A historical marker placement ceremony for Harbison Cemetery on the outskirts of Abbeville was held Friday afternoon.
A small crowd gathered to hear speakers talk about the burial ground and its history, a burial ground whose roots go back to the 19th century.
The program was organized and the marker installed through the Essie Strother Patterson Legacy Foundation, Inc., named for a beloved teacher who has now passed on, but not before displaying her love of education and history upon a generation.
Her son, Dr. Lemuel Patterson, helped establish the Foundation, and he served as master of ceremonies for Friday’s program.
Bill Rogers of the Abbeville County Historical Society provided some remarks, noting that he worked three years ago with the Foundation on the placement of a historical marker at the Mulberry AME Church in rural Abbeville County.
The Society has worked with the Foundation on the Harbison marker project as well.
“Your County Historical Society aided in this marker with about 12% cost funding,” Rogers indicated.
He went on to say that two long time friends of his family, Howlie Anderson and her daughter Bell Anderson Belcher, are buried there.
Richard London provided the benediction for the program.
London has led efforts to clean up the cemetery, clearing it of overgrown vegetation.
Brenda Patterson Frinks led the crowd in a libation ceremony, and the opening prayer was provided by Pastor Chester Miller, Jr.
Richie family representative Edwina George and Mims family representative Greg Mims helped with the unveiling of the marker.
The statement of purpose was provided by Marianna Glascoe-Kirkland Smith.
The marker inscription, meanwhile, describes the history of this cemetery of approximately three acres, which dates to at least the 1890s, and was created to serve African American residents of the Abbeville area.
It eventually became known as Harbison Cemetery after historically black Harbison College, which was named for benefactor Samuel Pollock Harbison. “The earliest-known burials here include members of the Logan, Richie and White families. Several of the graves show the influence of Abbeville burial customs.”
The back of the marker continues the description of the burial ground’s history.
Among those buried at Harbison Cemetery are alumni of Harbison College and its predecessor, Ferguson Academy, and at least one Harbison professor.
Those buried in the cemetery also include farmers, laborers, teachers, ministers, and businesspeople.
Harbison College moved to Irmo in the early 20th century. Meanwhile, burials continue to take place in the cemetery, the marker inscription continues.
Established in 2016, the Foundation aims to “preserve, restore and empower families and communities through economic development, education contributions, cultural unity, and healthy living,” according to information provided at Friday’s program.
Essie Patterson educated thousands of students in the course of 40 years of service as an educator in North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia.
After her retirement, she continued to teach through adult education courses and tutoring the children and grandchildren of former students.
She established the Essie Strother Patterson/Georgia Mae Strother Scholarship for Abbeville students at her alma mater, Benedict College.
“Mrs. Patterson believed that every child is capable of learning, and that we must all (especially adults) be lifelong learners if we are to excel in life,” according to the Foundation.