More Charleston, S.C. Cemetery Hopping: Exploring St. John’s Lutheran Churchyard, Part II

I’m still at St. John’s Lutheran Churchyard in Charleston, S.C. It’s not a large burial ground but there are several graves packed into it. Find a Grave lists about 750 memorials, but I’m sure there are several more that are unmarked.

I’ve twice visited a plot on the back left side next to the wall. I have a photograph from a previous trip that shows the wrought iron fencing falling down. Making such repairs is costly so I’m not being judgmental when I mention this. It’s a common sight in many old churchyards around Charleston.

I took this photo some years ago on a previous visit.

This plot contains graves of the Siegling and Schnierle families. The Siegling family intersected with the Schnierles when Johann “John” Zacharias Siegling, Sr. married Mary Regina Schnierle in Charleston in 1823. The two families would play a major role in the future of their adopted city.

Born in 1791 in Erfurt, Germany, John Siegling was the second of 17 children of mathematics professor Johann B. Siegling. At age 12, John learned the cabinet maker’s trade, and in 1806 he left Erfurt. He worked his way from Germany to Paris, where he arrived in May 1809. That’s when his life took a decided turn.

A rare photo of John Siegling, Sr. from an advertisement for his piano shop in Charleston, S.C.

Playing a New Tune

In April 1810, John met piano manufacturer Sebastian Erard and became an instrument maker. In 1813, he finished his first piano. He remained with Erard for nine years, the last four in Erard’s London establishment. In September 1819,  John headed for America and arrived in Charleston in November 1819. His uncle, Johann Heinrich Siegling (1770-1827), had emigrated there in 1798. He is buried in another area of St. Johln’s Churchyard.

After quickly establishing himself at the Corner of Broad and King streets, John began advertising the repair and tuning of musical instruments. Drawing upon his cosmopolitan background, he pledged to satisfy the most discriminating of customers. Thus, the Siegling Music House was born.

As I mentioned earlier, John Siegling married Mary Regina Schnierle in 1823. She was the beautiful, intelligent, and musically accomplished daughter of fellow carpenter Johann Michael Schnierle and Maria Barbara Munsch Schnierle from Germany. I’ll share more about the Schnierles later.

John and Mary had seven children, five of whom lived to adulthood. Two of his sons, Henry and Rudolph, grew up to help him make the Siegling Music House a great success in Charleston.

Note the Siegling Music House sign on the right. The picture was taken around 1910. Located on King Street, the three-story masonry building was remodeled in the mid-19th century and again around 1900.

Tragedy struck when the Fire of 1838 destroyed much of the city center. The Siegling Music House, then located on Meeting Street, was destroyed but John didn’t let that keep him down. He rebuilt his business at the corner of King and Beaufain Streets. Another tragedy came as a result of this fire in the Schierle family, but I’ll get to that later.

Born in 1825, John Jr. was the second of the Siegling children. Most of them got their early education overseas in Germany. John Sr. and Mary also traveled back to their home country often during those years to visit their children, see family, and conduct business.

“Rare Union of Talent and Integrity”

John Jr. studied law in Charleston and completed his degree at Harvard University in 1846. He returned to practice law in Charleston and served in the South Carolina legislature. In the prime of his life,  John Jr. became ill and after three weeks, passed away on Oct. 18, 1857 at the age of 32. The cause of death listed in records was paralysis.

John Z. Siegling Jr. died at the age of 32 in 1857, about 10 years before his father. The two share a monument at St. Johh’s Lutheran Churchyard.

John Sr. and Marie’s eldest child, Marie Regina, was as accomplished a musician as her mother and studied music in Paris. She was an internationally acclaimed singer, marrying German music professor Eduard Schumann Le Clercq in Charleston in 1850. They spent much of their time in Europe but returned to Charleston often with their children.

An ad for the Siegling Music House in an 1872 edition of the Charleston News. By this time, John Siegling Sr. had passed away and son Henry had taken over the business.

Sons Henry and Rudolph worked alongside their father in the family business, which John Sr. kept operating even during the Civil War. The brothers served in the Confederacy. Rudolph was seriously wounded at the Second Battle of Bull Run by an exploding grenade. His death was actually reported to the family and a funeral service was conducted in Charleston. According to Marie’s memoirs, when John Sr. went to retrieve his son’s body, he found to his shock that Rudolph was very much alive!

Henry, who spent the most time in Germany in his younger years, served in Parker’s Company, South Carolina Light Artillery and participated in blockade running. He took over running the business for his father after John Siegling, Sr. died on Oct. 31, 1867. John Sr. was buried with son John Jr. at St. John’s Lutheran Churchyard.

Rudolph died (for real) at age 55 in 1894 of “cerebral apoplexy”. He is buried at Magnolia Cemetery, north of downtown Charleston. His mother, Mary Siegling, died at age 90 in 1896 and is also buried at Magnolia Cemetery. Henry died at age 77 in 1907 and is buried with his mother and brother at Magnolia. Eldest child Marie Siegling Le Clercq died in France at the age of 95 in 1920 and was cremated there.

Henry’s son Rudolph took over the family business in 1905. The Siegling Music House remained in operation in Charleston until 1970.

Who was Charles A. Siegling?

There’s a bit of mystery surrounding the marker against the back wall for Charles Augustin Siegling (1837-1878). He is related to the Sieglings, but I’ve been unable to determine exactly how. He came over from Germany right after the Civil War, settling in Charleston. Local directories show he was an accountant working at the same address as the Siegling Music House.

Charles Siegling died of typhoid fever at the age of 42 in 1878.

I suspect that during one of his many trips to Europe, John Sr. promised Charles, possibly a nephew or cousin, that he could have a job if he ever came to America. I can’t find any records about Charles beyond mentions in local directories and his death record. He died in 1878 of typhoid fever.

Schnierle Family History

Mary Schnierle Siegling was the daughter of carpenter Johann Michael Schnierle. Like her husband, Mary’s father came to Charleston from Germany seeking a more prosperous future. The son of a Lutheran clergyman, Johann probably arrived in America around 1805. He and wife Maria Barbara Schnierle had five children together in Charleston, with Mary being the eldest.

Second child, John, became a popular member of the thriving German community. He belonged to the Charleston City Council from 1838 to 1841, then became the city’s second German mayor in 1842 and served until 1845. He was elected mayor in 1850, serving a year.  At the beginning of the Civil War, he was Major General of the Sixteenth Regiment, South Carolina Militia but died in the early days of the conflict from poor health. He is buried at Magnolia Cemetery.

The grave marker of Johann “John” Schnierle, his wife, Marie Barbara Schnierle, and their youngest son, William Schnierle.

The marker for John, Marie, and their youngest son, William (1815-1875) is located along the back wall and goes in order of whom died first. Marie died on April 17, 1836 at age 59. John died at age 65 in 1844. Son William died in 1875 at age 60.

The last story I’m going to share concerns the obelisk at the center of the Siegling/Schnierle plot. Unfortunately, I did not get a good photo because I was more taken with John Sr. and John Jr. Siegling’s monument. But I did get it in the background.

Frederick Schnierle’s life was tragically cut short in the Charleston Fire of 1838. I apologize for the fact that part of another monument (his father and brother John’s) is jutting into the photo.

Frederick Schnierle was the third child of John and Marie Schnierle. Born in 1810, he was as popular in the German community as his brother John. Frederick was also an assistant chief of the local Fire Masters. That role would prove fatal.

Charleston was no stranger to fires. Jacob Schirmer, a merchant living in the city in the 1830s, recorded at least 69 Charleston fires. But the Charleston Fire of 1838 was surely the worst. Over 1,000 buildings were damaged, and more than a fourth of all the businesses within the city suffered damage, with losses of over $3 million.

The Charleston Fire of 1838

At around 9 p.m. on April 27, 1838, fire bells rang after a spark ignited a shed at the corner of King and Beresford Streets. Within minutes, four more houses were engulfed.

In an attempt to stop the fire’s wrath, the decision was made to demolish some buildings with explosives. Bringing them down to ground level reduced the hazard of windblown sparks, and from cleared lots, fire hoses could put scarce water on adjacent structures. At the same time, it was a strategy many were reluctant to take.

This map of the City of Charleston shows the extensive damage from the Fire of 1838. The black-shaded area represents the portion of the city that was destroyed by the blaze – about a quarter of Charleston. (Photo Source: Charleston Historical Society)

After bagged powder and prepared charges ran out, the fire department was forced to set fuses to kegs of gunpowder. An account of what happened to Frederick Schnierle was written in the Charleston News and Courier:

The assistant fire chief was fatally injured when a keg in a house at Liberty and King Streets exploded too quickly. Buried in its ruins, Frederick Schnierle spoke calmly to his rescuers as they dragged him out burned, disfigured, but still conscious. He died at home half an hour later.

He was only 28 years old.

Another view of the base of Frederick’s monument through the wrought iron fence. His parents and brother William’s marker is to the right against the back wall.

“Tears of Admiration”

The Charleston City Council voted on July 30, 1839 to pay $300 to the firm of James E. Walker & Brothers to inscribe a marble monument in Frederick’s honor. I’ve mentioned the Walkers in former blog posts as some of the best known stone carvers in Charleston. The inscription reads:

This monument is erected by the CITY COUNCIL of Charleston, on behalf of his grateful fellow citizens to the memory of Frederick Schnierle.
A native of this city and an officer of the engineering department
who fell a victim at the age of 28 years. To his own uncontrollable Public Spirit
During the awful fire that desolated a third part of the City
on the night of April 27, 1838. The noble qualities of his character
giving promise of a useful and honorable life served to aggravate the public grief for his loss and to multiply the tears of admiration
which laden this memorial of his worth.

Next time, I’ll be sharing stories from Charleston’s St. Michael’s Churchyard.

Note the upside down torches on the monument of Col. J. Charles Blum. They symbolize death, and the burning flame, which would normally be extinguished when the torch was turned upside down due to a lack of oxygen, symbolizes the flame of eternal life and the Christian belief in resurrection.

More Charleston, S.C. Cemetery Hopping: Exploring St. John’s Lutheran Churchyard, Part I

I promised when next I wrote, I would share my visit with Frank Karpiel to St. John’s Lutheran churchyard. It was as easy as opening the gate in the Unitarian churchyard to accomplish that.

A History of St. John’s Lutheran Church

According to St. John’s web site, the congregation dates its start to the 1742 arrival of Dr. Henry Melchior Muhlenberg, father of the Lutheran Church in America. He made a two-day stop in Charleston on his way to visit the Salzburger colony at Ebenezer, Ga. A month later, he came back to spend three weeks waiting for a ship to Philadelphia during which time he taught catechism to the children of the German residents, and held services with communion on Sundays.

The Rev. John George Friederichs came in 1755 and organized the congregation. While evidence points to several trained men conducting Lutheran services in South Carolina prior to this era, organization of the congregation into a formal body and the hiring of a pastor seems to mark the beginning of Lutheranism in South Carolina

Side view of St. John’s Lutheran Church from the churchyard.

