Sunday, October 31, 2004

Ghoul's Night Out

Happy Halloween. In the spirit of the holiday I think we should visit the graveyards of Augusta. Well, two at least. Augusta, founded in 1736 and 3 years younger than Savannah, is the second oldest city in Georgia. As a result, there's a lot of dead people around. The oldest cemetery is Magnolia, which bounds both Laney Walker and East Boundary Rd., putting it offically in the "bad" part of town. While Magnolia, formerly plantation land, became a designated cemetery in 1818, the oldest grave is from 1800. In fact, most of the graves are old and back in the 1800's the living (and dying) was tough. There's lots of family plots with 5 or 6 dead children. Also, there's many graves of young women in their late-teens and early-twenties with an infant buried next to them, dead either a day before or after. There's also a surprising number of Irish people (dead) in the cemetery.

Lots of important people are buried at Magnolia Cemetery, including members of the Phinizy Family, for which Phinizy Swamp was named (see: Swampland I & II). Veterans of the Revolutionary War are also buried at the cemetery, including John Martin, who died in 1843 at the age of 105. The guy had even been wounded in the head by a tomahawk in the Cherokee War of 1755. Of course, lots of Confederate soldiers have their graves in Magnolia. Seven Confederate Generals are buried in the cemetery, although only a couple actually died in the war. The graves of many other soldiers are found in designated areas in the back of the cemetery. Some are simply marked, "UNKNOWN."

Wylly Barron, who controlled gambling in the Atkinson Hotel on Ellis St, is also buried in Magnolia. A gambler killed himself following heavy losses, but before he did he cursed Wylly, saying, "You have taken everything I have. When you die, may you not even have a grave to shelter you." This spooked Wylly and he started enforcing all sorts of regulations in his parlor to ease his conscience. People that handled money for their jobs couldn't gamble (they might steal), nor could minors. He also secretly gave money to anyone that had come upon hard luck and asked him for help. But, most importantly, he bought a mausoleum in Magnolia so he'd be certain there WOULD be a grave to shelter him. Good thing he did, too.

While Wylly Barron had led an extravagant life at one point, by his death at 88 he'd lost most of his wealth. Upon his death, he was so broke a proper coffin couldn't be purchased and his body was simply bricked into the mausoleum. The key to the mausoleum and surrounding fence was then thrown in the Savannah River, as he'd decreed in his will, so no one could ever pull him out of his grave later. His epitaph reads: “Farewell vain work, I know enough of thee. And now am careless what thou sayest of me. Thy smiles I court not, nor thy frowns I fear. My cares are past, my head lies quiet here. What faults you knew of me, take care to shun. And look at home, enough there’s to be done.” In the mid-to-late 1800's, people apparently didn't always take kindly to gamblers. Uh, this photo is not of his mausoleum.

There's several other cemeteries in Augusta but I only visited one other. And how's this for lame? I don't even know the name of it. It's right by the canal, just behind Broad St. I can't find any listings for it anywhere. Perhaps it's a phantom cemetery, like the Flying Dutchman of boneyards. If that's the case, it's pretty big for a phantom cemetery. Whatever the case, this cemetery has some pretty mean-spirited insciptions on a few of its stones.

This one reads: "He is gone but not forgotten, we all sure miss him so. But the angels came and took him, it was his time to go. His bed at home his vacant, his chair is empty too. But the Lord in all his goodness, knew what was best to do. To all his friends and kindred, please bear one thing in mind. Your time is surely coming, it won't be far behind."

Or, if they're not mean-spirited, they sure do seem to be encouraging the reader to "PREPARE TO DIE!" "Pause here stranger, as you pass by. As you are now, so once was I. As I am now, so shall you be. Prepare for death, and follow me." Hey, nothing like a real life-affirming inscription, eh?

But I agree, sometimes the understated stone is the way to go. I hope everyone has a Happy Halloween. Such a nice holiday and a great way to prepare for the elections, huh? Next time we'll stick with the historical bent and check out the Augusta Canal, I think. Until then, enjoy your candy.


crash99 said...

I believe the other cemetery you visited behind Broad Street and near the canal is West View Cemetery. It is very close to Lake Olmstead-off of Broad Street and if you continue past the cemetery and lake,both on your right,Broad Street merges with Washington Road where about a half a mile down on your left is the famed Augusta National Golf Course,home of the Masters Tournament. My Grandmother and her family are buried in West View and as an avid photographer of cemeteries, West View is the only one that fits your description. However,in my own defense,there are more than a few cemeteries in Augusta,some of them quite small,although I feel certain that West View is the unknown cemetery of which you speak.
I have thoroughly enjoyed ALL of your blog entries and photos so far. I only found a link to your work sometime between midnight and 1AM(EST). It is now 8AM and I have not navigated away from the wealth of information I have found in your words and captured images. I am native to North Augusta-which these days means Ii am a native of Augusta as well. I have worked as a freelance photographer, as well as with professionals for over 17 years now. Anytime you revisit the area,feel free to drop me a line. I am sure I can show you even more hidden wonders than you have so wonderfully researched,visited and shared with us all. My email is . And the name is kerri. Well I am heading out here shortly to visit some of my favorite secret places and fill up several SD cards with photos. I will let you know when I get a decent number of them posted along with text. Thanks again!!!
much peace and love...kerri

jmhouse said...

That sounds like it exactly. West View Cemetery. Cool. Thanks for clearing that up. And thanks for spending all night with City of Dust!

Incidentally, I sent an e-mail from City of Dust of earlier, so check your spam box if you haven't seen it. Messages from the cityofdust address are always getting filtered out.

Thanks again for your comments. They are very, very much appreciated. I look forward to seeing your photos of the CSRA, as well.


Anonymous said...

My grandfather died at 29 and is buried in the pauper section of Westview Cemetery since 1946. His grave has been located and I have ordered a stone for him. He will be a barren piece of land no more. I never met him but I shall not let him go unremembered.

jmhouse said...

Anonymous, thank you for sharing the story of your grandfather and his grave in West View Cemetery. It is very poignant and I am glad to have it recorded here.

Best Regards, JM