Thursday, November 5, 2009

Grave Matters

Ever since I was a small child, I’ve been fascinated with cemeteries. I love reading the inscriptions on the tombstones and trying to catch a glimpse into the lives of the people laid to rest there. In my genealogy research it’s been more exciting to actually see the cemeteries where my ancestors are buried instead of just reading a piece of paper where their names and dates are listed. I’ve enjoyed visiting cemeteries that range from one with graves that predate the Revolutionary War to reliving Georgia History on the Georgia coast to falling over a cowboy boot left on John Wayne’s grave in California.

Apparently, I’m not alone in my quest to visit cemeteries. According to a 10/30/09 article on titled Cemeteries Breathe Life Into Tourists, “For visitors who seek out headstones, this sort of destination travel is about more than death and grief-seeking. It can be a form of entertainment and inspiration, a history and architecture lesson, a cultural appreciation course, a genealogical journey and a source of relaxation.”

For lovers of, Roswell Georgia’s modern Greenlawn Cemetery is the final resting place of AWA Southern Heavyweight Champion “Ravishing Rick Rude” (Rick Rood) and major league baseball player, Harold Lewis “Corky” Valentine. Corky played for the Atlanta Crackers minor league team before heading to the Cincinnati Reds in the 1950s.

For those of us who love older grave markers, Roswell is a treasure trove with four historic cemeteries.

Founder’s Cemetery (1840)
Founder’s Cemetery was the original municipal graveyard, established by Roswell King, the founder of Roswell, for use by the community. It contains the graves of some of Roswell’s founding families, including Roswell King, James Bulloch (grandfather of President Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt), and John Dunwody. Burials occurred from the 1840s through the 1860s. Twenty-eight graves have formal markers which include headstones, die in socket, table tombs, and obelisks, plus two granite markers. Sixty-seven known unmarked graves are indicated by fieldstones. Local history says that some of the fieldstones are original and others were added during a 1984 geophysical survey. Unmarked graves are generally agreed to be house servants and mill workers who could not afford formal headstones.

The cemetery is located on Sloan Street. Parking is available at the entrance to the cemetery.

Presbyterian Church Cemetery (1840)
The Presbyterian Cemetery was established by the Roswell Presbyterian Church. The church was organized in 1839 by 15 charter members, representatives of the founding families of Roswell. The church was built in 1840. At that time, the cemetery would have been part of the church grounds. Later construction of Atlanta Street separated the cemetery from the church. The church was used by Union troops as a hospital during the Civil War. Many of Roswell’s prominent citizens are buried here, including Smith Plantation’s owner Archibald Smith, his wife Anne Margaret McGill Smith, and Reverend Francis R. Goulding, inventor of the first sewing machine.

At least one of the graves tells of tragic love. John Henry Lang, of a prominent family in England, is buried in the King Family Plot so that he could be close to the family for eternity. In 1884, he came to Roswell to be the manager of the Roswell Manufacturing Company and was soon courting Fannie Baker, great-granddaughter of Roswell King. The family approved of him but before their marriage, he was killed supervising an installation at the mill.

The Presbyterian Cemetery has a large variety of monument types and materials including headstones, footstones, die on base, die in socket, die, base & cap, bedsteads, lawn makers, raised top, obelisk, pulpit marker, and ornately carved monuments. This cemetery is still active.

The cemetery is located at the intersection of Atlanta Street and Oak Street. Parking is available at the Presbyterian Church or at the Shops on Oak Street shopping center.

Old Roswell Cemetery (1848)
The Old Roswell Cemetery was originally affiliated with the Mount Carmel Methodist Church, which was established in 1836. When the church expanded and moved to a new location, the cemetery was opened to the public. It was officially renamed the Old Roswell Cemetery in 1975.

The Old Roswell Cemetery has a large variety of monument types and materials including headstones, footstones, die on base, die in socket, die, base & cap, bedsteads, lawn makers, raised top, obelisk, pulpit marker, and specialty stones like Modern Woodmen of America tree stumps and intricately carved monuments. This cemetery is still active.

The cemetery is located at the intersection of Alpharetta Street and Woodstock Road. Parking is available on Woodstock Road near the water tower.

Pleasant Hill Cemetery (1855)
Pleasant Hill Cemetery was established when African American members of the Lebanon Baptist Church organized their own church. Burials continued until the early 1960s. The first Pleasant Hill Church site was on the south side of the cemetery. The current church is located in Roswell’s historic district on Pleasant Hill Street. As Roswell grew, a commercial district sprang up around the cemetery. Many pass by its fenced boundaries, surprised to see headstones on the road leading into a shopping center and probably wondering who is buried there.