Services were held in the French Huguenot Church until the first Lutheran church was completed in 1763 and dedicated by 1764. According to the National Park Service, this wooden building was located behind the site of the current church on Clifford Street. St. John’s pastor during the American Revolution, the Rev. John Nicholas Martin, was expelled from Charleston because he refused to pray for the King of England. Dr. John Bachman, from Rhinebeck, N.Y., directed construction of the current church building.

Built from 1816 to 1818, the design of the church is attributed to Charleston architect and church member Frederick Wesner. Other Charleston craftsmen and builders contributed to its design and construction. The rectangular, stuccoed brick building combines Federal and Baroque elements. The Italianate steeple with bell-shaped roof wasn’t added until 1859, and was built by David Lopez, contractor for the Kadal Kadosh Beth Elohim Synagogue (which I toured several years ago).

A True Survivor

Like many historic buildings in Charleston, St. John’s sustained damage in the Charleston earthquake of 1886 and the 1891 hurricane. St. John’s was also damaged by Hurricane Hugo in 1989 but was restored.

This was not my first visit to St. John’s. I had passed through back in 2013 when Chris and I did a hurried cemetery day on an anniversary trip. But with Frank to give me some guidance, I saw some gravestones I had missed on that first trip.

Since Garak Hieller was a German immigrant, it’s not surprising his grave marker is written in his native tongue. Because St. John’s is a Lutheran church, many early members were native Germans.

The marker for German-born Garak Hieller (1735-1802) doesn’t tell us a lot about him but the sight of it alone makes one stop abruptly. I’ve seen other skull graves in Charleston, but this one has more detail than most. The teeth, the seams along the top of the skull, the detail on the eye sockets. It’s awesome.

Memento mori is Latin for “Remember, You will die.”

The next marker I found lying on the ground near the back wall. The uprooted tree design got my attention. As I began to dig into the life of the man it had been made for, I was fully pulled in. It was a story with undertones I was familiar with from other people whose pasts I’ve uncovered in Charleston.

Free Persons of Color in Charleston

Born in 1811 in Hanover, Germany, Gabriel Garbon made his way to America, settling in Charleston. His profession is unknown. At some point, Gabriel met Flora Scott, who was known as a “free person of color”. The 1850 Census lists Flora as a “mulatto” which usually meant she was of mixed race. Charleston was actually home to a small group of such residents at that time, with a few doing quite well in the merchant class.

Flora’s son, Thomas Scott, is listed on the same census record as three years old at the time. In later records, he would be listed as Thomas Garbon so I believe he was the son of Gabriel and Flora. Later, the couple would have another son named Dietrich in the early 1850s. He, too, would eventually take Gabriel’s last name.

While Gabriel Garbon’s grave marker has an inscription that is not easy to read, it describes him as noble, gentle, and having good sense.

A few years ago, I shared the story of Joseph Purcell. He was an African-American stone carver who was the son of Laura Huggins, a servant of mixed race, and a wealthy hotel owner with the last name of Purcell. The pair never married. Joseph’s brother, Herbert, attended Howard University’s School of Medicine and became a doctor. I suspect his well-to-do father assisted him financially and gave both brothers his name.

Unlike other states, South Carolina did not prohibit interracial marriage until after the Civil War. The state suspended the prohibition in 1868, only to re-enact it in 1879. That did not change until the Supreme Court’s Loving v. Virginia ruling barred all states from outlawing interracial marriage.

When Gabriel died on Oct. 22, 1854 of consumption (now known as tuberculosis), his will clearly spells out that he left his estate to Flora, Thomas, and Dietrich. While he does not name her as his wife or the boys as his sons, future documents for the boys would list their last name as Garbon.

Serving in the U.S. Colored Troops (USCT)

I don’t know when Flora died or where she is buried. But Thomas Garbon went on to serve in the 103rd Regiment, Company D, of the U.S. Colored Troops during the Civil War. The 103rd was organized near the end of the war. It performed garrison and guard duty at Savannah, Ga., and at various points in Georgia and South Carolina.

I’ve seen plenty of markers with trees on them but never one that was uprooted like this one appears to be.

In 1866, Thomas opened a bank account with the Charleston branch of the U.S. Freedmen’s Bank and listed his father as “Gabriel.” His profession is listed as cigar maker. In 1890, he applied for and began receiving an invalid’s pension for his military service. He died in 1892 and is buried at Beaufort National Cemetery in South Carolina. Younger son Dietrich worked as a ship’s carpenter in Charleston in the 1880s. He married and had a family before dying around 1890. I don’t know where he is buried.

Decoding Masonic Symbols

The final marker I want to show off today is that of an infant, Ann Allison. The daughter of James and Elizabeth Allison, Ann was born on Oct. 10, 1786 and died on Oct. 25, 1787. She barely lived a year, sad to say.

Frank pointed this one out to me since he included it in his book. He notes that the compass on top is Masonic in nature. I thought that was intriguing since the child was barely a year old. While little Anna was not a Mason, my thought is that her father James Allison most assuredly was.

Infant Ann Allison was not a Mason. But her father, James, was a key player in the formation of Charleston’s first Masonic Lodge.

The emblem of the compass with a sun inside of it may indicate he was involved in the Scottish Rite, the largest and most widely practiced Masonic Rite in the world and employs a lodge system. A grave I’ve seen with a very similar sun marking was for a Past Worshipful Master of the Masonic order. It’s possible James Allison had achieved that rank at the time of his daughter’s death. I’m not an expert on Masonic symbols so I could be wrong.

I also learned that the first Grand Council of Princes of Jerusalem was organized at Charleston on May 12, 1788, just months after Ann died. I have a feeling James Allison may have also been involved with that as well.

Next time, I’ll have more stories from St. John’s Lutheran churchyard.






More Charleston, S.C. Cemetery Hopping: A Brief Stop at the Unitarian Churchyard

Last time, I finished up my two-part series on Charleston, S.C.’s French Huguenot churchyard. Today, I’m going to feature a brief stop Frank Karpiel and I made at the churchyard at the Unitarian Church of Charleston. I’ll explain why it was brief in a moment.

To get to the Unitarian Church, Frank led me through what’s known as the Gateway Walk on Church Street. It was opened in 1930 by the Garden Club of Charleston to coincide with the 250th anniversary of the founding of the city. The club maintains the walk with proceeds from fundraising projects. The walk is well worth the time and you’ll end up in the Unitarian churchyard eventually.

The Gateway Walk was opened in 1930 by the Garden Club of Charleston.

History of the Unitarian Church of Charleston

A National Historic Landmark, the Unitarian Church of Charleston is the oldest Unitarian church in the South. In colonial Charleston, membership of the Circular Congregational Church (then known as the Independent Church) became so great that they decided to build a second church building. Construction began at this site on Archdale Street in 1772, temporarily interrupted by the Revolutionary War. The small rectangular brick church was finally completed in 1787.

In 1817, the Archdale congregation was chartered as the Second Independent Church, with a Unitarian minister presiding. Because the American Unitarian Association was not organized until 1825, it wasn’t until 1839 that this congregation was rechartered as Unitarian.

This is a view of the Unitarian Church from the St. John’s Lutheran churchyard next door.

Architect Francis D. Lee is responsible for the 19th-century Gothic Revival additions to the building. In 1852 his two-year renovation of the church began, which included adding the rear chancel, a four-story tower, and stucco to the original brick walls. The remodeled church exhibited typical Gothic features such as the crenellated tower, arched windows, stained glass panels, and Tudor arch entrance. When the building suffered significant damage in the earthquake of 1886, people across the country sent donations to fund repairs.

Today, the Unitarian Church of Charleston is thriving and has a growing membership that is active in the community.

On to the Churchyard

So why did we not linger longer, so to speak, at the Unitarian churchyard? It wasn’t for lack of interest. The Unitarian churchyard is quite unlike most you’ll see elsewhere because they pretty much let the flora and fauna grow as it wishes with little taming. The flagstone pathways are clear but the gravestones are sometimes obscured by the plants.

If you’re looking for neat and tidy rows of gravestones, the Unitarian churchyard will not be your cup of tea.

Many people adore the charm this style of churchyard offers. It’s incredibly creative. But at the same time, it came make photographing the graves a tricky business unless you want to tear out grass to see the names/dates and that’s not a good idea.

I did see some gravestones from the Unitarian churchyard that I think you’ll enjoy. Like the memorial monument for Dr. Edward Henry Strobel. I say memorial because I’m pretty sure he’s not actually buried there. Let me explain.

Are the ashes of Dr. Edward Henry Strobel here?

Born on Dec. 7, 1855 in Charleston, Edward H. Strobel was the son of accountant Maynard Strobel and Carolyn Bullock Strobel. He attended Harvard University and Harvard Law School, being admitted to the New York bar in 1883. After helping in the 1884 Presidential campaign of Grover Cleveland, he was offered the post of Secretary of Legation to Madrid and held the post for five years. It was clear fairly soon that Strobel was destined for a life of international work.

A Diplomat’s Life

Based on notes from his period in Madrid, Strobel penned a book on the Spanish Revolution in 1868. He returned to America to become Third Assistant Secretary of State in Washington, D.C. from 1893-1894. Then it was off to serve as U.S. Minister to Ecuador in 1894, and then Chile from 1894-1897. He returned to Boston in 1898 to become the Bemis Professor of International Law at Harvard.

A portrait of Edward Henry Strobel taken from his book, “The Spanish Revolution, 1868-1875”.

By this time, Strobel was in his 40s and could have remained at Harvard, enjoying a pleasant career. But in 1903, Strobel took a leave of absence to represent the Kingdom of Siam at the International Peace Court in The Hague. In 1906, he moved to Bangkok to become the American Adviser in Foreign Affairs to the government King Chulalongkorn of Siam.

That same year, Strobel visited Egypt and while there, was stricken by an infection caused by an insect bite. His health declined and despite several surgeries, he eventually died in Siam on Jan. 15, 1908 at the age of 52. He never married and in his will, he left his estate to his mother, sister, and other family members.

The other side of Edward H. Strobel’s marker further details his illustrious career.

Stone for Edward Henry Strobel at the Bangok Christian Cemetery in Thailand. (Photo source: Chris Nelson, Find a Grave)

Now comes my uncertainty. According to the New York Times, Strobel was cremated in a ceremony on Feb. 5, 1908 at which King Chulalongkorn himself lit the funeral pyre. There’s a stone for him at the Bangkok Christian Cemetery in Thailand (see above). But as you can see in the photo further up, Strobel also has a marker at the Unitarian churchyard. Odds are his ashes are not buried at neither spot but with two markers, his life will not soon be forgotten.

“Sweetly Retired from Mortal Life”

Frank pointed out the next marker to me, which he included in his book. It’s noticeable for the smiling soul effigy on the top but shares a sad story as well. The stone for Charles Otis reads:

Sweetly retired from mortal life, Lies here Sanctified Excellence, Matured understanding, the gentleness of the passions, The hopes of the aged and boasts of the Young: The solace of his family and, we trust, The approval of his God. Mr. Charles Otis, the 5th Son to Joseph Otis, Esqr., and Mrs. Maria Otis, his Consort, of Barnstable in the State of Massachusetts, In which place he was born on July 8th, 1777, and who departed this life in this City August 12th, 1794, Aged 17 years, 1 Month & 7 days, After a residence in the same of 6 months.

