Colonial Park Cemetery
Colonial Park Cemetery
On our bus tour with Pookie on Saturday, we passed the Colonial Park Cemetery, she told us how General Sherman’s troops had been “bored” and changed some of the headstones to make children older than their parents and that peaked my wish to go back and visit one of Savannah’s most beautiful restorations and final resting place for many of Savannah's earliest citizens.
Established about 1750, it was the original burial ground for the Christ Church Parish. The cemetery was enlarged in 1789 to become the cemetery for people of all denominations. Among those buried here are Button Gwinnett (even if he wasn’t famous I’d have put him in purely for having a great name), a signer of the Declaration of Independence.
More than seven hundred victims of the 1820 Yellow Fever epidemic are buried in Colonial Park Cemetery. There are also many victims of Savannah's tragic dueling era. Savannah history records the first dueling death in 1740 and the final shot fired in 1877. Many of the duels left a number of men dead from what one source calls acts of "too much honor." Some of the duels were fought in and around Colonial Park Cemetery. Or as Pookie described one as hatched, matched and dispatched.
He fell in a
duel on the 16th of January, 1815, by the hand of a man who, a short time ago,
would have been friendless but for him. . . . By his untimely death the prop of
a Mother's age is broken: The hope and consolation of Sisters is destroyed, the
pride of Brothers humbled in the dust and a whole family, happy until then,
overwhelmed with affliction.
It came as no surprise that Colonial Park Cemetery is a popular stop for local ghost tours. One walking tour does so at night. According to one story, a maid at the old City Hotel on Bay Street was found in tears outside the gate of the cemetery. When her coworkers inquired what was wrong, she told them she had followed a young man from the hotel who walked into the cemetery and disappeared.
The Colonial Park Cemetery is also home to one of Savannah's most famous ghosts, that of "Rene Asche Rondolier (or Renee Rondolia Asch), a disfigured orphan who was said to have called Colonial Park his home in the early 1800’s. Accused of murdering two girls whose bodies were found in the cemetery, Rene was dragged to the nearby swamps and lynched and left for dead. More dead bodies turned up in the cemetery in the days that followed. The townspeople were convinced it was Rene's ghost and some still call the cemetery, Rene's playground.
The cemetery was already closed to burials before the start of the Civil War and no Confederate soldiers are buried there. But the war did leave its mark on the cemetery. Federal troops took over the cemetery grounds during their occupation of Savannah and many of the graves were looted and desecrated. This was the bit I wanted to see. Damaged headstones and those that could not be reunited with their owners were placed on the wall at the far side of the cemetery. As soon as I felt that I had given the right amount of ‘respect’ to the famous guests we wandered over to the ‘wall of honour’ to see if we could get any pictures clear enough to show the troops meddling's.
According to the first headstone, Josiah was 11, his wife Mary was 17 and Lewis – their son was 12, good start. In the second one the wife of Charles called Sophia was 11 years and 9 months when she met her untimely end.
There were more ‘altered’ ones but I lost Bear’s interest as soon as he saw the word breast and went for a closer look. The line he had found was “............and gently heaves the aspiring breast.” But it shows just how much writing could be put on some of the stones.
ALL IN ALL A GREAT START TO OUR SECOND SAVANNAH VISIT