Originally created 03/02/98

Cemetery officials want folks to use land for recreation



SAVANNAH -- Laurel Grove Cemetery North is a destination for about 50 people a year, according to D. Colin Young, but that's just counting the visitors who never leave.

Mr. Young, chairman of the Society for the Preservation of Laurel Grove, would like to encourage more repeat use of the grounds, for activities such as picnics and peaceful strolls.

"Come out here as the Victorians did," he said. "To the Victorians this wasn't a place of death. It was a place to be celebrated."

Modern Savannahians have more reasons than their 19th-century predecessors did to marvel at Laurel Grove. In the 146 years since the graveyard opened, it's become important.

Laid out in 1852, Laurel Grove is one of the oldest municipal cemeteries in the country. The construction of Interstate 16 split the cemetery in two, with more than 3,000 burial lots on each side. Traditionally, Laurel Grove North was for whites and Laurel Grove South for blacks.

Some of the headstones predate the opening of the cemetery because graves were moved from older graveyards to Laurel Grove.

"This is the most historically significant cemetery in the state," Mr. Young said. "It contains more prominent Georgians than any other cemetery in the state."

Those people include Girl Scout founder Juliette Gordon Low, whose gravesite garners bouquets and cookies from visiting scouts. Also buried here is Low's niece, Margaret "Daisy Doots" Gordon Lawrence, the first registered Girl Scout.

Military history buffs will find the graves of 1,400 Confederate soldiers, some of whom were killed at Gettysburg and transported to Savannah after the Civil War by the forerunner of the United Daughters of the Confederacy. The graveyard also is home to the commanders of Fort McAlister, Fort Pulaski and Fort Jackson. S.C.

Samuel Gordon Morse, the first black Savannahian to enlist in the Union Army, is buried in Laurel Grove South.

But a stroll through the cemetery also is a lesson in the religious history of Savannah, according to Charles Elmore, historian and professor of English at Savannah State University.

A red-brick crypt in Laurel Grove South honors the memories of the Rev. Andrew Bryan, builder of the first black Baptist church in North America; the Rev. Andrew Cox Marshall, pastor of the First African Baptist Church; and the Rev. Henry Cunningham, founder and pastor of the 2nd African Baptist Church.

Interspersed with recognizable figures are graves of those who never achieved fame, including slaves identified only by their first names.

In both north and south, wooden markers point the way to frequently visited gravesites. The Laurel Grove Preservation Society used to publish a map of the cemetery but had trouble keeping up with the demand created by tour buses, Mr. Young said.

"Even if you don't know history, it's worth coming out to see the architecture and the elaborate ironwork," he said.

Laurel Grove North probably has more remaining Victorian ironwork than any other cemetery in the South, Mr. Young said. Much of the decorative detail on the ironwork and elsewhere is symbolic -- ears of corn symbolize resurrection, as do lilies andivy stands for eternity.

"The Victorians really made much ado about death," Mr. Young said. "It was almost worth it."

BYLINE1:By Mary Landers

BYLINE2:Morris News Service

SAVANNAH -- Laurel Grove Cemetery North is a destination for about 50 people a year, according to D. Colin Young, but that's just counting the visitors who never leave.

Mr. Young, chairman of the Society for the Preservation of Laurel Grove, would like to encourage more repeat use of the grounds, for activities such as picnics and peaceful strolls.

"Come out here as the Victorians did," he said. "To the Victorians this wasn't a place of death. It was a place to be celebrated."

Modern Savannahians have more reasons than their 19th-century predecessors did to marvel at Laurel Grove. In the 146 years since the graveyard opened, it's become important.

Laid out in 1852, Laurel Grove is one of the oldest municipal cemeteries in the country. The construction of Interstate 16 split the cemetery in two, with more than 3,000 burial lots on each side. Traditionally, Laurel Grove North was for whites and Laurel Grove South for blacks.

Some of the headstones predate the opening of the cemetery because graves were moved from older graveyards to Laurel Grove.

"This is the most historically significant cemetery in the state," Mr. Young said. "It contains more prominent Georgians than any other cemetery in the state."

Those people include Girl Scout founder Juliette Gordon Low, whose gravesite garners bouquets and cookies from visiting scouts. Also buried here is Low's niece, Margaret "Daisy Doots"

Gordon Lawrence, the first registered Girl Scout.

Military history buffs will find the graves of 1,400 Confederate soldiers, some of whom were killed at Gettysburg and transported to Savannah after the Civil War by the forerunner of the United Daughters of the Confederacy. The graveyard also is home to the commanders of Fort McAlister, Fort Pulaski and Fort Jackson. S.C.

Samuel Gordon Morse, the first black Savannahian to enlist in the Union Army, is buried in Laurel Grove South.

But a stroll through the cemetery also is a lesson in the religious history of Savannah, according to Charles Elmore, historian and professor of English at Savannah State University.

A red-brick crypt in Laurel Grove South honors the memories of the Rev. Andrew Bryan, builder of the first black Baptist church in North America; the Rev. Andrew Cox Marshall, pastor of the First African Baptist Church; and the Rev. Henry Cunningham, founder and pastor of the 2nd African Baptist Church.

Interspersed with recognizable figures are graves of those who never achieved fame, including slaves identified only by their first names.

In both north and south, wooden markers point the way to frequently visited gravesites. The Laurel Grove Preservation Society used to publish a map of the cemetery but had trouble keeping up with the demand created by tour buses, Mr. Young said.

"Even if you don't know history, it's worth coming out to see the architecture and the elaborate ironwork," he said.

Laurel Grove North probably has more remaining Victorian ironwork than any other cemetery in the South, Mr. Young said. Much of the decorative detail on the ironwork and elsewhere is symbolic -- ears of corn symbolize resurrection, as do lilies andivy stands for eternity.

"The Victorians really made much ado about death," Mr. Young said. "It was almost worth it."

Cemetery sitesSavannah's historic Laurel Grove Cemetery North and Laurel Grove Cemetery South are open daily from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. To get to Laurel Grove South, head south on Ogeechee Road, cross 37th Street, take a right on Kollock Avenue and follow the signs to the cemetery. Reach Laurel Grove North by driving west on Anderson Street until it dead-ends at the cemetery gates.

For more information about joining the Society for the Preservation of Laurel Grove, call D. Colin Young at (912) 231-8166.