Charles Otis had only been in Charleston six months when he died on yellow fever in 1794 at age 17. His marker was carved by John Just Geyer of Boston, Mass.

Born in 1777, Charles was the son of lawyer Joseph Otis. Charles’ uncle was also a lawyer named James Otis, Jr. who (according to Frank’s book) first said the phrase, “Taxation without representation is tyranny.” He was a political activist, pamphleteer, and legislator in Boston who stirred up controversy throughout his life. Oddly enough, on May 23, 1783, he stepped outside to watch a thunderstorm and was killed by a lightning bolt.

How Charles came to be in Charleston in 1794 is unknown. But after only being in the city for six months, he died of yellow fever at the age of 17. His handsome stone was carved by the talented John Just Geyer of Boston, Mass., who carved other markers for the Otis family over the years.

Portrait of an Author

The last person I’m featuring has some mystery surrounding her. I don’t think the person who created her Find a Grave memorial realized who she was because there are no dates on her gravestone, which has a planter as part of it. So her FG memorial has no details on her brief life, which it turns out was quite full.

Mary Lee’s birth and death dates are not inscribed on her marker but I found them elsewhere.

Mary Elizabeth Lee was born in 1813 to attorney William Lee and Eliza Markley Lee, who married in 1803 in Charleston. Her uncle, Thomas, was a U.S. District Judge. Born with a delicate constitution, Mary was much shielded from the world. However, she was much loved by her parents and many siblings. She didn’t begin attending school until the age of 10 when she was placed in the charge of a Mr. A. Bolles, who proved a talented teacher.

A Writer’s Life

Entering school changed Mary’s life and books became a passion. She made rapid progress in her studies and developed an aptitude for learning languages. She might have pursued this harder but her health wouldn’t allow it. She loved to write poetry and stories.

Portrait of Mary Elizabeth Lee, who accomplished much in her short time on Earth.

At age 20, Mary became a contributor to The Rose Bud, a popular periodical edited by Caroline Howard Gilman. The wife of a Unitarian minister, Gilman was thought by some to be the most famous female author in the South from the 1830s to 1850s. She, too, is buried at the Unitarian churchyard.

Mary also began contributing to The Southern Rose, Graham’s Magazine, Godey’s Lady’s Book, and the Southern Literary Messenger. She used the pen names “M.E.L.” and “A Friend”.

Her first volume, entitled Social Evenings, or Historical Tales for Youth, was published in 1840 by the Massachusetts Board of Education School Library Association, and proved to be one of the most attractive in the collection.

Stymied by a right hand that was paralyzed, Mary learned to write with her left hand. Sadly, her health eventually broke down completely and she died among her family on September 23, 1849. The Poetical Remains of the late Mary Elizabeth Lee, with a Biographical Memoir by S. Gilman, D. D., was published after her death in 1851.

Mary’s marker includes the following epitaph:

My Sister, As some Mighty swell Doth part two vessels to one Haven Bound,
So death has come between us.

Mary’s mother, Eliza, died in 1855 and is buried beside her. Mary’s father, William, is thought to be buried in an unmarked grave in the churchyard.

Mary’s mother, Eliza, died in 1855 and is buried beside her. The grave of her father, William, is unmarked.

Before I forget, there’s a ghost story attached to this churchyard that gets talked about a lot. Many think Edgar Allen Poe’s poem Annabel Lee is based on a tragic story of a young woman buried in an unmarked grave in the churchyard. You can read about that here.

Next time, we’ll explore the churchyard next door at St. John’s Lutheran Church.

More Charleston, S.C. Cemetery Hopping: Visiting the French Huguenot Churchyard , Part II

Before we get started, you may notice a slight change in the title of this week’s post. Two weeks ago, I referred to my subject as the French Huguenot Church Cemetery and that was technically incorrect.

Cemetery vs. Churchyard vs. Graveyard

This issue was in the back of my mind when I was writing that initial post but I dropped into default mode and stuck with “cemetery.” Truth be told, in this case, the term “churchyard” is more appropriate. I looked up Frank Karpiel’s reference in his book and he refers to it as a “churchyard” so I am going to bow to his superior knowledge. The definition of churchyard is a patch of land adjoining or surrounding a church, some of which can be used for burials. Some call that patch a “graveyard”.

Today, the words are often used interchangeably and I’m sure if someone went through my blog, they’d find mistakes in how I refer to some of them. The word “cemetery” didn’t come into play until the last few centuries and usually refers to a large burial ground not associated with a church. It comes from the Greek κοιμητήριον, meaning “sleeping place”.

“Tutor of the Orphans”

One particular gravestone that Frank pointed out to me was that of Philip Anthony Besselleu (sometimes spelled Bessellieu) (1747-1795), who was a teacher to about 600 students at the free school operated by St. Philip’s Episcopal Church just down the street. He also worked at the Charleston Orphan House. In 1791, President George Washington came to Charleston and while there, he visited the Orphan House. He spent some time with the children and had breakfast with the staff. Besselleu and his wife, Susannah, also had several children of their own.

Despite the shadows, you can see the smiling face of the soul effigy topping Philip Besselleau’s marker. His stone calls him a “Tutor of the Orphans.”

The detailed soul effigy at the top of his stone was carved by Thomas Walker, a Scotsman with an abundance of talent. The face looks quite sweet. His work, and that of his four sons (David, James, Robert, and William), can be seen on markers throughout South Carolina until around the Civil War.

Thomas Walker’s son-in-law was John White. John’s son, John Jr., and his grandson William did their fair share of beautiful carving work, some of their creations turning up throughout the Southeast. I was picking through a cemetery in Greenville, Ala. in January this year and was thrilled to come across one of John’s monuments.

What is a Soul Effigy?

The soul effigy itself, or winged cherub, was the motif that began replacing the skull and crossbones (which I featured in Part I) so often seen in the 1600s into the 1700s. These ‘winged effigies’ might look like angels, but they often were artist depictions of either cherubs or, possibly, the human soul. Some believe they might have even resembled the deceased themselves at times.

You can see another example across the churchyard from an earlier time than Philip Besselleau’s. Barbary Bocquett’s stone is unique even by Charleston standards since the face of the effigy is decidedly more chubby than usual and the wings drape straight down. The chin is also quite large in contrast to the tiny dot eyes. It is thought that the carver could be John Zuricher of New York, whose similar looking work can be found in the graveyards of Long Island.

This stone could be the work of John Zuricher of New York.

I learned that Barbary’s home, which was a few blocks away from the church on Broad Street, was used as a French school to teach Huguenot children in the 1750s. She died on May 19, 1755 at the age of 35. Barbary’s footstone with her initials “B.B.” has also somehow survived. That’s a miracle in itself.

I’m a bit surprised that Barbary Bocquett’s foostone still exists.

“His Unfeigned Grief”

Not much is known about Thomas Tunno beyond the fact he was a wealthy Charleston merchant who was active in the shipping trade. He married Harriet Ward in late April or early May 1800 (records give conflicting dates). I believe she had a heft dowry of her own. She was about 25 at the time. Barbary died on Feb. 21, 1802 at age 27. Her inscription reads:

The disconsolate Husband caused this Monument to be erected as an evidence of his unfeigned Grief. And a just tribute of respect to her virtues.

It’s sad to see that Harriet Tunno’s marker has become part of the sidewalk but that is often the fate of older Charleston gravestones.

It’s difficult to make out in the picture, but at the top of the marker is a female figure leaning against a pedestal supporting an urn. This was a very common motif that came into use around early 1800s.

If you look in the bottom left corner, you can see the name “G. Rennie, Charleston”. George Rennie was another Scotsman who found his way to Charleston and was a popular carver until his death in 1810.  He is buried not far away in the First Scots Presbyterian Church’s churchyard.

From the Old to the New

One thing you’ll notice in the churchyard is that scattered among the older markers are new ones from the last few decades. This isn’t always the case in burial grounds I’ve visited. The French Huguenot Church membership is still quite active and it look like there’s still some space among the crowded stones to be buried.

When you first catch sight of this slate stone, you might think it was old. But it was done in 2008 for Opal Jenrette Robinson. She died at the age of 93. Made of slate, it looks as if it might have been carved by George Rennie or Thomas Walker.

Opal’s Find a Grave memorial notes that “with good health and a great sense of humor she outlived three good husbands, Boyce Waddell, Howard Leath, and Robbie Robertson.”

Instead of a soul effigy or a winged skull, Opal’s marker features a cherub leaning on its elbow. It’s a more modern take but still respectful of the old style. It even keeps some of the original language of those old markers, starting with “Here Lies Buried the Body of…” Especially touching are the final words, “She gave us Kay.”

There are, hard as it is to believe, a handful of carvers out there trying to keep this old art form going today. Some of them live in Charleston and I’m guessing Opal’s family commissioned this stone in her memory.

Not far away is a similar slate marker for Opal’s daughter, Kay, who died in 2006 at the age of 67. The cherub at the top is slightly different. At the bottom are the words, “An angel flying too close to the ground.”

Kay Ward died on Sept. 13, 2006.

On the other side of the churchyard is the stone of Millicent Whitfield Bradsher, who tragically died in a car accident on Feb. 16, 1998. The marker is rounded at the top and has a footstone, making it look older in style. But the fresh blue mosaic tile in front of it is definitely not. I think it fits in well at the churchyard and is complimentary of the styles around it.

Millicent Bradsher was only 22 when she died in 1998.

The beauty of these modern markers is that they are evidence of the continuing life of the church itself, which has not died. People still attend services, pray and sing hymns as they did hundreds of years ago with the church was first started. Unlike many churches, the French Huguenot Church of Charleston has not faded away. It is still going strong today.

Having been born of a religious movement that some sought to stamp out, that’s quite impressive.

I’ll be back with more stories from Charleston, S.C’s churchyards and cemeteries.

More Charleston, S.C. Cemetery Hopping: Visiting the French Huguenot Churchyard, Part I

The end of May marks my family’s annual visit to Folly Beach, S.C. In 2018, I was especially eager to go because I’d made contact with someone willing to visit cemeteries with me in nearby Charleston’s historic district.

“Hopping” With an Expert

I’ve visited Charleston’s historic cemeteries several times over the years but never with a person I consider a true expert on them. Frank Karpiel has published several articles in newspapers, magazines, and scholastic journals, and he wrote a book on Charleston’s cemeteries in 2013. He’s also taught as a visiting assistant professor at the College of Charleston and an adjunct professor at the Citadel Military College. So he knows what he’s talking about.

I took this picture of the French Huguenot Churchyard through the fence in 2013.

I contacted Frank online and he kindly agreed to meet up with me during my May 2018 visit. Because I do most of my cemetery “hopping” solo, it was a genuine treat to do it in the company of someone who can not only share what he knows about the cemeteries but gets as excited about seeing them as I do.

