Monday July 6th, 2020 9:04AM

Historic cemeteries: Scaring up a history lesson among the tombstones

By B.J. Williams/Video: Seth Chapman, Joy Holmes
Nothing conjures up a spooky feeling quite like an old cemetery, does it? You've probably seen some of the creepier movies featuring cemeteries - Pet Sematary, Night of the Living Dead, The Omen - each one with horrifying scenes set among the tombstones.
In reality though, cemeteries are part of our history and they should give us a glimpse into our pasts rather than send shivers up our spines.
Our region is home to dozens of historic cemeteries, and while we didn't have a chance to visit all of them, AccessWDUN spent some time in the last week exploring a few of the older sites in the area. We know there are many more to see, so feel free to send us an email so we can plan our next venture. 
Established in 1872, Alta Vista Cemetery is a perpetual care cemetery operated by the city of Gainesville. The 75-acre property was purchased by the city for $370, according to current Cemetery Manager Tommy Casper. Casper described the site as "an outdoor historical classroom."
Two Georgia governors are buried at Alta Vista; so is Georgia Congressman Tom Bell. Visitors can see the graves of poultry pioneer Jesse Jewell, pro football player Billy Lothridge and trapeze artist Maude Mooney, whose stage name was Millie Vortex. The most visited monument at Alta Vista is that of Lt. General James Longstreet. Casper says Civil War buffs from around the country come to Gainesville to visit Longstreet's grave. 
To find out more, including a link to a map for a self-guided walking tour of Alta Vista, follow this link.
The land for the Cleveland City Cemetery, known now as Cleveland Historic Cemetery 1866, was purchased by a private family and deeded to the churches of the city, according to local historian Judy Lovell. Today, it's operated and maintained by a board of trustees, similar to other perpetual care cemeteries in the region.
One of the more unusual inscriptions found in the Cleveland Cemetery is on the stone of W.B. "Will" Bell. It says very simply "brutally murdered." While history has changed the details of the story, depending on who's telling the story, it's is believed that Bell, a traveling salesman, was beaten to death in Habersham County. Bell's relatives and friends avenged his death, hunting down the man who murdered him and eventually taking the suspect's life in the Hall County jail. Read one version of the story via this link.
Also known as the Allison Cemetery, this burial site is located far off the beaten path in the woods of White County off Highway Alt. 75. Many of those buried in the cemetery are believed to have been original settlers in White County, according to local historians. The site is still used for burials today. 
Located at the corner of Atlanta Highway and Hog Mountain Road in Flowery Branch, members of the Robert Young family are buried in this private family cemetery. Some of the people buried here were born in the late 1700s. Follow this link to read a previous AccessWDUN article about the burial site. 
This story will be updated.
  • Associated Categories: Local/State News, Videos
  • Associated Tags: alta vista cemetery, history , Young Family Cemetery, Lawrence Cemetery, Cleveland City Cemetery , historic cemeteries
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