The cemetery is located off Old Roswell Place, half way between Holcomb Bridge Road and Old Roswell Road, behind the Roswell Town Center shopping area. Parking lots are adjacent to the cemetery.

Cemetery Etiquette
Due to the fragile nature of historic grave markers, gravestone rubbings are not encouraged. Photography and sketches are great ways to take home your memories of Roswell’s historic cemeteries.

Preserve America Historic Cemetery Project
Roswell is one of only thirteen communities in Georgia designated as a Preserve America community. Preserve America is a White House initiative that encourages and supports community efforts to preserve and enjoy our priceless cultural and natural heritage.

In 2006 the City of Roswell, with the support of the Roswell Historical Society, applied for and received a Preserve America Grant for Cemetery Preservation. Available only to Georgia's Preserve America communities, this one-time-only grant program provides funds for activities related to the historic cemeteries in their communities.

As part of this grant, a professionally prepared assessment and conditions report is complete. The City is seeking additional funding for a walking tour brochure and additional interpretive signs for each cemetery.

Volunteers from the Roswell Historical Society have compiled data on Founders, Presbyterian, and the Old Roswell (Methodist) cemeteries. In about a year this data will be in a database that will allow researchers to search for family names and locate graves. The plan is to expand the recording process to additional historic cemeteries in the Roswell area.

Extra Credit: Roswell, Georgia Genealogy Research Source
For those who just can’t wait until the Roswell cemetery data is online, the Roswell Historical Society/ City of Roswell Research Library and Archives is a great source of information. They are located on the second floor of the Roswell Cultural Arts Center at 950 Forest Street, Roswell, GA 30075, and are open Monday & Thursday, 1 - 4:30 pm.


  1. Thanks for the article on the cemeteries and graveyards of Roswell! Being a '"grave seeker and genealogist, I have been fascinated by the abundance of local history on our door step.

  2. A note on the Pleasant Hill Cemetery. I was just there today, you had stated that burials stopped in the 60's, there are tombstones there with burial dates up to 2003, and there was one site that grass had not grwn over yet and another that still had a mound of dirt over the site. So my guess would be it is still actively used.

  3. in the Presbyterian cemetary I noticed some very small stones with no names on them. What is the significance?

  4. Descendants of Andrew Hughes,
    Rev. War Soldier, in Forsyth, Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Habersham, Hall, counties Ga. and Pickens, Fayette, Marion, Tuscaloosa, Walker counties in Alabama.

    As you turn left onto Hubbard Town Rd. off Ga. 400, north of Cumming, Georgia you to to Hopewell Rd. (Old Hwy. 9 East) turn left and you see a United Methodist Church, called Hopewell, and an entrance to the cemetery. The cemetery is well kept, peaceful and filled with headstones of well known Dawson and Forsyth County Families. One is James W. Hughes, Methodist Minister, b: 30 Jul. 1798, in Pickens County, S.C. d: 15 Jul. 1881 Forsyth County, Ga. and wife Mary Jane Smith, b: 16 Jun. 1802, in S.C. probably Pickens County, d: 8 Nov. 1875 Forsyth County, Ga.. A wire fence surrounds the graves. James W. Hughes was the son of Andrew Hughes, Rev. War Soldier and brother to Elisha Gabriel Hughes, b: 10 Aug. 1802 Pickens, S.C. and d: 8 Aug 1882 in Warren County, Ga. m: 1st. Margaret “Peggy” Wilson dau of Charles Wilson son of Captain John Wilson Rev. War soldier. Elisha’s children moved to Fayette, Ala. in the 1830’s. The story of the, gatherings at the Lumpkin Campground, migrations of families through Georgia and back are complex and exciting to those who love history and the search for ancestors. The ancestry search is exciting, time consuming and filled with trips to courthouses, libraries, archives, cemeteries and much more. This author has searched ancestry since 1977 trailing generations from Pa., Delaware, N.C., Tenn, S.C. Ga. Fl. Ala. Miss. Texas, Ok, Ark, and on west. Meeting lost cousins, exchanging stories, sharing old letters, Family Bible pages, photos and more. Networking with lost relatives, friends and fellow researchers until now has been slow using U.S.P.S., long distance phone calls and later email. Today, the Internet offers much convenience for looking up documents. Now, there is a better and more convenient way for lost cousins, friends and researchers to communicate and work together, including genealogical/historical societies throughout the world.
    New system for inventorying cemeteries and networking with genealogical societies, individual researchers with blogging, online chat, instant messaging and much more at