I highly recommend getting a copy of Frank Karpiel’s book “Charleston’s Historic Cemeteries.” (Photo source:

I was also excited that we were meeting at the churchyard French Huguenot Church (FHC) of Charleston, which I’ve never been inside. Because of vandalism over the years, the church wisely limits access to the churchyard and it’s always been locked up when I’ve visited.

But on this day, the church itself was open for tours and Frank was talking with the pastor in the churchyard when I arrived. I blithely climbed over the chain and joined them knowing I wouldn’t be scolded.

History of the French Huguenot Church of Charleston

According to the FHC web site, the Huguenot (or French Protestant movement) had a key role in the European Protestant Revolution. Protestants persecuted by the French Catholic Court migrated to Europe, South Africa, and the Americas.

By the late 17th century, Huguenots had settled in several Eastern coastal areas. These groups grew when Louis XIV caused the Edict of Nantes to be revoked in 1685, stripping French Protestants of all religious and political privileges. The English encourage these refugees to settle in the colonies, most from France’s prosperous merchant and professional classes.

I took this picture of the French Huguenot Church across the street in May 2018. The present Gothic Revival edifice, designed by Edward Brickell White, was dedicated in 1845.

In April 1680, the ship Richmond came to Charleston with 45 French Protestants (Huguenots) aboard and additional refugees followed. In 1687, a church was built on what is now the corner of Church and Queen Streets in downtown Charleston. About 450 Huguenots had settled in the Low Country by 1700.

After the original church was destroyed in 1796 in an attempt to stop the spread of a fire, its replacement was completed in 1800. That was dismantled in 1844 to make way for the present Gothic Revival structure, designed by Edward Brickell White and dedicated in 1845. The current church was damaged by shellfire during the long bombardment of downtown during the Civil War.  It was nearly destroyed during the earthquake of 1886.

Interior of the French Huguenot Church of Charleston. I looked around at the end of my visit that day. You can see memorials on the walls throughout the sanctuary.

In his book, Frank points out that the current church building was apparently built over part of the earlier graveyard. So there are more people buried there than the above-ground markers would indicate.

Today, the French Huguenot Church of Charleston is independent and not affiliated with any governing church body. It shares ties to the Presbyterian Church (Church of Scotland), the Dutch Reformed, and Lutheran Church by virtue of its early leadership under John Calvin. Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion published in 1536 form the historic basis for the formation of these “Calvinist” denominations. Once a year, it holds a service in French as a way to harken back to its roots.

Portrait of an Artist

One of the first grave markers I saw was for Henry Breintual (I’ve also seen it spelled Brintnell) Bounetheau, the grandson of John Bounetheau and the son of Peter Bounetheau. It reads “who came to Charleston from La Rochelle, France on the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes of 1685. The last two are interred beneath this church.”

Henry B. Bounetheau’s father and grandfather are “interred beneath this church”.

Born in Charleston in 1879, Henry was the son of Peter and Elizabeth Weyman Bounetheau. Peter is thought to have served in the American Army. Although Henry studied art as a boy, his chief occupation was that of an accountant and he later became an officer in the Bank of Charleston.

Although he later became popular for his painting of miniatures, Henry Bounetheau primarily supported himself as an accountant. This is a watercolor on ivory self portrait he completed in 1867. (Photo source: Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C.)

At the age of 46, Henry married 26-year-old Julia Clarkson Dupre in April 1844 in Charleston. Like Henry, Julia was of French heritage. She was educated at the Emma Willard School in Troy, N.Y. and studied art in Paris until a bank failure in 1838 forced her return to South Carolina. She helped her mother Juliana Schmidt Dupre open the Charleston Female Seminary in 1841 and taught there for several years. Henry taught there as well when he had the time.

Henry and Julia only had one son, Henry Dupre Bounetheau, sometime in 1845.

Both Henry and Julia were talented in the art of miniature painting, which involved loading a tiny paintbrush with color and dabbing it onto the surface of the ivory. Although Henry’s talent brought him several commissions from society clients, he never gave up his day job as an accountant. He was also a talented flute player.

Henry Bounetheau painted this miniature of his wife, Julia, in 1850. (Photo source: Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C.)

The Bounetheaus owned a home in Georgetown, Fla. on the St. John’s River. It was there Julia died of a heart ailment at the age of 50 on Oct. 28, 1869. It’s likely that son, Henry, was living there as well because he was working as a clerk in nearby Jacksonville, Fla. before his marriage to Emma Hudnall in 1884. Julia was buried at the Old City Cemetery in Jacksonville, Fla.

Henry B. Bounetheau died in Charleston on Jan. 31, 1877 of “old age” and was buried in the French Huguenot churchyard. Son Henry D. Bounetheau died on May 3 during the Great Fire of 1901 in Jacksonville, Fla. He was buried beside his mother at Old City Cemetery but a few weeks later, both mother and son were moved to Evergreen Cemetery in Jacksonville. Henry had in his possession many of his parents’ miniatures that were destroyed in the fire.

Charleston Pioneers

One area Frank pointed out was a plain bricked area with a marker that I might not have even noticed. The Manigault vault, marked with a simple stone, is all that is left of a pioneering family of Charleston.

Seeing a date this old on a burial vault is not common for me.

The Manigault family vault used to have steps that led down to the burial chamber.

Born in 1704 in Charleston, Gabriel Manigault was a prosperous landowner and merchant. With slave labor, he turned his land purchases into successful rice and indigo plantations. Along with his increasing fortunes, he was active in local politics and represented Charleston in the provincial House of Commons. He married his wife, Ann Ashby, and they had a son, Peter.

A wealthy planter and merchant, Gabriel Manigault retired at 50 and became active in Charleston politics.

Peter Manigault died at the age of 42 in 1773. His wife, Elizabeth, had died earlier that year. Gabriel died in June 1781 and Ann died in April 1782. All of them are buried in the Manigault family vault, along with some of Peter’s adult children. Initially, there were steps leading down into the burial chamber but at some point they were bricked over.

Grinning Skulls and Libraries

You can’t go very far in a Charleston cemetery without encountering a grinning skull and crossbones. Or a winged skull.  These are common in New England cemeteries. Before you assume it’s a pirate grave, I can confidently say that most of them were carved on stones for land-loving folk. As I’ve explained in past posts, there’s a reason behind such a gruesome image became a popular gravestone decoration.

Can you see the seams in the skull on the top of John Neufville’s grave marker?

The short answer it that the Puritans of the late 17th and early 18th centuries thought you needed to make the most of your short time on earth to ensure where you wound up after you died. This carried over into sending a message to the loved ones that you left behind when they came to visit your grave. The skull and crossbones were to remind them that living a good life would result in ending up in Heaven or in agony in hell if they didn’t.

John Neufville, born in 1670 in St. Kitts, died in 1749 about five years before his wife, Elizabeth.

According to Frank’s book, John was a native of St. Kitts in the Caribbean. Born in 1679, Neufville came to Charleston by way of New York. St. Kitts became home to the first Caribbean British and French colonies in the mid-1620s and was a member of the British West Indies until gaining independence on September 19, 1983.

Established in 1748, the Charleston Library Society paved the way for the founding of the College of Charleston in 1770 and provided the core collection of natural history artifacts for the founding of the Charleston Museum in 1773.

John’s wife, Elizabeth, was considerably younger than him and their son, John Jr., was born when John Sr. was 60. Both men were Charleston merchants. John Jr. was instrumental in helping to establish the Charleston Library Society, which Frank and I visited later that day.

John died in 1749 at the age of 79 while Elizabeth died in 1754 at the age of 54. Son John Jr. died in 1804 and is buried with his wife, also named Elizabeth, at the FH churchyard near his parents.

I have much more to share from the French Huguenot churchyard. I’ll be back with Part II soon.

Bulldogs and Burials: Walking Through Athens, Ga.’s Oconee Hill Cemetery, Part IV

This is my last installment on Athens, Ga.’s Oconee Hill Cemetery. I’ve got some bits and pieces for you that I didn’t think you’d want to miss. My first item involves an initial mystery. One of my photos was of a time-worn angel monument that, as you can see, could use a good cleaning.

The Waddel angel could use some TLC.

The only information on the monument I initially had was the following inscription:

Entered into rest.
July 21, 1892.
Only child of Wm. H. & Mary B. Waddel
Aged 21 Years

I went searching for Annie in the Athens newspapers but came up empty. Then I found a book called “The History of the Hulls” (she’s related to them) that mentioned she was married in 1891. That unlocked more of the story.

Annie was born in 1871 to William Henry Waddell (her last name is spelled Waddel on her monument) and Mary Brumby Pew Waddel. The daughter of Col. Arnoldus Vanderhorst Brumby, founder of the Georgia Military Academy in 1850, Mary came from a distinguished family. Her first husband, a Captain Pew, died. The details of that union are few.

Moses Waddell, fifth president of the University of Georgia, lived in this Federal-style house after it was built in 1820. Known as the Church-Waddell-Brumby House, it is thought to be the oldest surviving residence in Athens and houses the Athens Welcome Center. (Photo Source:

Mary married again to William H. Waddell in 1870, a professor teaching Latin and Greek at the University of Georgia. William’s grandfather was Moses Waddell, fifth president of the University (1819-1829) and a respected educator/author. Interestingly, the 1870 Census lists Mary’s financial worth at $10,000 and her husband’s at $4,000.

“A Kind Husband, Father, Friend and Tutor”

William died on his way home from a trip in Millford, Va. on Sept. 18, 1878. His funeral notice was vague on the details of his demise. Mary and Annie went to live with her parents in Atlanta after William died. In 1883, Mary remarried a third time to Col. Walter Izzard Heyward, her former brother-in-law. He was previously married to her sister, Susannah, who had died on May 5, 1878.

Annie became engaged to Miles Green Dobbins, Jr. of Cartersville, who was connected to the Heywards. They were married on Feb. 4, 1891 at Kenwood, the Heyward home in Cartersville.

An article in the Atlanta Constitution detailed the upcoming wedding of Annie Waddell to Miles G. Dobbins.

Annie died on July 21, 1892 in Cartersville. According to “The History of the Hulls”, she died “with issue”, meaning she had at least one child. Her funeral notice does not mention that or if she died in childbirth. Her monument was placed next to her father William’s grave at Oconee Hill. Why is her married name not on her marker? I don’t know.

It’s intriguing to me that Annie’s married last name is not on her monument.

Miles remained a bachelor for several years, remarrying in January 1905 to Estella Calhoun. She gave birth to a son, John, on Oct. 19, 1905 and died three days later at the age of 30. Little John went to live with with his grandfather and aunt. Miles died in 1930 at the age of 72 and is buried with Estella at Oak Hill Cemetery in Cartersville.  Son John died in 1948 at the age of 42 and is buried in the Calhoun plot at Oak Hill.

Annie’s mother, Mary Brumby Pew Waddell Heyward, died in 1917 at the age of 72. She is buried at Westview Cemetery in Atlanta with her third husband (both are in unmarked graves) and her sister (his first wife) in the plot of her brother, Lieutenant Thomas Brumby.

In the back corner of Oconee Hill is a separate area for the Congregation Children of Israel (CCI’s) cemetery. When Oconee Hill was established in 1855, part of it was set aside for the burials of the Athens Manufacturing Company in 1873. In turn, CCI purchased part of that land and maintains the CCI Cemetery today.

