08 July 2010

All Aboard for the Seeing-Macon Car

I recently found this and couldn't resist getting it on the blog quickly, even without any enhancements. Stay tuned for elaborations and photos!

[Update! The articles I have written to go along with several of the paragraphs in this 1917 news article are now linked from within.]

Macon Telegraph
16 December 1917
(Viewable online at GenealogyBank.)


ALL aboard for the Seeing-Macon Car.

We will now leave the car and take a walk. This is Rose Hill Cemetery, taking its name from one of Macon's earliest public-spirited citizens, through whose efforts and by whose plans it was laid out and established in 1840. The first cemetery for the west side of the river is between Cherry and Poplar, below Seventh, and in it the pioneers of the city were buried. For many years it was neglected, but is now enclosed.

On this stroll we will point out a few of the graves of interest, leaving a more elaborate description of the many beautiful monuments and graves for a second visit.

The Ocmulgee river flows alongside, and before the Southern railroad was allowed to run through on the river bank there were a series of cliffs and bluffs, one of which was the usual Lover's Leap, with its usual tradition of the Indian maiden leaping from it to her death because her dusky lover had fallen a victim to an arrow of the enemy. The railroad cut out all the romance.

This is the Zeigler vault, and holds the bones of William Zeigler, who came here from South Carolina and died in 1855. Formerly there was a heavy plate glass window in the door, through which the hermetically sealed casket, with its elaborate silver handles and ornaments could be plainly seen. Shortly after General Wilson's army came to Macon in 1865, some vandal soldiers broke the glass and entered the vault. They had evidently heard a story in circulation that all Zeigler's gold had been buried with him, but not being able to get into the casket they stripped it of its silver ornaments and handles. It was then that this marble slab was put in place of the glass, thus shutting off a view of the interior.

Here is the grave of little Mary Marsh, the stage name of Mary Eliza Guerineau, whose fluffy dress caught fire from the footlights on the night of January 27, 1859, while dancing, and was burned to death before she could be rescued. She was a mere child, and was performing with the Marsh Family in the old Ralston Hall, the theater building that stood where the Fourth National Bank now stands. Her tragic death caused gloom all over the city. For many years the wreath of artificial flowers worn by the child on that night, enclosed in a circular metal case, remained on the top of the marble slab until some ghoul removed it.

For fifty years, in fact up to a few years ago, a lady in black visited the grave and covered it with flowers. No one knew from whence she came. She was never known to speak to any one, and all her actions were mysterious. It was supposed that she was the mother, and made this annual pilgrimage to Macon until death caused her to cease them.

Here is the Bond monument. Joseph Bond was one of the wealthy planters of antebellum days. Like many others of his day, he owned enough slaves to have made up a regiment, and land in Southwest Georgia sufficient for a site for two or more cities the size of Macon. He loved his slaves, and on one occasion, in the year 1859, when his overseer, from all accounts a man as brutal as the overseer in Uncle Tom's Cabin, was found by him beating a slave unmercifully, Mr. Bond interfered and was killed by the overseer. The imposing monument which you see before you was cut in Italy, and reached New York about the time of the break between the States. It was placed in a bonded warehouse in that city, where it remained until after the war and was then shipped here and placed in position.

Here is the grave of a man who did as much for Macon as any man, Elam Alexander, a contractor. He built Wesleyan College and other prominent buildings. He brought the magnetic telegraph to Macon, expended money in boring artesian wells, which proved failures, however, because of Macon being built upon solid rock, contributed to railroads and every public enterprise, and at his death left a fund, which by wise and careful management on the part of the trustees of the fund gave the city the three handsome public school buildings that bear his name. He died in 1863.

There is something as uncanny as it is unusual for a cemetery. On this lot are the graves of nine victims of a kinsman who slew with an axe almost his entire family. This was Thomas Woolfolk, and the extraordinary crime was committed one night in August, 1897. He paid the penalty of his deed on the gallows.

This grave is that of a man, who had he lived in these days would have received recognition from Carnegie. The inscription on the tombstone will tell you why. It reads:

"Erected by the Mayor and Council of Macon in honor of the public spirit which lost a valuable life in saving the property of his fellow-citizens from the ravage of fire."

This hero of Macon's village days was James Willingham, a printer. He died in 1844. His widow was the mother of Ben, William, Al and John Goodyear, well-known citizens now living.

This plot of ground is consecrated to the memory of Confederate soldiers. Nearly all the bones in these graves were removed from the old cemetery in the lower part of the city through the efforts of the good women of Macon, where the Confederate soldiers dying in the hospitals, and the remains of many dying elsewhere, were at first buried. On the 26th of April of each year memorial exercises are held here, and all these graves are strewn with flowers by both girls and veterans. No city in the South observes Memorial Day more than does Macon.

Adjoining Rose Hill is the Riverside Cemetery, which is one of the several forts or redoubts thrown up around Macon in 1864 to protect the city from the attacks of the enemy. They were thrown up to form a semi-circle, beginning on the east side of the river, where North Highlands is now, and extending to the Columbus road on the west side. That in Riverside is probably the best preserved, the others have been partially or fully destroyed to make room for improvements.

In former days Rose Hill was visited much more than now. Every fair Sunday afternoon it was filled with the younger people. In those days there was a number of springs of cold, clear water, all flowing into the little brook that is still here. One of the springs was the Crystal Spring within a cave, under the hill. It was walled up with crystallized rocks with an iron railing around it, and this was a favorite place to visit.

On the bank of the river, at the foot of Central avenue, was the "Lover's Leap," to be found in nearly all cemeteries that are situated on a river. It was here that the young people gathered and told of the legend of the Indian maid. That the legend was believed by many is evidenced by the fact that when these young people were on it, they preserved the utmost silence, hushing their talking to whispers. It was on this rock that Henry Watterson, during his residence in Macon, spent many a Sunday afternoon."

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