Four area teens were awarded the Girl Scouts' highest honor recently for their work to preserve some of Columbia County's history.
The scouts, Lakeside High School senior Katie Hadman and junior Erin McClendis, Augusta Prep senior Caitlin King and Greenbrier senior Jennifer Tyrell-Smith were presented their Gold Awards at a March 12 ceremony.
Their project involved the restoration of the 18th century Crawford Family Cemetery on Maple Creek Drive in Martinez. From August to November, the girls researched the cemetery's history, designed a Web site and coordinated the clearing of brush and the reconstruction of an old stone wall. They also created a walking path, planted flowers and shrubs and installed a sign and information packet for visitors.
"We wanted a project big enough for all of us to contribute to," Tyrell-Smith said. "We really wanted to make this cemetery a landmark to educate people who pass by. (Few people) have a clue there was so much history in this little area of our (community)."
Nestled between two houses in a quiet and modern neighborhood, the cemetery is the final resting place of Peter and Mary Ann Crawford, the original owners of Belair Plantation, some of their kin and possibly some slaves.
The plantation once stretched north from what is now Fort Gordon to at least as far as Columbia Road, said Barbara Seaborn, a columnist for The Columbia County News-Times and area historian who writes of the Crawfords in her book As Long As The Rivers Run, which chronicles the early days of Columbia County.
The Crawfords came to the area in the 1790s and established the plantation with land grants given Peter Crawford after his service in the Continental Army in the Revolutionary War, Seaborn said.
Peter went on to become an influential landowner and state legislator, and their son George went on to be the only native of Columbia County to serve as Georgia's governor.
The cemetery was essentially lost for many years before it was rediscovered 30 years ago by a visiting University of Georgia professor, Seaborn said. Since then, the cemetery has been the subject of attempts at restoration, but those attempts were encumbered by legal issues.
In 2002, Michael and Rebecca Bresnahan, home-owners in Maple Creek whose property backs up to the cemetery, bought the property for $10 from their neighborhood's developer and started their own restoration project on the cemetery, according to their Web site, www.crawford cemetery.com.
They started the restoration, Michael Bresnahan writes on the Web site, because they "could not let (the cemetery) stand abandoned, desecrated and forgotten."
The couple spent hours researching the history of the cemetery, removed a deteriorating fence, cleared much of the major debris and removed a dead oak tree, among other improvements, according to their Web site.
The Bresnahans and Hadman's mother, Dr. Theresa Christie, Troop 247's leader, helped the Girl Scouts craft their Gold Award project.
King, who was responsible for designing the landscaping and planting, said she spent several hours researching plants suitable for the heavily shaded cemetery. In addition to helping her colleagues with landscaping and design, Erin McClendis said she was responsible for constructing the large wooden sign and compartment for the information packets.
To pay for the project, the teens used their own money and proceeds from Girl Scout cookie sales, King said.
The girls and the community should be proud, said Susan Simmons, the spokeswoman for the Girl Scouts Central Savannah River Council.
"The Gold Award is more than just the top prize that the Girl Scouts offer, it is really an elite award," Simmons said. Only about 5 percent of Girl Scouts earn the award.
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