and mortar are now sorted and cataloged. Jacobs and a colleague took extensive notes and photographs to document the site. He will submit a detailed proposal to HCCP, Inc. with recommendations for the restoration of the site.
According to the HCCP, Inc. board chair Barrie Aycock, the board will continue to manage everyday tasks currently ongoing at the cemetery – general clean-up, headstone repair and cleaning, landscaping and the completion of the entranceway on E. Morgan Street. Planning for a fundraising campaign is also underway. Another ongoing project is the addition of a Who’s Who section on the group’s website.
“We are committed to the successful completion of the restoration work at the cemetery and its ongoing care,” Aycock said. “We see this project as a gift to the community – the preservation of the past is a way to show our respect for the families who established Habersham County.”
For more information, visit oldclarkesvillecemetery.com or find Old Clarkesville Cemetery on Facebook or Instagram. To volunteer, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Durbec was a ‘renaissance man’ according to research conducted by HCCP, Inc. board member Virginia Gorday.
“We know he moved here with his family in 1889 to open a hotel,” Gorday said. “Articles in newspapers in both Charleston and Savannah confirm his business interests.”
His first claim to history is documented extensively – Durbec and partner J.M. Osborn captured some of the first images of the Civil War with photographs of Ft. Sumter in the aftermath of the April 1861 shelling. He was with the Florida and Western Railway in Savannah for 13 years where was also a member of a horticultural society and involved in theater production, Gorday said.
His time in Clarkesville was brief, after moving here with his wife, Manuella Victoria Rogero Dubec, two of his children died in Clarkesville and are buried in the plot with him.
n August 1894, Manuella Victoria Rogero Dubec returned to Saint Augustine, FL with surviving daughter Marie Catherine.