Sunday, January 13, 2013

My Birthday and a Trip to Bonaventure Cemetery

It's my birthday! We decided to go to Bonaventure Cemetery and take a guided tour. You can go to the cemetery and wander on your own, but we like to have some idea of what it is we're seeing.

A little Bonaventure history...

John Mullryne moved from South Carolina to Georgia in 1753 and began acquiring land. In 1764 he established a home on 600 acres overlooking the Wilmington River and the golden marshes of St. Augustine Creek. A plantation was established in 1785 with cotton as the principle crop.

With the high child mortality rate at the time, several children were buried around the plantation house. In 1802, Mullryne's daughter died. She was married to Josiah Tattnall, and was the first adult to be buried at Bonaventure. After the plantation house burned, a formal cemetery was established there.

It is the final resting place of many famous Savannahians including Pulitzer prize winner Conrad Aiken and lyricist Johnny Mercer.

After I took this photo, my camera battery died, so I attribute most of the following photos to Stephanie. Thanks, Stephanie, for taking such great pics! We also went back a week or so later with Flemming and Lorie when they visited, and I took some additional photos which I have included.


There are many exquisite statues in the cemetery. The facial expressions show so much emotion.

The trees lining two adjacent roads were shaped to form the letter M (for Mullryne). Here you can see half of it. Our tour guide, Susan, had an old photo where it was more evident.

These are what are called "slave tiles." There are varying stories about them. Some say they were made by slaves on the plantation during the cotton off-season. The different designs indicated different plantations. They were supposedly used as markers for graves.

These look like toes!

Tic-tac-toe!

Other sources say the tiles had nothing to do with slaves and that they are a rare type of Victorian garden tile. Whatever the case, they are in demand and are often stolen from the cemetery.

An obelisk in a plot indicated the family's prosperity.

The next set of photos showcase the work of sculptor John Walz . He crafted many of the statues in Bonaventure and began signing his work, as others began copying his style. I've circled his faint signature on the headstone below.

There is a lot of symbolism in his work, which Susan explained to us. It made our visit much more meaningful and I'll look at statues in cemeteries differently from now on.

His works bore likenesses of the departed. In this case, the brother and sister died eight years apart, but he has put them together with the angel wings and the clouds showing they are together in heaven.

We saw that many statues were carved showing bare feet which meant they were walking with Jesus. The details on the hands and feet were amazing right down to the cuticles.

Her face depicts such sadness...

Gertrude (as she is known) has a cloth draped over her arm which indicates mourning. She has a broken flower in her hand to indicate a life cut short. The detail in her hair was lovely.

Supposedly, her expression changes depending on where you stand. Here she almost seems to be smiling.

While here she looks very sad...or maybe it has something to do with that spooky Spanish moss hanging overhead.

This plot has a "Do Not Service" sign meaning that no one is looking after it. That made our guide very sad as Gertrude's face is becoming dirtier over time. She would love to get out there with a group of SCAD students to restore her original colour.

This bird sat still long enough for me to capture him...

There were many symbols to indicate the person's affiliations. This is the Freemason's symbol...

This showed that he was a Confederate Soldier...

A veteran of WWI...

The American Legion...

The Ladies Auxiliary...

The Revolutionary Soldier...

And another beautiful statue. Her hands were so life like and her dressed draped so perfectly, you could see the outline of her knee.

You can still be buried in Bonaventure as evidenced by the more recent dates. This lady obviously loved piano.

And this musical symbol meaning "full rest"...

Perhaps he might not have chosen a swastika had he known how things would turn out...

Now this statue was just wrong on a bunch of levels. Susan told us the lady it represents did love to run, but who runs looking like that? Her hair in back looked like a duck tail, the shorts were quite unbecoming and she most likely did not have a Jayne Mansfield bust. It really looked out of place.

You can tour Bonaventure at night. Susan said she doesn't like to do the night tours as a lot of people in the cemetery are drinking and it can get quite rowdy. The tour operator said "Just bring your gun." Susan said "Not bring a gun. Bring your gun." It's just a given that you have a gun!

She said when the lights shine on these at night, they looked rather voodoo-ish.

This memorial has the name wrapped around it. The ivy symbolizes it reaching to heaven and the tree is only a stump as its life was cut short.

This was just a beautiful scene...

And here are the Joneses...Noble Jones was one of the first 39 families to come to America with James Oglethorpe. He played many roles in the new colony...treasurer, land surveyor, doctor. This is his son's grave, who followed in his footsteps, treating patients at the age of 13!

This mausoleum belonging to a doctor was buried beneath the ground. Grave robbers were exhuming and desecrating bodies in order to steal jewelery and to provide cadavers to the hospitals for medical students. This doctor wanted to make sure no one dug up their bodies.

Just another lovely scene...

The Tattnalls were a prominent family. Mrs. Tattnall was the first person to be buried in Bonaventure. You can see the sign that says Perpetuity meaning the grave will be looked after.

