Over the past weeks, I’ve highlighted a variety of people buried at South-View Cemetery. Civil rights pioneers, a famous Vaudeville sister act, a Tuskegee airman, outspoken clergymen and many more.
But there’s another side to South-View that is impossible to escape. The graves of ordinary men and women who did not have towering monuments and illustrious pasts. Some whose graves are not even marked. When you wander over to the older section of the cemetery that is not within the perpetual care area, you’ll find a more untamed, rugged beauty.
While John and I meandered around, I took pictures of whatever caught my eye. This rather crude inlay of the letter “H” for the Hardin family’s plot was one of them.
I saw a number of markers with the words “Mother at Rest” on them, which I found particularly touching.
On the far east side of the cemetery, the landscape is less manicured but it remains a peaceful sanctuary of reflection.
I noticed a few monuments standing alone in large stretches of grass nearby. These were plots purchased by black churches as part of burial societies decades ago. The one below was erected by the Daughters of Israel of the Reed (misspelled as Reid on the stone) Street Baptist Church, organized in 1867.
African-Americans were not allowed to be buried with whites before the Civil War and long into the years after it. Though some freed slaves preferred to remain on the plantation or settle in the countryside, many relocated to urban areas and established communities. They needed somewhere to bury their dead in an inexpensive way.
I could find no specific information about Atlanta’s black burial societies. But in Charleston after the Civil War, whites encouraged freed blacks to form benevolent societies so they might collect dues and purchase land for cemeteries. About nine of these have been identified but there were likely more. Such societies also existed in Northeastern Jewish communities and a few still exist today.
Arranging burial was only one part of some of these societies. They sometimes paid for the education of orphaned children, found work and supported families, provided financial support to the sick and dying, and offered widows an annuity or modest monthly stipend to help with living expenses.
Reed Street Baptist Church (misspelled as Reid Street on the monument) is now Paradise Baptist Church. Dinah Watts Pace, a former slave, began a Sunday School for poor and orphaned children in the Summerhill area of Atlanta. She also opened a children’s home later. The original Sunday School was the core of what would later become Reed Street Baptist Church.
The only marked grave in the Daughters of Israel’s plot is that of Ellen Shaw, who was born in 1837 and died in 1899 at the age of 64 years. According to census records, by 1870 she was widowed and working as a domestic servant with her daughter, Tempy, who was also a servant. Ellen is listed as a laundress in the 1877 Atlanta City Directory. It’s likely that she or her daughter was a member of Reed Street Baptist Church.
Another burial society monument I found was for the Independent Daughters and Sons of Bethel Society, Inc., formerly the Independent Daughters of Bethel Society, Inc. This society was affiliated with the Big Bethel AME Church.
Founded in 1847, Big Bethel is the oldest African-American congregation in the Atlanta area. The church is still active today and its “Jesus Saves” sign has been a city landmark since 1922 when the church was rebuilt after a fire.
The last burial society monument I found was for two different groups. The first was the Sisters of Love Society, organized in 1875, and the Rising Stars Society of the Wheat Street Baptist Church, organized in 1879. Perhaps the Sisters of Love Society was also part of this church since the two share one marker. I could find absolutely no information on either group and there were no grave markers within these plots.
Wheat Street Baptist, on the other hand, has a long and much-documented history. Established in 1869, parishioners from Friendship Baptist Church who wanted to attend a church closer to their homes organized into a mission known as Mt. Pleasant Baptist, with Rev. Andrew Jackson as their pastor. Their first place of worship was Jackson’s yard on Howell Street. After a fire in 1917, they moved into its current building on Auburn Avenue in the 1920s. It is still active today.
There are a few other graves that I paused at for their unique appeal. This one was definitely worth a second look.
I could find nothing about Andrew Mozley or his family. But the cross erected in their honor is lovely to look at. It’s also an interesting collection of Christian cemetery symbols.
In ancient times, the anchor was regarded as a symbol of safety. It was later adopted by Christians as a symbol of hope and steadfastness. Doves are a symbol for love and peace, as well as the Holy Spirit. A Lily of the Valley signifies innocence, humility and renewal.
Not very far from the Mozley monument is this one for Richard Kelsey. I could not locate him in any census records but his name appears several times in the Atlanta City Directory.
In the 1870s, he worked as a gardener for Alfred H. Colquitt, a lawyer and Civil War major general before becoming the 49th Governor of Georgia. Colquitt was elected U.S. Senator after that. In later years, Kelsey worked as a driver and a laborer.
The calla lily represents marriage and fidelity. But I can find no record of Richard Kelsey being married so that may not be the case in this example.
This last marker has no names at all but rested alone in a large plot. One was a wife, the other her daughter. Their identities are lost to time but this one last memento of them remains.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this journey through South-View Cemetery. It’s a hidden gem in Atlanta so if you ever have the chance to go there, don’t put it off like I did. You won’t regret it.