Saturday, November 5, at 10:00 AM
The beautiful monuments among the rolling hills of the historic Oconee Hill Cemetery memorialize a cross-section of Athenians old and new. Many names, such as Lumpkin, Cobb, Church, and Hill, have long been fused with Athens’ history. The cemetery was established in 1856 and designed as a rural or natural landscape cemetery, distinguished by its park-like appearance. Originally only 17 acres in size, the cemetery has grown to almost 100 acres. There are three distinct cemeteries which appear as one: the original cemetery opened by the City of Athens, the Factory Burying Ground set aside by the nearby Athens Manufacturing Company for the use of the families of their employees, and the Congregation Children of Israel Cemetery established after the Civil War. The Bisson family, who served as sextons for 86 years, included several skilled sculptors, and they crafted many of the tombstones and memorials. The family lived in the Sexton’s House, a circa 1880 Georgian Cottage which was beautifully restored in 2007 by the Friends of Oconee Hill Cemetery. The cemetery’s tombstones are rich in detail and symbolism, and the tour will include an explanation of the meanings of the various carvings, symbols, icons and other funerary art found there. This tour will last between 2 and 3 hours. Comfortable walking shoes are recommended.
A graduate of Wesleyan College, Charlotte Thomas Marshall came to Athens in 1966 to work as an admissions counselor at the University of Georgia. Following her marriage to George O. Marshall, Jr., she was introduced to Oconee Hill Cemetery by her husband’s first wife’s family. Her 46 years of research in Athens has given Marshall a vast and detailed knowledge of this city’s history and its families. Her much-anticipated book, Oconee Hill Cemetery of Athens, Georgia, Volume I, sold out within a few weeks of publication in 2009 and has been reprinted by the Athens Historical Society. Volumes II – IV are in progress. Marshall was the first woman asked to serve as a trustee of the cemetery and was active in the formation of the Friends of Oconee Hill Cemetery. She is the author of three other local history books and has been a contributor to several other publications. She is the editor of and a contributor to The Tangible Past in Athens, Georgia, a compilation of 18 essays by thirteen lovers of Athens history. The book was published in 2014 and received the Athens-Clarke Heritage Foundation Preservation Award for Publications and Programs and the Georgia Historical Records Advisory Council’s Award for Excellence in Documenting Georgia’s History in 2015. This past spring she began filming videos at individual gravesites in Oconee Hill Cemetery, a pilot project of the Friends of Oconee Hill Cemetery, which will eventuate in a website that allows viewers to visit graves within the cemetery. A limited number of these were recently screened at Ciné and are now available on YouTube. https://youtu.be/fqT8eNYFI2Y