Birth of Athens’ Jewish Community

Athens’ Jewish community was founded by citizens of Filehne in the Posen Area of Prussia, which is present day Wielen, Poland. In 1872, Moses Myers, along with other leading Jewish Athenians, Caspar Morris, David Michael, and Gabriel Jacobs, petitioned the Superior Court of Clarke County for a charter of incorporation for the CCI.

In 1873, the Congregation purchased land at the intersection of Jackson and Hancock Streets. In 1884, the original synagogue opened its doors, and housed CCI for the next 84 years. In 1968, a new building was dedicated on Dudley Drive.

CCI’s cemetery has about 150 burials. I could find little information on the Internet about the people buried there. Near the back corner is the Morris plot, which features this large monument to Norma Marks Morris.

Oddly enough, only Norma’s first name is on her monument.

Born in 1874, Norma Marks was the fourth child of Simon and Pauline Stern Marks. I noted that Simon was 50 years old when he married Pauline, age 23, in 1866 in Athens. Simon, a dry goods merchant, was from Poland and Pauline was German.

Norma married Charles Morris in 1896, a traveling salesman for a clothing store in Athens. They had two children, Rosina and Simon. The 1900 Census indicates they lived with Pauline in those days. Simon Marks had died in 1888.

In Christian cemeteries, lilies often signify the Resurrection but I’m not sure what the meaning would mean to those of the Jewish faith.

According to her death notice in the Athens Banner, Norma died on April 6, 1918 after a two-day illness. Her funeral was held in her childhood home, although both her parents had passed away by that time.

Charles disappears after the 1920 Census, and I cannot find a record of him buried in the CCI Cemetery.

One thing I noticed was this lovely garden bench created by the J.L. Mott Iron Works Co. of New York City, a company established in 1828. It is in very good shape considering how old it probably is. Mott also made fine quality porcelain sinks and bathtubs, some of which ended up in the White House.

Benches like this come up for auction from time to time at a hefty sum.

There are two mausoleums in the very back corner of the cemetery, the Michael mausoleum on the left and the Morris mausoleum directly across from it. Although I took pictures through the glass of the doors of the Morris mausoleum, I could not make out exactly which Morrises are interred within it.

The Morris mausoleum was built in 1917.

The stained glass inside features a menorah.

The stained glass inside the Morris mausoleum is in good condition. I don’t know what the Hebrew translates into.

Behind the bench is the Michael family mausoleum. I was able to make out the names of Simon Michael (1859-1932), his wife, Anna Phillips Michael (1863-1945), and their son, Bert Michael (1893-1912). Also inside are Simon and Anna’s son, Max, and his daughter, Cecilia. I cannot make out whom the sixth person is, it may be Max’s wife.

The Michael family was a key player in the dry goods business in Athens at the turn of the century.

Born in 1859 in Chicago, Simon Michael moved with his family to Jefferson, Ga. In 1882, he and his brother, Moses, opened Michael Brothers Wholesale and Retail Dry Goods Store. That same year, on March 14, he married Anna Phillips.

Over the years, they expanded several times. In 1893, they operated out of a five-story building, the tallest in Athens at the time. Their slogan was “Michael Brothers: Since 1882, the Store Good Goods Made Popular.”

By 1910, Simon and Anna had four sons: Morris, Max, Ernest, and Bert. Max was an attorney while both Morris, Ernest, and Bert helped Simon at the store.

A Son’s Sad End

Youngest son Bert completed his studies at the University of Georgia in June 1912 at the age of 18, but due to an appendicitis, could not attend his graduation. He was recovering at St. Joseph’s Infirmary (now Emory St. Joseph’s Hospital) in Atlanta when he died on July 28, 1912. Simon and Anna, who had been in Germany visiting family when he was transferred to Atlanta, made it home in time to be at his side when he died.

Fortunately, I was able to get a decent picture of the Michael mausoleum’s stained glass.

Because there is a date of MCMXII above the door of the Michael mausoleum, I believe young Bert was the first to be interred within it.

Gone in 39 Minutes

In 1921, a fire began in the Max Joseph building at the corner of Clayton and Wall Streets. Also present in that building was automobile retailer Denny Motor Company, which had drums of petroleum stored on the first floor. Within 45 minutes, the fire had consumed the Joseph building and both Michael Bros. establishments.

Moses and Simon noted that, “The commercial monument which we have striven through 39 years to erect was licked up in almost 39 minutes by the cruel tongue of fire and flame.”

Built in 1922 after a fire, the 55,000 square-foot Michael Bros. store was designed by Atlanta architect Neel Reid. It is now owned by Nelson Properties, and houses office space and restaurants. (Photo source:

The Michael brothers vowed to rebuild bigger and better. Opening in 1922, the new building was 55,000 square feet and designed by noted Atlanta architect Neel Reid. It was Athens’ first building with overhead sprinklers.

Many employees of the Michael Bros. store stayed with the organization for years. They also understood their customers’ hardships during the Great Depression, allowing them to add to their unpaid account balances. Both brothers were active in civic organizations and charitable groups.

A Tragic History Repeats Itself

The death of Simon Michael was sadly reminiscent of his son Bert’s in 1912.

In March 1932, Simon entered the hospital with appendicitis. The surgery was thought to be a success. On March 14, the day of his 50th wedding anniversary to Anna, he was recovering in the hospital. According to his death notice in the Atlanta Constitution, he had received many well-wishing visitors that day. It reads, “Friends believed the excitement of the day hastened his death.” His death certificate notes that heart disease was a contributing factor.

Moses continued running the store until his wife Emma’s death in February 1944. He died in November 1944. They are interred in a separate double mausoleum in the CCI Cemetery. Anna died in 1945. Son Max’s daughter, Cecelia, died at the age of 5 in 1917 and was placed in the mausoleum then. Max died in 1949 and joined his daughter, parents, and brother Bert inside.

Final Thoughts

Leaving Oconee Hill Cemetery, I thought about the years I spent in Athens and how much I grew and changed as a person. Most of what I learned was outside the classroom, I admit, in my interaction with the people I encountered. Some of it was downright painful, but most of it was wonderful. I met and became friends with a small handful of people I still consider dear friends today. It was the gateway to my life as a grownup.

I wish I had visited Oconee Hill back then, but I’m glad my family indulged my wish on a sunny Mother’s Day to discover a precious gem in a familiar setting. Maybe when football season is over, I can go back and visit the graves I missed.

Bulldogs and Burials: Walking Through Athens, Ga.’s Oconee Hill Cemetery, Part III

We’re back at Oconee Hill Cemetery. This week, I’m looking at the history of some prominent Athenians whose family homes/buildings are still being used today in the Classic City.

As we moved toward the back of the cemetery, I discovered a large mausoleum that looked to predate the official opening date of 1855.

The Hunter mausoleum’s first occupant was Capt. Nathan Wyche Hunter, a veteran of the Mexican War who died in 1849.

The son of War of 1812 veteran Col. Archibald Russell Spence Hunter and Elizabeth Wyche Lucas Hunter, Nathan Wyche Hunter was born on August 23, 1811 in Hancock County, Ga. He entered West Point in 1829 and according to his diary, he “never hated a place so bad in my life.” Accustomed to the comforts of his wealthy family’s home, West Point’s rough conditions were a rude awakening. But he soon acclimated to his rustic surroundings.

Noble Hearted Hunter

Although Hunter barely passed as the “goat” of his class in 1833 by scoring the lowest on the final exam, “Noble Hearted Hunter” (as he was called by classmate Francis H. Smith) was so warmly regarded by his fellow students that he was asked to give the valedictory address. The gesture moved him to write, “I had much rather have this expression of their confidence in my ability to perform such a task than to be head of the class.”

Like many soldiers, Capt. Hunter died of disease rather than from wounds he received in battle.

Hunter went on to serve in the U.S. Army during the Florida Wars and the Mexican War in Company H of the 2nd Regular U.S. Dragoons. Participating in the battles of Palo Atlo and Resaca de la Palma, he rose to the rank of Captain. He was in his 30s when he married Sarah Golding Hunter in Athens on August 18, 1846.

By that time, his service in Mexico had begun to take its toll. He returned to Athens on sick leave in 1848. His obituary describes it as “neuralgia” and that he became an invalid. Capt. Hunter died on April 24, 1849 in Charleston, S.C. at the age of 37.

This emblem on the top of Capt. Hunter’s mausoleum puzzles me. The bugle is thought to be a symbol of the dragoons but I’m not sure where the rest of it enters in.

I’m not sure what the bugle crossed with a flag-draped spear below a five-pointed star means. It’s possible that it has a connection to the Second Dragoons. If anyone reading this happens to know, please contact me.

Sarah Hunter died in 1865. A note on on Capt. Hunter’s Find a Grave memorial indicates that while there are six spaces inside the mausoleum, it is only occupied by Sarah and Nathan. They had no children together.

Not far away was a child’s grave that got my attention. More often they feature lambs but this one for Sarah Holliday was of an angel.

Sarah died at the age of 18 months on April 12, 1909.

Sarah Holliday was the daughter of Athens physician Dr. Allen Cheatham “A.C.” Holliday and Cora McElhannon Holliday. Dr. Holliday was well known in Athens and appeared frequently in newspaper articles. Their home, the Holliday-Dorminey House, was built in 1901 and still stands today at 357 Hill Street.

Built in 1901 in the late Victorian style, this was the home where Dr. A.C. Holliday and his wife, Cora, raised their children. The home was purchased from 102-year-old Kate Holliday by the Dorminey family. (Photo Source: Vanishing Georgia, Brian Brown)

Sarah was born on Dec. 23, 1907 and lived in the home pictured above. Sadly, for reasons unknown, she died at the age of 18 months on April 12, 1909. Her funeral was written up in the Weekly Banner newspaper.

An April 16, 1909 article from the Weekly Banner describes little Sarah’s funeral.

The upward gaze of this angel is intriguing to me.

The Hollidays had another child, whose name is unknown, that died in 1912 and is buried beside Sarah. Dr. Holliday died in 1939 and Cora died in 1956, both are buried with Sarah and the unnamed infant.

There’s another mausoleum at Oconee Hill that caught my attention. The name on it is for Sarah Jane (Billups) Taylor, wife of Richard Deloney Bolling (D.B.) Taylor. She was only 27 when she died.

The Taylor mausoleum was originally topped with an angel but after initially suffering damage, it was destroyed in 1981 by vandals.

Born in 1830, Richard D.B. Taylor was the son of Robert Walter Taylor and Elizabeth Bolling Deloney Taylor. Robert was a a wealthy cotton merchant and planter. Around 1844, he built a Greek Revival mansion as a summer home in Athens. When his three sons (including Richard) entered the University of Georgia, the Taylors became permanent residents of Athens.

Undated portrait of Richard D.B. Taylor.

That home, now known as the Taylor-Grady House at 634 Prince Avenue, still stands today and it was a familiar landmark to me during my college days. Owned by the City of Athens and managed by the Junior League, many grand events are held there.

