John Murlin was just a boy in 1975 when he would get dropped off after school at what was then his grandparent’s house. Murlin was playing in the backyard with his brother when the two ventured off into the woods. This is when he found the tombstone near Emory University.
“I told my dad that I had found a grave back there and he just laughed because he knew there was no way a body was buried back there,” Murlin said.
Murlin said their original thoughts were that it was vandalism and someone had dumped it in the woods to discard it. The tombstone was covered in moss and dirt and was illegible.
Thinking there was no way they were going to find where it came from, Murlin said they took the stone to his home, across from the cemetery on Glenn Circle, and placed it behind the garage where it stayed for 38 years forgotten and unnoticed.
In April, Murlin and his 7-year-old son, Jack, were doing yard work at his mother’s house when Jack stumbled upon the tombstone, bringing back the vivid memory of that day to his father’s mind.
Because of the advancement in technology, Murlin decided that it was possible to find a home for it when his neighbor suggested using Google.
“I took a pen and paper and I traced the engravings with my finger and started writing down the letters and numbers because you couldn’t really tell what it was from just looking,” he said.
Murlin added he was having trouble deciphering the date to be 1848 or 1818, but typed out the name he had written in Google, Enoch Morgan, which then confirmed the date on the stone as 1848, much older than he ever thought.
Murlin knew that Decatur Cemetery was the oldest public cemetery in Atlanta so he gave them a call. They then confirmed the tomb had indeed come from there, just across the street from the home.
“I thought it was just so wonderful that after all these years it had been found and the way the story unfolded quite honestly it was awesome,” said Joy Knight, Decatur Cemetery specialist.
Knight helped by calling Friends of Decatur Cemetery, a nonprofit volunteer group of the cemetery, to assist Murlin with the stone. Friends member, David Crenshaw, took the stone home and cleaned it using preservation methods.
According to Knight, the situation with the older plots in the cemetery is that throughout decades and centuries earth and changes in the environment over time cause markers to no longer be visible, so she never noticed it was gone.
The three were able to locate the Morgan family plot on the land and return Enoch Morgan’s tombstone to its final resting place.