Josiah Tattnall was a commander in the US Navy and is credited with the saying "blood is thicker than water."

Lovely roses giving a bit of colour to otherwise gray surroundings...

Gracie Watson's grave is one of the most visited sites. She is depicted here in her Easter finery. This is another of John Walz's statues and was done from a photograph taken shortly before her death in 1889. Gracie was known to everyone in Savannah as her father owned Pulaski House, one of the city's best hotels. She greeted and charmed all the guests and, when she died of pneumonia, the city mourned, as did many people around the world who had come to know her.

People leave toys at Christmas or a penny at the gate leading to her grave. Initially there wasn't a fence surrounding her, but vandals have made it necessary. It is said that she doesn't like the fence and can be heard crying. Ghost stories...

Once again, you see the symbolism in the ivy reaching to heaven and the small tree indicating a life cut short.

John Walz was an amazing sculptor...the details on her shoes and her dress were wonderful. Her face looks like she was an "old soul."

Her nose was damaged by a young boy who threw a rock at her. After that, the fence was put up.

This angel next to Gracie has also been the target of vandals. Her wings have been broken and several of her fingers are missing.

The trees are stunning...

Our tour guide, Susan, at Johnny Mercer's grave...she told us that he had an affair with a young Judy Garland that ended when she married composer David Rose. The affair was revived later and supposedly carried on for many years.

Johnny Mercer's headstone..."And the Angels Sing" was the title of one of his songs.

On his wife's stone "You Must Have Been a Beautiful Baby" another of his more famous songs.

His mother's grave..."My mama done tol' me"

The bench shows the titles of many of his songs. It was interesting because although we knew a lot of the songs, I didn't know he had written them. When he signed his name, he used to draw this caricature as well.

This angel holding a seashell was interesting...

But she had some serious "man hands" going on...

Conrad Aiken was a Pulitzer prize winning poet and short story writer. He was born in Savannah, but went to live with an aunt in Massachusetts after the tragic murder-suicide of his parents when he was 11. His father was a respected physician and brain surgeon and their deaths came totally out of the blue. Conrad Aiken returned home to live in Savannah next to his childhood home for the last 11 years of his life.

The inscription on the bench which marks his grave...

This is his headstone in the form of a bench where he hoped people would sit and enjoy a martini.

He attempted suicide and lived in fear of insanity, as he was deeply affected by the deaths of his parents. He used to like to sit by the spot where his parents were buried, drink martinis, and watch the shrimp boats pass by. One day a boat named Cosmos Mariner sailed past. Aiken saw this and was quite taken with the name. Later that evening he looked it up in the shipping news and found this: "Cosmos Mariner; Destination Unknown." And so it appears on his bench...

His parents graves...one of the theories behind their deaths is that his father tired of the endless parties his wife attended, as they were living beyond their means.

A different mausoleum which now contains the remains of many of the Mongin family. John Mongin owned 11 plantations, making him a very wealthy landowner.

This was one of the sadder stories...the story of Corinne Lawton. Her father was an important figure in Savannah and they wanted her to marry someone against her wishes. She drowned herself in the nearby river and brought shame upon her family.

They still buried her in the family plot, although away from the rest of the family and with her back to the statue of Jesus under the imposing arch.

Her eyes are blank and her dress is off one shoulder which wouldn't be suitable for a memorial at that time...

She is also wearing shoes, showing that she wasn't walking with Jesus. They buried her in the family plot, but every part of her statue indicates that she had fallen out of favour.

The statue of Jesus, with Corinne's back to him.

St. Augustine Creek at low tide...

The stones adjacent to this one had the names and dates of death of what must have been several children in the family. It appears they did not name this child and it simply says "Did Not Live."

Some of the more recent graves...

Some poignant inscriptions...

And we saw this on our second visit!

A big ol' tree...

Flemming having a peak inside...

Lorie beside one of the monstrous trees...

The walk back...here you can see the two sides of the "M."

Susan, our lovely, exuberant tour guide...the tour was fascinating!

That night we celebrated my birthday at the Olde Pink House. This Georgian mansion was built in 1789 for James Habersham, one of Savannah's early cotton merchants. It currently has 11 or 13 dining rooms, I can't remember which, but a lot!

Happy Birthday to me!

After talk of ghosts during the day at the cemetery, and several ghost stories about the restaurant that our server shared with us, the talk turned to dogs. Stephanie said she never really liked the dog they had before Ebby as he was always chewing up things when they weren't home. Right as she said that, a dog starting barking in the restaurant. It was really freaky! It turns out it was a service dog in another room, but when do you ever hear a service dog bark and right at the moment she said she didn't like her dead dog? Aaahoooooo...spooky!

Ed, Stephanie, and Barb with Jim and me. It was a great evening!

My birthday in Savannah was lots of fun!

1 comment:

Ken said...

Bonaventure Cemetery is like another time and place all upon itself. It seems no one can do no wrong taking photos here.