Mike Christie, a Coweta County resident, is continuing with his mission to find out if any history remains on what was the 1800s Overby plantation.
Back in February, Christie raised a concern about the Coweta County Commission approving a rezoning that would allow building on the unoccupied land of the former William H. Overby family plantation. The vote to rezone the Overby land took place on Jan. 23.
According to 1850 and 1860 United States Federal Census, 15 slaves lived on the Overby property. It is assumed, by Christie, that bodies of enslaved people rest underneath the surface on the family’s old farm. The Overby family was laid to rest elsewhere in Coweta County – mostly at Cokes Chapel United Methodist Church near Sharpsburg.
Since February, Christie has made three goals for his mission: to find out if there are unmarked graves on the land, to locate where the Overby homestead was and to get the historical marker for William Thomas Overby, William H. Overby’s son, corrected.
The historical marker lists the state of Georgia as William Thomas Overby’s birthplace, however, the “Confederate hero” was born in Virginia in 1840 and came to Coweta County with his family when he was a boy. Along with getting the error corrected, Christie would like to honor the people who helped the Overby family with their successful farming operation, the enslaved people.
“I’m thinking that as that sign is corrected that would be a great opportunity to provide recognition for the enslaved that will be identified in the not too distant future,” Christie said.
Christie would have to join efforts with the Georgia Historical Society to correct the marker, as the organization is over historical markers.
In April, Christie and a group of volunteers took four dowsers and one metal detector to a residential site and marked, with flags, over 50 unverified graves with the dowsers. The group feels that there are 150-200 graves on the residential site.
“The last site we went to was a residence (where residents) … had claimed they had seen some unusual stones and markings in their backyard over the years but never did anything about it,” said Christie. “So we went out there and these dowser volunteers’ attitudes and facial expressions changed dramatically once they started."
The group found this site after four unsuccessful field events, where they found nothing.
A dowser is a type of tool that is used to locate grave sites and an assortment of materials, like oil and gemstones. Findings by dowsers are best if verified by another method.
Currently, Christie is trying to obtain a grant to hire a ground penetrating radar company to follow behind the dowsers’ findings.
Ground penetrating radar technology could validate what is underground up to six feet deep, according to Christie. After GPR technicians survey the lands in question, this would let Christie know, once and for all, if the land holds history.
Christie is looking to obtain a $5,000-per-day grant to use this technology. He and his volunteers would need more than one day because Christie is interested in surveying three different and private properties. Christie also has the permission from the various homeowners.
Christie and his volunteers used metal detectors on another potential site and found more than two dozen iron agricultural tools that were buried a couple inches to a couple feet under the ground. Shovels, rakes, nails and a garden hoe were found at the site. All items are assumed to be period pieces dating from 1800-1880, according to Christie.
“It was pretty thrilling to be pulling and removing some of these agriculture tools from the ground,” Christie said. “The first thought is, ‘Who was the last person to touch them what was going on in their mind?' That was very exciting.”