Sunday, May 11, 2014

Connecting with Landmarks: History of Rose Hill Cemetary (Part 2)

by Dianne Dent Wilcox ( )

(Guest Blogger Dianne Dent Wilcox is an expert on the history of Macon and Central Georgia.  She is currently the Humanities department Chair at Georgia Military College.  She and her family reside in Macon.)

The traditional Rose Hill Rambles, started by Calder Payne, give detailed information about sections of the cemetery. I was never able to attend one of Mr. Payne’s tours, but I have read his information. He seemed to know the families who had members buried here on a personal basis, whereas my knowledge comes from the library. I was able to attend a Ramble sponsored by the local history society and hosted by Jim Barfield. I continue to encourage everyone to go on as many Rambles as possible because each person giving one of these tours does it from a unique perspective. This is an overview of the cemetery, rather than a detailed analysis, so it gives more general information and covers a greater geographic area of the cemetery.

So, in 1805, the Ocmulgee River, was the southwestern boundary of the United States. That means that the Rose Hill Cemetery property was still Native American territory in 1805. That’s why in 1806, the new United States government established Fort Hawkins on the east side of the Ocmulgee River. You can see its watchtower from the cemetery. The best view is from a Masonic pulpit sculpture. Fort Hawkins’ tower is just above the tree line as you follow Emery Highway northeast.  In 1820, the U.S. boundary moved from the Ocmulgee River to the Flint River making the land on which Macon was founded available for settlement. The people living around Fort Hawkins knew that the new land was opening, so they held a meeting to plan the City of Macon. Simri Rose attended that meeting. About twenty years later, citizens of Macon approached Rose and asked him to design the cemetery, which is named in his honor.
Masonic Pulpit Sculpture
Of course, there were people in this area long before the fort, the city and the cemetery. The Ocmulgee National Monument shows that Native Americans were in this area some 12,000 years ago. Later, around 1540 DeSoto’s expedition came through. There’s a historic marker about DeSoto in Central City Park. By the late 1600s, British settlers came to the area, and in 1690, they established a trading post on what are now the grounds of the Ocmulgee National Monument. That trading post operated until 1715 when Native Americans burned it during the Yamasee War.  Then the United States established Fort Hawkins in 1805, and it functioned as a trading post and military outpost before, during and after the War of 1812. Bibb County is chartered in 1822, and Macon is founded in 1823.

That brings us back to 1840 and Rose Hill. Rose Hill Cemetery is one of the oldest landscaped cemeteries in the United States. Simri Rose collected botanical specimens and planned them, by design, in his carefully planned cemetery. Several of the original plantings are visible in the cemetery.

Rose Hill has unusual burials, too. Families invested in their burial sites. Rose Hill has its own Washington Monument, too. It honors the Washington family of Macon for which the Washington Memorial Library is named. The Dunlap Mausoleum is another area favorite. The Dunlap family home is now the superintendent’s residence at the Ocmulgee National Monument. Built in 1857, the Dunlap House was occupied twice by Federal soldiers during the War Between the States. Just to the right of the mausoleum, down low and adjacent to the street is one of Rose Hill’s unusual graves. It’s the grave of Lieutenant Bobby, a little brown dog who was the mascot of Company C of the 121st Infantry of the Georgia National Guard. There’s a picture of Bobby online and an article that says he lived, with his master in the Dempsey Hotel. That’s at the corner of Cherry Street and Third Street. Bobby died at age twelve when he fell down an open elevator shaft.  Some other unusual graves are marked with metal monuments. There of those are a few feet down the hill.

Lt. Bobby


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