Mike Christie is a Cowetan who cares.
Christie moved into a subdivision on Highway 54 – one that at first glance doesn’t look much different from its neighbors up and down the highway. It is, however, different, because part of it is on the land that was the Overby family’s plantation in the 1800s.
William Thomas Overby, who grew up to be a Confederate soldier, grew up on that land. He was executed as a spy by Union forces in Virginia. A little over 20 years ago, his remains were brought back to Coweta County and buried with pomp and ceremony at Oak Hill Cemetery.
Now the land where he grew up is set for development. There’s nothing wrong with that. There is no Overby home, no visible relic to tie the strip of land to what it was a century and half ago.
What Mike Christie is concerned about, however, is below the surface of the ground. Overby’s father, William H. Overby, owned 15 slaves, according to the 1850 and 1860 censuses.
The Overby family is buried at Cokes Chapel United Methodist Church, but the burial site of the slaves who grew the Overby cotton crop is unknown. Christie suspects they are buried on the old plantation property, and initial investigations with dowsing rods indicated there may be as many as 200 graves on the land.
Before development proceeds, Christie would like to see ground penetrating radar used to determine the truth about burials there. The cost would be $5,000 a day, and it could take two or three days work to map the area.
Those enslaved Cowetans of another time deserve that much respect. William Thomas Overby has been honored. Those who provided for his family’s wealth and comfort deserve at least an acknowledgement.
We hope people and organizations in our community with a philanthropic and historical bent will step up and see that the Overby plantation’s full history is found, recorded and remembered.