Restored at the cost of $1.7 million in 2004, the Taylor-Grady House is a historic gem that Athens can be proud of.

Richard married Sarah Billups in 1852 and Robert gave the happy couple the house as a wedding gift. They welcomed a daughter, Susan, in 1855. Sadly, Sarah died on April 6, 1860 in Athens. The article detailing her death mentions her “last illness” indicating she had been ill often in recent months.

Sarah Jane Billups Taylor was only 27 at the time of her death after an illness.

Richard and little Susan did not remain at the house long and they had moved out by the time he remarried in January 1863 to Catherine McKinley of Milledgeville, Ga. They had a daughter, Kate, on June 5, 1864. Richard died on July 14, 1864. His name is not inscribed on the mausoleum but because he is not buried with his second wife, I believe him to be interred in the Taylor mausoleum with Sarah. Catherine died in 1873 and is buried in Memory Hill Cemetery in Milledgeville.

“The Grief is Fixed Too Deeply”

The Taylor’s home was sold in 1863 to Major William Sammons Grady, who was away fighting in the Civil War at the time. He died in 1864 from wounds sustained in battle and is buried at Oconee Hill. His family did not move into the home until 1866.

Major Grady’s son, Henry W. Grady, then a student at the University, eventually became managing editor of the Atlanta Constitution and was known as an impressive orator, giving his famous “New South” speech in 1886 emphasizing the end of slavery and the need for reconciliation. As a University of Georgia student, I attended and graduated from the Henry W. Grady School of Journalism in 1990.

Susan Taylor married Frederick Lucas in 1876. Their first two children, John (1877-1878) and Richard (1879-1880), died in infancy and are interred with their grandmother in the mausoleum. Susan died in 1905 at the age of 57 and is buried with her husband beside the mausoleum.

I believe this is where the statue of the angel (since destroyed) once stood.

There is a sad footnote to the history of this mausoleum. According to a report I found put together by the Chicora Foundation in 2014, the Taylor mausoleum was broken into in 2004 by vandals and three skulls were stolen. They have never been recovered.

The last person I’m going to talk about only lived 13 years and she was part of a large influential family. The Lumpkin/Cobb plot at Oconee Hill is pretty hard to miss. In the photo I took, you can see the iron truss bridge leading to the other side of the cemetery.

In the background you can see the iron truss bridge, built by the George E. King Bridge Company of Des Moines, Iowa around 1899. Spanning over the North Oconee River, it connects the old 17 acres of the cemetery with the additional 81.8 acres purchased in 1898.

I could spend an entire blog post on this plot alone but I want to focus on the Cobbs. Lucy was the daughter of Thomas Reade Rootes (R.R.) Cobb and Marion McHenry Lumpkin Cobb. I wrote about Cobb’s brother, Georgia Governor Howell Cobb, in Part I.

Having grown up at Cherry Hill Plantation with Howell after his birth in 1823, Thomas graduated from the University of Georgia at the top of his class and was admitted to the bar in 1842. He took the position of reporter for the state Supreme Court, publishing several legal works.

The daughter of a prominent lawyer, Lucy Cobb died in 1857 at the age of 13.

Lucy was the first child of Thomas and Marion, born in 1844. Thomas had always been a champion of a quality education for both men and women. After reading an anonymous letter in 1854 published in the local newspaper about the sad state of education for females, Thomas began raising funds for a school for girls that went beyond a finishing school curriculum. He did not learn until later that the letter was written by his sister, Laura Cobb Rutherford.

“The Education of Our Girls”

Both Thomas and Marion were preparing for Lucy to attend the school after it opened but it was not to be. Lucy died of Scarlet Fever on Oct. 14, 1857 at the age of 13. The school was named in her memory and opened in January 1859. Thomas also helped established the Lumpkin Law School at the University of Georgia that same year.

Architect William Winstead Thomas designed the building that became the Lucy Cobb Institute that opened in 1859. He later added a chapel building in 1881. (Photo Source: Vanishing Georgia, Brian Brown)

Lucy’s younger sisters, Callie and Sallie, did attend the new Lucy Cobb Institute. But the Cobb family’s association with the school changed after one of the girls quarreled with a teacher. The Cobbs withdrew both children from the school. But Thomas’ niece, Mildred “Miss Millie” Lewis Rutherford, would later take over leadership of the school in 1880 and proved to be a wise, dedicated educator as well as an accomplished author.

Despite the school’s esteemed reputation, it did not survive the Great Depression and closed in 1931. The University of Georgia took over its campus, and used the main building as a women’s dormitory and eventually storage. Restoration efforts were completed in 1997 and it now houses the Carl Vinson Institute of Government.

The names of Thomas R.R. Cobb, his wife, Marion, daughter Lucy, and sons, Joseph and Thomas, are listed on the Cobb/Gerdine/Lumpkin monument.

While Cobb was a Unionist politically, he defended slavery as his brother Howell did and later pushed for secession. The original draft of the Confederate Constitution is thought to be in his handwriting. But Thomas Cobb didn’t get along well with his fellow legislators. He raised his own regiment of troops, Cobb’s Legion, in 1861 and led them as a commissioned colonel, taking part in the battles of Seven Days, Second Manassas, and Sharpsburg.

Death at Fredericksburg

In October 1862, Col. Cobb took command of a brigade formerly led by brother Howell Cobb and was promoted to Brigadier General. Soon after, he was killed on Dec. 13, 1862 at at the Battle of Fredericksburg in Virginia. He was 39 years old. Marion died on July 10, 1897 at the age of 75.

I will note that the Cobb’s home has its own interesting history. You can read about that here.

I’ve got a bit more to share about Oconee Hill Cemetery so come back for Part IV next time.

A headless statue in the Lumpkin-Cobb family plot holds a lamb in her arms.


Bulldogs and Burials: Walking Through Athens, Ga.’s Oconee Hill Cemetery, Part II

Last week, I started my new series on Athens, Ga.’s Oconee Hill Cemetery. I spent my college years just across the street at the University of Georgia but never visited until last year.

I featured a photo last week of a railroad track in the cemetery. I found out this week that in 1888 the Oconee Hill trustees agreed to let the Macon & Covington Railroad come through the cemetery. Before becoming non-operational, the railroad was owned by the Central of Georgia, one of the largest rail companies in the state.

In 1898, Oconee Hill’s original 17 acres were increased when an additional 81.8 acres were purchased. I’ll talk more about that next week.

The All-Seeing Eye

Sometimes I admire a plot simply because of the ironwork or fencing. The Singleton/Lucas plot’s monuments are not that remarkable but I was interested in the fact that the chains adoring the fence had survived all this time. Frankly, they usually end up being vandalized.

The Lucas/Singleton plot features chains with the the all-seeing eye, also called the Eye of Providence or Eye of God. It has origins dating back to the Eye of Horus in Egyptian mythology.

I can honestly say I’d never seen the “all-seeing eye” on the chains of a cemetery plot before. On grave markers and monuments, yes. But not on the fencing. The all-seeing eye, also called the Eye of Providence or Eye of God, has origins dating back to the Eye of Horus in Egyptian mythology. It appears in the iconography of the Masonic Lodge, Knights of Pythias and the Odd Fellows fraternal organizations.

This is the top of the gate to the Singleton/Lucas plot. You can see Sanford Stadium in the background.

A former Georgia senator, Dr. Joseph James Singleton, Sr. was the first superintendent/treasurer of the Dahlonega Branch Mint from 1837-1841. (Photo Source: Dahlonega Mint Museum)

When I started looking into the Singleton family, I realized there was another tie to the all-seeing eye. Born in 1788, Dr. Joseph James Singleton represented Athens as a state senator. But in 1837, he was was appointed to be the first superintendent/treasurer of the Dahlonega Branch Mint. I immediately thought of the “all seeing eye” that exists on our modern-day dollar bill.

Dahlonega Gold

But Dr. Singleton’s involvement with gold reached beyond coins. He had extensive gold mining interests in the area including the Singleton Mine. The Singletons continued to live in Dahlonega after he left the Mint in 1841. He took over the operation of the famed Calhoun Mine in 1847.

Born in 1827 in Dahlonega, Ga., the Rev. Joseph James Singleton Jr. carried gold coins from the U.S. Mint to Athens for his father when he was a boy.

Son Joseph James Singleton, Jr. was born in 1827. A family story goes that in in 1839, when Joseph Jr. was 12, his father entrusted him with carrying gold coins from the Dahlonega Mint to the depository in Athens. Reasoning that no one would suspect a young boy of carrying anything more valuable than vegetables or grain, Dr. Singleton tied the gold in flour sacks and put them on the floor of the buggy.

When Joseph Jr. arrived in Athens two days later, the bank was already closed. However, when the boy explained that his heavy bags were full of gold from the U.S. Mint at Dahlonega, he was quickly allowed inside.

Heading to California

When gold was discovered in California in 1848, Dr. Singleton wanted to join other local miners headed west but Joseph, Jr. went instead. He didn’t find gold on a large scale so he returned home. By that time, Joseph had married Francina Rebecca Thomas. Eventually they would have nine children together, seven whom lived to adulthood.

Dr. Singleton died in 1855 of apoplexy at the age of 65. Where he was initially buried is unknown but he was eventually moved and buried at Oconee Hill Cemetery. His wife, Mary Ann Terrell Singleton, died in 1872 and is buried beside him.

Mary Ann Terrell Singleton died in 1872 at the age of 73.

At some point, Joseph J. Singleton, Jr. became a Methodist minister and served in that capacity for the rest of his life. According to his monument (shared by his wife), he was “for nearly 30 years a member of the North Georgia Conference”. He died in 1891 in Rome, Ga.

“A Godly Mother, A Devoted Wife” Rev. J.J. Singleton’s wife, Francina Thomas Singleton, died in 1901.

Ten years after her husband’s death, Francina Thomas Singleton died on Feb. 20, 1901.

Close to the Singleton/Lucas plot is the monument to Judge Young Loften Gerdine Harris. It’s one of the grander ones in that area.

Young L.G. Harris’ legacy lives on at the college that was named after him.

Born in Jefferson, Ga. on June 22, 1812, Young L.G. Harris began practicing law in Elberton soon after being admitted to the bar. He married Susan Bevel Allen in 1835, a union that produced no children. He represented Elberton in the state legislature but eventually, for health reasons, the couple moved to Athens in 1840. In addition to representing Athens in the state legislature, he was elected judge of the inferior court of Clarke County which was later abolished. Thus, he became “Judge Harris.”

Judge Harris and Susan joined the First Methodist Church shortly after their arrival in Athens and gave much of their income to endeavors in support of Methodism. That included funding construction of a church in China and providing financial support for more than a hundred Methodist ministers

Judge Harris represented Elberton and Athens in the state legislature.

Following the Civil War, Judge Harris headed the Southern Mutual Insurance Company, a position he held until his death. The couple also donated two buildings to Oxford College of Emory University, located in Covington, Ga.

What would become Young Harris College began as the McTyeire Institute in 1886. It was established by the United Methodist Church with the purpose of providing the first and only educational opportunities to residents of the isolated area of Towns County in North Georgia’s Blue Ridge Mountains.

