AVON PARK – Since he was interred shortly after his death in Avon Park May 17, 1926, George S. Sloman Sr. has rested peacefully underneath the Southern Cross of Honor.
But over the decades, the iron cross over his tombstone in the Bougainvillea Cemetery became weatherbeaten, faded, rusted and eventually snapped off the six-foot metal pole to which it was attached.
Eventually, the cross imprinted 88 years ago with the initials of the Confederate States of America and the Confederate Battle Flag broke off, fell to the ground and like Sloman’s himself -- became seemingly forgotten,
That was until the cross, actually the cross of St. Andrew -- the apostle of Jesus who was crucified by the Romans on an X-shaped cross -- was resurrected from the ground and put back in its place.
Through the effort of Highland’s County Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV) F. A. Hendry Camp 1284 and a local welder, the once-faded marker is now shiny, clean and upright in an eternal vigilance.
Friday morning, two SCV camp members, Gator Howerton and Ernie Wasdin visited Sloman’s grave and spent time cleaning the cross and tombstone. Howerton -- whose great-great-great grandfather, William Oscar Andrews, was in the 8th Florida Infantry -- said he was visiting the grave of Dan Bennett, his wife Lori’s grandfather. He walked by Sloman’s grave and noticed the detached cross.
“I just saw it was on the ground, the top had broken off. I contacted the camp and asked what we could do about it,” he said.
Sloman, born May 25, 1845 in South Carolina, had enlisted as a private in Company A, Third South Carolina Regiment. According to the FamilySearch website, the 1900 U.S. Census showed he lived in Pine Mount, Fla., and he and his wife moved to the Bartow-Lakeland area.
Their son, George S. Sloman Jr. lived in Avon Park with his wife, Minnie, and was a citrus caretaker around 1920.
After Sloman Sr.’s death and Avon Park burial, in 1931 an application was made to the U.S. War Department for a veteran’s headstone; the application was approved and the headstone was placed with the bearing “George S. Sloman, Co. A, S.C. Cav., C.S.A.” During that time, the cross was placed, which had been repaired several times before it was found by Howerton.
Wasdin, kin to Howell Wasdin of Co. K, 5th Georgia Calvary, said the Hendry Camp has tried unsuccessfully to locate remaining members of Sloman’s family. Camp members decided to take it upon themselves to repair the monument and have it repaired and restored.
Don Polston, Bougainvillea Cemetery superintendent, said he gave the camp permission to restore the cross and Avon Park metal worker John Thompson was hired to reattach the cross to the pole. Thompson said he spent about an hour Aug. 1 working on and painting the marker.
Any community improvement efforts by done by area residents are appreciated, said Elaine Levey, director of the Avon Park Depot Museum. She said if someone notices an historical item in need of attention, it should be brought to the attention of city or county administration officials.
“We need to keep this historical monuments taken care of. I give kudos to the (SCV) chapter for doing what they did,” she said.
Now that Sloman is reunited in spirit with the Southern Cross of Honor, Howerton said it showed the Hendry Camp’s commitment to historical preservation in Highlands County.
“That’s one of our duties and obligations, to honor the soldiers and maintain their grave sites,” he said.
In addition to Bougainvillea Cemetery, the Hendry Camp SCV in March worked on Confederate grave sites in Arcadia and will be putting up new markers in October at Biscuit Lake Cemetery, Frostproof, and on Nov. 15 in Fort Ogden Cemetery in DeSoto County.