Thursday, January 23, 2014

Colonial Park Cemetery In Savannah

Savannah is one of my favorite historic towns in the south.  The city was established by James Edward Oglethorpe in 1733 after he lead a group of colonists to the high bluff situated strategically on the Savannah River.  Oglethorpe designed the city in a very unique way using a concept of developing blocks around central squares.  Originally, there were twenty-four squares, most of which still exist today.  South of the square and street named for Oglethorpe is the Colonial Park Cemetery.  The cemetery was established in 1750.  As many as 9,000 people are buried here and it was closed to further burials in 1853.
One of the unique aspects of Colonial Park Cemetery are its mausoleums because they seem to be half buried in the ground.  Several of them are nearly buried to their roofs.

Colonial Park is a very old cemetery by American standards and thus many of the tombstones no longer exist.  Another issue arose during the Civil War when the Union occupied Savannah.  The cemetery was used as a place to camp and stable the horses and as happens, vaults were looted and tombstones were desecrated when troops changed dates on them in an attempt at some kind of humor.  For example, the number one might be added to an age to make it appear that someone died at the age of 162.  At most cemeteries, damaged headstones are just lost to history, but Colonial Park has done something unique.  The damaged headstones have been cemented to the back of the cemetery on a wall:
The most famous person buried here is Button Gwinnett who was one of the three Georgian signers of the Declaration of Independence.  Button was a trader whom arrived from England in Georgia in 1765 and was chosen as a representative to the Continental Congress due to his enthusiasm for colonial rights and desire for liberty.  He died from a wound sustained during a duel.
Speaking of duels, Colonial Park Cemetery became a favorite spot for duelists to be laid to rest.
Other notable people buried in the cemetery are James Johnson, Georgia’s first newspaper printer and publisher; Major John Berrien who served at Valley Forge during the Revolutionary War; Archibald Bulloch, first president of Georgia; the patriot Joseph Clay; and four members of the Habersham family.  Here are the burial plots of Joseph Clay and the Habershams respectively:
Samuel Elbert was a Brigadier General in the Continental Army and later became Governor of Georgia.  He lies in this smaller above ground vault:
General Lachlan McIntosh was Georgia’s ranking Continental officer during the Revolutionary War.  He is buried in the same plot with several family members.  Unfortunately, his headstone is so weathered, it is nearly unreadable.  McIntosh is the individual who killed Button Gwinnett during a duel.
The Graham Vault is the resting place for two heroes of the Revolutionary War.  Or rather, it used to be the resting place.  One of those men was British, Lt. Colonel John Maitland, and the other American, Major General Nathanael Greene, and they both were later removed from the vault and buried elsewhere.
The following are various images from Colonial Park Cemetery.  I liked the symbolism on this first tombstone.  There is the hourglass symbolizing the passage of time and the scythe marking death and the divine harvest.  A woman is between the two with closed eyes and tilted head as though resigned to death.
These tombstones were damaged and braced with metal to hold them together:
I loved this enclosed plot.  One can also see the damaged tombstones that have been cemented on the back wall:
This appeared to be some sort of water fountain.  I’m open to suggestions in the comments area if anyone knows what this is:

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