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Column: Forgotten cemetery harkens back to park’s origin
by Thornton Kennedy
Neighbor Newspapers Columnist
March 12, 2014 03:29 PM | 2751 views | 0 0 comments | 74 74 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Thornton Kennedy
Thornton Kennedy
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On an appropriately cold, rainy day last week I met Chastain Park Conservancy Director of Operations Ray Mock at the Buckhead park in search of a cemetery with no headstones.

The strange thing about this particular cemetery is it is almost on the North Fulton Golf Course, just behind a green and before a tee box. I myself have chipped balls back onto the green from the small field after over-hitting the green. So, likely, have countless others.

In as early as two weeks, a company equipped with ground-penetrating radar will be checking this particular area to determine how many graves are there. That is unknown, as is the exact location. The only physical evidence is a few indentations now filled with water in an otherwise flat area. If it hadn’t been raining recently, it would look like any other grassy nook of the golf course. The area is behind the green of hole No. 5 and adjacent to No. 6 along Lake Forrest Road.

The cemetery has been here for more than 100 years. We know this because on several maps of the park from the 1920s and ’30s, a cross marks the area. The cross is at the end of a long forgotten road that once led to the cemetery. The rise of the road is visible among the puddles.

Fulton County originally acquired 1,000 acres in the area for the indigent. These are the graves of paupers — the poor and forgotten who lived in the alms houses of Chastain that date back to 1909, when they were built by the county. One, which served white residents, is now The Galloway School. The other, for blacks, is now the Chastain Arts Center.

Who is buried in the unmarked cemetery is difficult to tell, though one burial notice indicates a white man. It is the only evidence other than the old maps and a mention in Henry Hope’s book, “The Poor Houses,” which documents the histories of Atlanta’s alms houses that the cemetery exists. It is not known whether there is one person buried there or 100.

The work is important to Mock, who has long known about the cemetery, for one simple reason. Even though these people were indigent and forgotten, they deserve respect and love, he said. Regardless of the outcome of the search, nothing is expected to change in this area of the park except the addition of a historic marker recognizing the cemetery and the alms houses.

The Buckhead Coalition and conservancy board member Paul Beckham are supporting the project financially. Erica Danylchak, executive director of the Buckhead Heritage Society, has committed resources and was critical in finding the lone burial record. The conservancy is still raising funds.

Chastain is undoubtedly the most used park in Atlanta and has a rich history that goes back to the Creek Indians. Mock and the conservancy are ensuring this long-forgotten cemetery is added to that history.

Buckhead resident Thornton Kennedy is a sixth-generation Atlantan and a former news editor of this paper. He can be reached at thorntonkennedy@me.com.
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