I’m not sure what metal was used to make the gate to the Harris family plot.

Because of the Harris’ financial contributions, the school was able to expand and its name was eventually changed to the Young Harris Institute in 1888, then Young Harris College in 1891. The town in which the school is located also took on the name Young Harris as well.

Built in 1892, the Susan B. Harris Memorial Chapel is part of the Young Harris College Historic District and is on the National Register of Historic Places. (Photo Source: Vanishing Georgia, Brian Brown)

While Susan Harris shunned the spotlight, she was committed to community service, volunteering with the Athens Ladies Aid Society during the Civil War. After suffering from poor health for several years, Susan died on May 18, 1889. To honor her memory, Judge Harris funded construction of the Susan B. Harris Memorial Chapel in 1892 at Young Harris College. It is still in use today.

Carrying out Judge Harris’ Wishes

When Judge Harris died in 1894, his will stated his wish to leave some of his fortune to the school, which was heavily in debt. But because more than 40 members of his family went to court to contest it, the matter was in legal limbo for a while. By 1897, the litigation over the will was resolved by the Georgia Supreme Court, and the College received $16,000 from his estate.

Three female figures representing faith, hope, and charity top the Harris monument.

While Young Harris College has weathered a number of challenges, it is still attracting students today. For many years, it was a junior college but the school now offers full four-year degrees and has an enrollment of around 1,425 students.

Eternal Flame?

As we were heading to a different part of the cemetery, I caught sight of the top of this marker. I’m used to seeing draped urns on grave markers but not flames. So I stopped to take a look. I’ve been told since that it represents eternity.

I’ve seen quite a few draped urns on monuments before but not one with a flame coming out of the top.

Born in May 1845 to jeweler William Talmadge and Sarah Young Talmadge, Clovis Gerdine Talmadge spent most of his life in Athens. He enlisted in Company D of the Georgia 11th Cavalry Regiment, rising to the rank of Captain. After the Civil War, he married Georgia Virginia McDowell.

“Stricken Down” at 51

Capt. Talmadge and his wife had three children, two of whom lived to adulthood that married and had children. He served as Athens’ mayor from 1876-1877 and again in 1880. He and his younger brother, Major John E. Talmadge, established a successful grocery business called Talmadge Bros. in 1869. John had served in the Civil War with Wheeler’s Cavalry, running away at age 16 to join the fighting.

Sarah died in 1891 at the age of 42. Capt. Talmadge is thought to have remarried in May 1892 to Mary Bishop but there’s no mention of her in his death notices. He mentions “my present wife” in his will but not by a name. I’m not sure exactly how Capt. Talmadge died because this account in the Atlanta Constitution is a bit vague. He died on his birthday on May 23, 1896.

This notice about Capt. Clovis Talmadge’s death is not clear about his cause of death. (Photo Source: May 25, 1896 edition of the Atlanta Constitution.)

A whole view of Capt. Talmadge’s marker.

I’ll leave you with the beautiful monument for Margaret Phinizy Lockhart, who died at the age of 34 on May 24, 1862 just two months after giving birth to her son, Jacob. The infant died only 11 days after his mother on June 4, 1862. He is buried beside her.

The Phinizy plot was damaged when a large oak tree fell on it in 2013 and Margaret’s monument was toppled. Thanks to donations from family members across the country, it has been restored to its former glory. Neale Nickels of Virginia Preservation Group completed the stone repair and restoration work.

Margaret Phinizy Lockhart was the daughter of Capt. Jacob Phinizy (1790-1853) and Matilda Stewart Phinizy (1795-1836). I’m not sure exactly what kind of tool she’s holding.

I’ll be back next week for Part III.

Bulldogs and Burials: Walking Through Athens, Ga.’s Oconee Hill Cemetery, Part I

I’ve mentioned on more than one occasion that I got both of my degrees at the University of Georgia in Athens (journalism and English literature). When people hear this, they usually assume that I’ve been to Oconee Hill Cemetery.

Oconee Hill Cemetery’s original section is definitely hilly.

Truth be told, until May 2018, I’d never been! That’s a little embarrassing to admit but back in the late 1980s to early 90s, cemeteries were the last thing on my mind. I was a full-time student at UGA and an intern at the Athens Daily News. But it was definitely near where I spent a great deal of my time in those days.

I moved into Payne Hall on the UGA campus my junior year in the fall of 1988. Built in 1940, there’s nothing distinguished about the building except that famed NFL Vikings football player Fran Tarkenton lived there when he played for the Georgia Bulldogs during the late 1950s. I can remember waking up on Saturday mornings to the sound of eager fans passing by my window on their way to Sanford Stadium.

This blurry photo was taken outside Payne Hall (my room was on the first floor to the right) in May 1989 when we celebrated my 21st birthday. I am still in touch with three of these ladies today. That’s me on the far left with the big hair and green dress.

Sanford Stadium actually has a cemetery of its own. Georgia’s Uga mascots began coming onto the field in 1956. Sanford Stadium is the final resting place of each English Bulldog that’s served as the team’s mascot. The mausoleum includes an epitaph of their tenure. Moved twice since 1981, the mausoleum’s current location is near Gate 9.

UGA’s current mascot is Uga X, also known as Que. A grandson of Uga IX (Russ), Que was introduced at the November 21, 2015, game against Georgia Southern. (Photo Source: Jessica McGowan, The Atlanta Constitution.)

When Mother’s Day rolled around last year, I asked if we could go to Athens and visit my old haunts. Getting inside Oconee Hill Cemetery was a “must do” on my list.

When I attended UGA, many people walked through Oconee Hill Cemetery to get from their apartments to the campus.

According to the cemetery web site, the first gravesites in Athens were located on unused portions of the college campus. That included the Jackson Street Cemetery, whose history you can read more about here. Because the burial ground had spread close to the homes of the president and the university’s professors, trustees urged the mayor and wardens of Athens to create a public cemetery for the community.

In 1855, 17 acres of land beside the Oconee River were purchased for $1,000 and Oconee Hill Cemetery was opened. Several graves at the cemetery predate the purchase. While most Southern cemeteries were segregated, Oconee Hill was noted for its policy of acceptance of all races, even during the 1800s.

Unfortunately, the socio-economic status of many African-Americans in those years means some graves are poorly marked. In addition, because early cemetery records were lost due to fire, it’s been hard to identify many African-American graves.

Football and Final Resting Places

Only a parking lot exists between Payne Hall and Sanford Stadium. Across the street from it is Oconee Hill Cemetery. To give you an idea of just how close they are, I took this picture. On autumn Saturdays, Athens comes alive with the roar of avid Bulldog fans but Oconee Hill’s residents remain silent year after year.

Only a railroad track and a street down below separate UGA’s Sanford Stadium and Oconee Hill Cemetery.

The first monument I photographed turned out to be a prominent figure in Georgia history and politics.

Born in 1815, Howell Cobb got his degree from the University of Georgia before apprenticing with a local attorney.

A native of Jefferson County, Howell Cobb was born in 1815. He was a University of Georgia graduate who apprenticed to become a lawyer. He married heiress Mary Ann Lamar in 1835 and they had 12 children, six of whom survived to adulthood. Thomas Willis Cobb, a member of the U.S.Congress and namesake of Georgia’s Cobb County, was a cousin.

As Cobb’s fortunes rose, so did his political ambitions. A Jacksonian Democrat, he was dedicated to a policy of moderation. He would eventually fill the roles of Congressman, Speaker of the House, Governor of Georgia from 1851-1853, U.S. Secretary of the Treasury under President James Buchanan and Civil War Confederate major general.

Howell Cobb served as Governor of Georgia from 1851 to 1853.

Abraham Lincoln’s election in 1860 shattered Cobb’s faith in compromise. He urged Georgia to secede from the Union and united with his brother Thomas Cobb and Governor Joseph E. Brown to spearhead the state’s secession movement.

A Confederate Major General

Cobb served as president of the Provisional Confederate Congress and entered the Confederate Army as a colonel in the 16th Georgia Infantry after it adjourned. During the Antietam campaign, his brigade was destroyed while fighting at Crampton’s Gap.

In October 1862, he assumed command of the district of middle Florida. Promoted to major general, he took command of Georgia state troops in September 1863. He surrendered to Union forces in Macon on April 20, 1865. Cobb died of a heart attack while vacationing in New York on October 9, 1868.

The next family plot I glimpsed nearby was for the Baxters. That name rang a bell immediately. While Baxter Street (also called Baxter Hill) is not long, it is a main thoroughfare on the UGA campus that all students spend time traveling. It’s lined with dorms, restaurants, college bookstores, and bars.

The gate to the Baxter plot has a date of 1870 but the first person to be buried there died in 1844.

Sadly, much of the iron fencing around the Baxter plot has been piled up to the side and left to rust. The gate that says “1870” is still there but not much of the fence is still around the plot.

The obelisk has roots in Egyptian architecture and culture, representing a ray of sunlight. The draping provides the added cast of mourning, the death shroud, or the thin boudnary between Heaven and Earth.

The tall, draped obelisk with a draped urn on top is for Thomas Washington Baxter and his wife, Mary Wiley Baxter.

The son of Revolutionary War veteran, Thomas Baxter born in Greene County, Ga. in 1789, Thomas spent his early years in nearby Baldwin and Hancock Counties. Baxter gained a reputation for heroism during the Seminole Indian Wars. He married Mary Wiley in 1815 and they had 11 children together. Six of their sons would serve in the Confederacy during the Civil War.

When Cotton Was King

The Baxters moved to Athens around 1831, where Thomas accepted the presidency of the Athens Manufacturing Company. It became a key part of the thriving Athens textile industry. Baxter was also active in investing his growing fortunes and had his hand in banking enterprises as well.

Although Oconee Hill Cemetery did not open until 1856, Thomas W. Baxter died in 1844. He may have been buried elsewhere initially and moved.

Thomas died at the age of 54 on Aug. 18, 1844 of tuberculosis. That’s several years before Oconee Hill Cemetery officially opened. So I’m of the opinion he may have been initially buried elsewhere and moved later. Wife Mary died in 1869 at the age of 70.

To the right of Thomas and Mary’s obelisk is another for Major William Edgeworth Bird, their son-in-law. He married their daughter Sarah (“Sallie”) in 1848. Major Bird died in 1867 at their Hancock County, Ga. home, Granite Farms, in 1867. He was wounded at the Second Battle of Manassas in Virginia during the Civil War.

Beside Major Bird’s grave is that of his daughter and Thomas’ granddaughter, Mary Pamela Bird. She was their third and youngest child, born in 1853.

Mary Pamela had not yet reached her fourth birthday when she died in 1857.

Major Bird’s wife and Mary Pamela’s mother, Sallie Baxter, is not buried in the Baxter plot. Sometime in the 1890s, she moved to Baltimore, Md. to live with her eldest daughter, Saida Baxter Smith, and her family. Sarah died in 1910 and is buried next to her son, Wilson Bird, in Baltimore’s Green Mount Cemetery.

Across the way is the Childs family plot, which is dominated by a large monument featuring a woman holding a rope-encircled anchor.

