Pioneer Cemetery is the oldest cemetery in Greenville, AL. James Dunklin (June 24, 1779 - April 10, 1827) is the oldest known grave in the cemetery. However, there are numerous "lost" and unmarked graves. Greenville, AL is located in Butler county. The county was named after Captain William Butler, an American militiaman that died near what is now known as Butler Springs. Butler and his companions remains were finally moved to Pioneer cemetery nearly forty years after they were killed.
Backstory and Context
Pioneer Cemetery, located in Greenville, AL is the oldest cemetery in the city. The historical marker at the cemetery was erected in 1967 by the Butler County Historical Society. (3) The inscription on the marker reads “Greenville’s oldest, established 1819. Captain William Butler, for whom the county was named, buried here. He was killed fighting Indians led by Savannah Jack in March, 1818. Greenville's oldest church, a community church established in 1822, formerly stood near eastern boundary.” (2)
William Butler was born in Virginia in 1759, moved to Georgia in 1796 and got married, and also ended up serving in the state legislature. He then moved to the Alabama Territory and was a “militia leader during the Creek War of 1813-1814.” (1)
On March 20th, 1818 Butler and four other men were on their way from Fort Bibb to Fort Dale when they were attacked by Indians led by Savannah Jack. Butler attempted to make an escape even after he was thrown from his horse and wounded. He saw that he could not escape and instead decided to die while fighting. He severely wounded many of the Indians including one of Jack’s bravest warriors. He was killed and left behind in a brutal fashion; “mangled, scalped, and with his ears and privates stuffed into his mouth.” (4) His body, along with the four bodies of the others he was travelling with, was buried in the woods. It wasn’t until nearly forty years later that the remains of the men were moved to Pioneer Cemetery. (1)
Along with William Butler, many other pioneers and Confederate Civil War soldiers from Butler County are buried in the cemetery. There are also many “lost” and unmarked graves. (3)