Historic cemeteries: Scaring up a history lesson among the tombstones

By B.J. Williams/Video: Seth Chapman, Joy Holmes
Posted 2:00PM on Thursday 31st October 2019 ( 9 months ago )
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.
This crumbling grave is located in the Young Family Cemetery at the corner of Atlanta Highway and Hog Mountain Road in Flowery Branch. (Photo: B.J. Williams)
The gravestone of William Allison has suffered the fate of many old markers, breaking and falling into disrepair over the years. This grave is located in the Lawrence Cemetery, also called the Allison Cemetery; a number of White County settlers are believed to be buried at this graveyard. (Photo: B.J. Williams)
Emory Jones, White County author and historian, and Judy Lovell, Past President of the White County Historical Society, read the inscription on a century-old gravestone at the Lawrence Cemetery in rural White County. (Photo: B.J. Williams)
It's not unusual to see infant and child graves from the same family in historic cemeteries. Child mortality occurred at a much higher rate in the 1800s, according to historians. This infant grave is in the Cleveland Historic Cemetery 1866. (Photo: B.J. Williams)
A family burial plot at the Springway Baptist Church Cemetery on Old Cornelia Highway in East Hall County. (Photo: B.J. Williams)
Tommy Casper is the Cemetery Manager for historic Alta Vista Cemetery in Gainesville. Casper reviews a map given to visitors who want to take a walking tour of the 75 acre property. (Photo: B.J. Williams)
The Reeves Cemetery is located on Tesnatee Valley Gap Road near Cleveland. These unmarked stones are thought to mark the burial spots of slaves and servants who worked for the Reeves family. (Photo: B.J. Williams)

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