The anchor is a common symbol found on graves. Its meaning has several origins, the most obvious of which is Hebrews 6: 19: “Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast.”

Born on Dec. 9, 1820 in Springfield, Mass., Asaph King Childs learned the silversmith craft from his older brother, Otis. Asaph and Otis moved to Milledgeville, Ga. and they worked together from 1835 to 1846. After moving to Athens, they opened the Athens Hardware Company. Asaph also helped found the National Bank of Athens. Otis eventually returned to Massachusetts sometime around 1861.

A jeweler and silversmith, Asaph King Childs helped establish the National Bank of Athens. (Photo source: History Of The “Old High School” 1828-1840 by Charles Wells Chapin)

Revenue stamp paper from the National Bank of Athens. (Photo source:

In 1856, Childs married Susan Ingle. Together, they had three children, Frances (1857), Walter (1860), and Susie (1866). The Childs family was in Washington, D.C. in June 1872 when Susie died.

From the June 14, 1872 edition of the Southern Banner. Susie was actually three when she passed away.

“Fell Asleep”

Susie’s marker fascinates me. It looks like an indentation was left for her death date but that ended up being carved below it. Instead the words “fell asleep” are inscribed there.

While those words may seem strange to see on a grave marker now, they were not unusual at the time. “Asleep in Jesus” is another such phrase. I consider them to be predecessors for the more modern “rest in peace.” Many believed that death was merely a momentary “sleep” from which the dead would rise when Christ returned. I think it was also a way, especially for those mourning the death of a little one, to believe that they were just sleeping and not gone forever.

Susie K. Childs was in Washington, D.C. when she passed away in 1872.

Susan Childs died after a sudden illness in 1881 at the age of 49 and was buried next to Susie. Asaph died in 1901 at the age of 81 after a long illness.

I’ve just scratched the service at Oconee Hill Cemetery. There’s more to come in Part II.

Flower-encircled cross on the grave marker of Edward R. Hodgson.


Stopping by Macon, Ga.’s Rose Hill Cemetery: And The Rest, Part IV

Do you remember the old TV show “Gilligan’s Island”? During the show’s first season, the  theme song, near the end, included a lyric that goes, “And the rest!” That was the Professor and Mary Ann. As a bit of trivia, Bob Denver (who played Gilligan) demanded his costars be included in the song so it was changed in future seasons.

That early lyric fits the mood of today’s post as I wrap up my series on Macon, Ga.’s Rose Hill Cemetery. Here is “the rest” that deserves to be mentioned and talked about.

It should come as no surprise that there are a lot of Confederate soldiers buried at Rose Hill Cemetery. Some died in battle, others in hospitals of disease and the rest who survived the war and died later in life. According to a plaque, Macon became a key location for Confederate hospitals during the Civil War. Only Richmond, Va. is thought have had a greater number of wounded.

Visiting Soldiers’ Square

The first Confederate dead interred at Rose Hill were four of seven Macon soldiers who were killed in battle in Pensacola, Fla. in 1861. They are in the first row of what is known as Soldiers’ Square at Rose Hill. According to one witness, a thousand people attended the funerals.

An estimated 1,746 are buried in Soldiers’ Square at Rose Hill Cemetery.

After the war, Ladies Memorial Association president Jane Lumsden Hardeman initiated an effort to move those Confederate dead buried at various hospitals around the area to Rose Hill. She erected wooden headboards with the name, company, regiment and date of death for each soldier. She also helped organize the first Confederate Memorial Day at Rose Hill on April 26, 1866.

A plaque describes the efforts of Jane Lumsden Hardeman to bring the Confederate dead buried at other sites around Macon to Rose Hill Cemetery.

An estimated 884 soldiers are buried in Soldiers’ Square. Another 882 known Confederate soldiers are buried in private lots throughout Rose Hill. That brings the grand total to 1,746 known Confederate soldiers buried at Rose Hill. There are likely a number of unmarked graves but it’s uncertain how many.

The Book of Life

Sometimes I like something just because it’s different than the norm. The grave marker for Edwin Summers Davis and his wife, Camille Johnson Davis, fits the bill.

Born around 1877, Edwin was the son of Confederate veteran Capt. William A. Davis, who was a prominent banker in Macon and a member of just about every fraternal organization from the Masons to the Odd Fellows to the Elks.

Capt. William A. Davis was Grand Master of his Masonic Lodge between 1898 and 1899, along with being a member of several other fraternal groups.

Edwin got his degree at Macon’s Mercer University and married Camille Johnson in 1898. Most of his career was in selling insurance. The couple had three children.

Camille died first in 1931 of a cerebral hemorrhage. Edwin lived another 29 years before dying in 1960. Their “open book” marker is in the Davis family plot. It’s a clever way to present all the pertinent information.

You can even see the indentations of the “pages” on the side.

When I was looking into the history of Rose Hill’s Hebrew Burial Ground, I learned that the cemetery actually has a total of seven different Jewish areas. Not all are labeled. The Hebrew Burial Ground, established in 1844, was the first Jewish cemetery established in Macon.

Rose Hill’s Hebrew Burial Ground was established just a few years after the cemetery opened.

The Hebrew Burial Ground is located just across from Soldiers’ Square.

The first burial there was Leopold Bettman who died in August of that year in Perry, Ga. The second burial was his brother, David Bettman, who died in Hawkinsville, Ga. in October of the same year. In 1859, when Congregation Beth Israel was established, it took over the cemetery.

One of the markers I photographed there was for Lena Sack Roobin (1875-1896).

“She is Now Sweetly Sleeping”

Lena was born in 1875 in Bialystok, Poland, although it was part of Russia at that time. She emigrated to American and married Abraham Roobin. They settled in Cordele, Ga., and had one child together before Lena died of typhoid fever in September 1896. There’s some question as to the exact day.

Lena Roobin married and had a child before dying at the age of 21.

This was her obituary from the Sept. 19, 1896 edition of the Macon Telegraph. Although it says she was buried in the Edward Wolff cemetery, she was buried in the Hebrew Burial Ground at Rose Hill. It also says she died on Thursday, Sept. 17 but her marker says Sept. 19, 1896.

Lena Roobin’s death notice from Sept. 19, 1896 says she died on Thursday, Sept. 17 but her marker says she died on Sept. 19.

By 1879, a new Jewish cemetery had opened within Rose Hill called the William Wolff Cemetery. According to the Jewish Federation of Macon and Middle Georgia’s web site, the Hebrew Burial Ground was not generally used after that, though there are some graves there that date into the early 1900s.

William Wolff Cemetery Opens

Larger than the original Hebrew Burial Ground, William Wolff Cemetery was named after the benefactor who donated the land for it. A slice of the predominately black Oak Ridge Cemetery next door was sold to him in 1879 to use as a burial ground for Temple Beth Israel Synagogue. Wolff was a prominent dry goods merchant in Macon for many years. He and his brother, Edward, were German immigrants who came to Macon in the 1860s. Both became very successful businessmen over the years.

One side of the gates to William Wolff Cemetery within Rose Hill Cemetery.

There’s a story behind the monument to the wife of William Wolff, Bertha. She was born about 1852 to 1854 in Europe, and died Sept. 15, 1904. It only has her name on it with no dates. When I saw it, I knew at once who might have carved it but didn’t think to search it for a possible signature. Turns out it was on the back.

Bertha Wolff’s monument has no dates on it.

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, this monument might look familiar to you as well. When I looked up her name on Stephanie Lincecum’s Rose Hill site, she confirmed that it was indeed done by sculptor John Walz. His best known work is probably the much loved (and photographed) monument of Gracie Watson in Savannah, Ga.’s Bonaventure Cemetery.

“The Heart’s Keen Anguish”

The woman holding calla lilies theme is one he favored a great deal. They usually represent marriage and fidelity. You can see similar figures Walz carved in the Davis plot at Laurel Grove South Cemetery in Savannah, the McMillan plot at Bonaventure Cemetery, and the Wolff’s in Macon. Only the heads are different, although the base of the Davis monument is markedly unique from the others.

Was this the likeness of Bertha Wolff?

Walz made an effort to replicate face of the deceased on the face of the monument’s statue based on photographs he was given.

The epitaph reads:

“The heart’s keen anguish only those can tell
Who have bid the dearest and the loved farewell.”

William died almost six years after Bertha on March 5, 1910 and was buried in the Wolff plot with her. His brother, Edward (a cotton broker and “linter”), died Aug. 25 of the same year after suffering a heart attack. He is interred in one of the few mausoleums in the Wolff Cemetery with his wife, Ricka, who died in 1936.

Edward Wolff, the brother of William Wolff, was a very successful cotton merchant and “linter” when he died a few months after his sibling in 1910. Note the winged disc with snakes above the door, often a symbol of the Masons.

Fortunately, I was able to get a good photo of the stained glass inside the Wolff mausoleum.

The Hebrew Aid Society burial ground was started in 1899 by newly arriving Eastern Europeans. Congregation Sherah Israel, who opened their adjacent section in 1923, gradually took it over by removing the wall separating the two areas, dividing the lots among the owning families in 1929.

Small areas for Congregation B’nai Israel (1870), the Workman’s Circle (1920) and the new section of Sherah Israel that opened in 1987 are also within Rose Hill Cemetery.

Origins of Oak Ridge Cemetery

Earlier I mentioned Oak Ridge Cemetery. When Simri Rose designed Rose Hill Cemetery in the 1840s, he set aside 10 acres for slave owners to purchase and bury enslaved people and to bury city-owned enslaved people. On Sept. 12, 1851, the Macon City Council officially designated that land as Oak Ridge Cemetery.

Most of the graves in Oak Ridge Cemetery are unmarked.

Of the 961 burials recorded between 1845 and 1865, only two names were recorded. “A free man of color named Hannibal Roe” was buried in 1846 and “Essex” because he was allegedly disinterred by local medical students in 1858. At least 1,000 formerly enslaved people are thought to be buried in unmarked graves at Oak Ridge. After the Civil War, many poor whites were also buried there.

One of the few markers I saw in the Oak Ridge area was for Julia Ann Brooks, the wife of John W. Brooks. She was born around 1824, Julia was a native of Richmond, Va. Julia and John are both listed as “mulatto” (an antiquated term thankfully no longer in use) or of mixed race. The 1880 U.S. Census lists John as being a retail grocer and their household included John’s sister, Mary Ann Brooks. It is interesting to note that Julia was at least 10 years older than her husband.

A hand with forefinger pointing down represents God reaching down for the soul.

Julia Ann died on May 8, 1883. She was probably around 60 years old. Her marker says she was a “member of the A.M.E. Church and a consistent Christian.” A finger pointing down from the clouds (often thought to represent God reaching down for the soul) clasps a few blooming flowers.

At the end of the afternoon, I was hot, sweaty but very happy. It’s often how I feel after I’ve spent a wonderful day visiting a historic cemetery like Rose Hill with such a variety of marker styles. It also left me wishing I could spend more time wandering the rows and discovering more of the stories.

Perhaps that’s what is so compelling about visiting cemeteries, knowing you may someday return and learn more about “the rest” that’s quietly waiting to be discovered.