Some may accuse Michael Reuter of living in the past.
The Dawson County man has spent many an afternoon, entangled in briars, swatting mosquitos and sweating under the hot sun for the residents of yesteryear.
If they could thank him, they probably would.
Reuter and fellow members of the Sons of Confederate Veterans Dawson County Camp spend several weekends a year clearing brush from some of the area’s oldest, and often neglected, cemeteries.
Most recently, the group restored the Palmour-McClure and Amicalola Methodist cemeteries in Dawson County.
On a recent afternoon, Reuter gave a private tour of Palmour-McClure, which is in the southeastern part of the county.
He walked the graveyard’s perimeter, describing its appearance before the group came in.
“This whole area was just ... forgotten,” Reuter said.
The oldest gravestone among Palmour-McClure’s several dozen plots dates back to the early 1800s. The most recent is from the 1920s.
Among those buried there are a veteran of the Revolutionary War and a few who served in the Civil War.
Reuter said restoration of Palmour-McClure was “one of the biggest projects” the group has undertaken.
The SCV camp, which formed four years ago, made its mission from the start to “find out where all the cemeteries were, and get to work on the ones that needed to be cleaned up.”
Reuter said restoring graveyards can be a challenge.
“It’s backbreaking work, but it’s worth it,” Reuter said. “Seeing the cemetery take shape again ... that’s the payday.”
Fellow Sons of Confederate Veterans member Shawn Blood agreed.
“Seeing the finished product, that was something else,” Blood said.
Blood said restoring historical artifacts is in his, well, blood.
“Ever since being a little kid, I’ve always been interested in history, especially the history of the United States,” he said.
“I love projects like this that help keep alive the memory of those who have come before us.”
Reuter said help from group members like Blood is appreciated.
Work on the Palmour-McClure Cemetery took several weekends.
“It was four of us out there, and we were going hard and heavy,” Reuter said. “The brush was unbelievably thick when we first got to working on it.”
Along with its cleanup work, the Sons of Confederate Veterans conducts services, including the upcoming Confederate Memorial Day Service.
The ceremony is set for 1 p.m. April 24 at New Hope Baptist Church on Bailey Waters Road.
The event features a 21-gun salute and cannonade performed by uniformed re-enactors, some of whom are members of Dawson County’s SCV camp.
Reuter said the group will continue its dedication to the past, including keeping watch on local cemeteries that can disappear without proper care.
“We want to honor the veterans of the past,” he said. “What better way?”