After finishing my Dallas, Texas series and enjoying a holiday hiatus, I’m back!
Today I’m writing about a cemetery that’s only about 30 minutes from where I spent my growing up years. Senoia City Cemetery is located in Coweta County. It also happens to be situated adjacent to where my sister purchased a home over two years ago. So I’ve had the pleasure of meandering my way through it several times now. I’m quite jealous that all she has to do is look out her window to get a cemetery fix.
By the way, it’s pronounced Sen-oy. Not Sen-oy-uh. Just ask the locals.
Coweta County was once part of the Creek Nation, named for the tribe headed by William McIntosh, Jr. He was a half-Scot, half-Creek who relinquished lands to the federal government in the 1825 Treaty of Indian Springs. McIntosh was slain by an irate group of fellow Creeks at his home on the Chattahoochee River. As a child, I can remember attending a play in an outdoor ampitheater in nearby Peachtree City that dramatized the life of Chief McIntosh. Once called Willow Dell, the town was renamed Senoia after Chief McIntosh’s mother.
A Little Town Grows Up
When I was growing up, Senoia was a sleepy little farming community with a population of around 1,000. We rarely went there unless we were taking a leisurely drive on a Sunday afternoon, maybe coming back from Callaway Gardens. Beyond the Main Street area, there was not much there. In 1991, some scenes from the movie Fried Green Tomatoes were filmed in Senoia and nearby Juliette.
Fast forward to the 2000s. A little TV show on AMC called “The Walking Dead” began filming and everything changed. In 2010, the town’s population jumped 90 percent from the 1990 figure to more than 3,300 residents. New shops and restaurants opened up. Southern Living magazine built its showcase home there TWICE. New housing sprang up amid the historic homes near Main Street.
To thank Senoia for welcoming them into the community, AMC paid $150,000 to completely remake Seavy Park. People from all over the country travel to Senoia to go on “Walking Dead” tours and shop in stores where they can buy props used in the show. I can testify that the price on those props just about tripled from when they first started hitting the shelves.
While Senoia is no longer a quiet rural town, it still retains a great deal of history and its historical society is quite active.
With about 1,660 memorials listed on Find a Grave, the earliest graves at Senoia City Cemetery (SCC) seem to date from the 1860s. I believe the City of Senoia manages it and it is an active cemetery with ample room for future burials. Note: Right beside it is Oak Grove Baptist Church Cemetery, which has about 132 graves according to Find a Grave.
There are a number of markers worth mentioning at Senoia City Cemetery but today I’m going to focus on children’s graves. I found myself returning to my pictures of them time and time again.
Four Babies in Six Years
You often hear the phrase “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”. When I stand next to the Sasser plot, it echoes through my head.
With deep roots in Senoia, Joseph Arthur Sasser, Sr. was born in 1861 to farmer and Civil War veteran William W. Sasser and Keziah Boyd Sasser. Joseph wed local belle Carrie Ballard in 1891 in Senoia. She was a talented musician, having graduated from LaGrange Female Academy (now LaGrange College). Their first child, Cornelia, was born on Oct. 18, 1895. Sadly, the baby died on Aug. 22, 1896 at the age of 10 months.
A year later, another daughter, Mary, was born on Aug. 23, 1897. She died on May 26, 1898 at the age of nine months. Her death was announced in the local newspaper.
On May 8, 1900, daughter Carrie was born. Joseph was employed by a bank at this time. She died on March 5, 1901 at the age of 10 months. By this time, I can’t imagine what her mother, for whom she had been named, was thinking. She had to have been in agony. Why did her babies keep dying?
Now there were three markers in Senoia City Cemetery all in a row.
On Aug. 20, 1902, Carrie gave birth to a daughter, Josephine. Tragedy struck again on Jan. 19, 1904. I could not locate any funeral notice for her. Perhaps it was too painful for the Sassers to share with the world. Josephine’s monument is different from her three sisters’ markers.
The Surviving Son
Carrie gave birth to one more child, a son they named Joseph Arthur Jr., on March 19, 1906. By this time, the Sassers had moved from Senoia to Atlanta where Joseph was gaining success in banking circles. To their joy, Joseph Jr. survived his boyhood and would marry Ola Braye Happerfield.
Carrie died after a long illness at age 61 in 1927. Joseph Sr. died a little over a year later at the age of 66. They were buried together with their four little girls at SCC.
By 1935, Joseph Jr. and Ola had moved to Charlotte, N.C. where he worked as a salesman. He died on April 11, 1935 of a heart attack. He was only 29. A few days later, his remains were returned to Atlanta and he was buried in the Sasser plot at SCC. Ola would remarry soon after. She died in 1974 and is buried in Hollywood Cemetery in Gaston County, N.C.
Two Babies in a Shell
One of the more unique infant graves I’ve ever seen is for that of the children of Benjamin F. and Veta Hunter Cock. Some records spell their last name Cocke. The “baby on a half shell” marker is not that unusual. But it is rare for me to see one for two children.
The marker says “Infants Children of B.F. and V.H. Cock” with death dates of Sept. 24, 1892 and Aug. 20, 1893.
Benjamin and Veta would have a son, Emory, on July 21, 1897. Sadly, Benjamin did not live to see him grow up and died on Jan. 24, 1899 at the age of 34. Veta never remarried and died in 1965. They are buried together with their babies at SCC.
Emory lived a long life and became a successful businessman, dying at the age of 82 in 1980. He is buried with his wife in Westview Cemetery in Atlanta.
The last grave I want to share is for Andrew Harmon Couch. Born on July 28, 1890, he was the third of eight children of James Riley Couch and LouElla Hancock Couch.
Andrew died on Oct 28, 1898 at the age of 8. He was the only child among his siblings that did not live to adulthood. I suppose that was little comfort to his parents when he passed away.
There’s something about the angel resting on the rock-like base of Andrew’s monument, its eyes closed and legs folded in sleep. I have seen it a number of times now and still get a lump in my throat when I pass it.
While Hollywood has had an influence on Senoia, some of it good and some of it probably unwelcome, I find that visiting this cemetery reminds me of what this small town is at heart. A community with families who care about each other and cherish their history. I hope residents new to Senioa will take the time to go for a walk here and look into the past to learn about those pioneer families who built this community.
Even the least of these who spent such a short time here…