CLARKESVILLE — One of Clarkesville’s oldest and most historic assets has been struggling due to time and weather in recent years, but organizers of an upcoming event hope to begin the process of rehabilitating the Historic Clarkesville Cemetery.
On Saturday, Feb. 24, a Walt Disney movie filmed in Habersham County in 1956 about a famous Civil War event will be showcased at the Habersham Community Theatre in Clarkesville, complete with exclusive behind-the-scenes clips of Walt Disney visiting with local actors.
“’The Great Locomotive Chase’ was a Walt Disney movie that was filmed here in Habersham and Rabun counties on the old Tallulah Falls Railroad in 1956,” says Clarkesville Mayor Barrie Aycock, guest celebrity chef for the event. “We actually were under the impression that the engineer on the Rebel train was buried here in the cemetery. Research is determining that that is probably not the case but, in any case, the movie was filmed here, and it has a lot of connection with the history of Habersham because of that – even though it was about an event that happened in West Georgia.”
The showing of “The Great Locomotive Chase” will benefit Historic Clarkesville Cemetery Preservation (HCCP), a nonprofit group formed recently to restore, preserve and protect the Historic Clarkesville Cemetery, established in 1831.
Organizers of the fundraiser hope it will be of interest to history buffs, railroad enthusiasts, genealogists, and to area residents.
The downtown cemetery, originally part of the Methodist church on the site, contains several notable graves.
“We know there are two Revolutionary War soldiers,” says Aycock. Genealogist “Bill Raper at the library says there are also two from the War of 1812, and a number of Confederate soldiers.”
Tickets for the movie fundraiser are $25 per person, or $40 for two, and may be purchased online at clarkesvillega.com. Tickets also may be purchased in person with cash or check at Clarkesville City Hall, The Coffee Corner Antiques, and Norton Realty.
“We are going to show the movie and we are going to have a fundraiser at the Habersham Community Theatre on Feb. 24,” Aycock says. “We will add an additional night on the 23rd if we have enough demand. We’re going to have wine and fine hors d’oeuvres prepared by ex-chef, yours truly, current mayor of Clarkesville.”
Aycock says the bonus reel, scheduled to be shown at 7 p.m. before a short intermission and the main event, is something locals don’t want to miss.
“There was also another film that was made, because Walt Disney himself was here for the filming of part of the movie,” Aycock says. “There’s a film that is owned by the train museum in Kennesaw that is of him socializing with a lot of the people in the movie, so we’re going to show that and have some people who were here for that time talk about their reminiscences.”
Aycock tells what the proceeds from the event will help finance.
“The Habersham County Chamber brought a tourism development team from the state tourism department to Habersham County, and they went around and identified potential tourism development opportunities in the county,” Aycock says. “The cemetery was very high on their list.”
The cemetery had just been acquired by the city a couple of months prior to the tourism team visit.
“They encouraged us to apply for a grant from the state to fund a master plan for the cemetery,” Aycock says. “So, we got proposals from companies for the master plan, and we have committed ourselves to a master plan design by this company, and the cost of that plan is $16,500. We have a grant from the State of Georgia for $10,000, so the first thing we’ve got to do is to raise the additional $6,500 to pay for the master plan. Then, after that, we can apply for future grants from the state.”
Aycock talks optimistically about future plans for the hidden landmark.
“We are looking at grave restoration, and we’re looking at identifying graves and researching more of the history, providing parking, and providing more safe access,” Aycock says.
“We just think it’s going to be a really fun night,” Aycock says of the fundraiser.
Donations to the Historic Clarkesville Cemetery restoration project may be made payable to HCCP and mailed to Clarkesville City Hall, P.O. Box 21, Clarkesville, GA 30523, attn: Barrie Aycock.