Originally created 02/03/03

Area cemeteries seek help to replace trees, clean up



Underneath the aged magnolias of Cedar Grove and Magnolia cemeteries in downtown Augusta, history lies in rest with men and women from Augusta's past.

Unfortunately, those aged cedars and magnolias have fallen prey to disease and death themselves. Some have been cleared away, leaving vast areas of the cemeteries empty.

Now, Annette Bush, an Augusta artist and a member of the Downtown Development Authority, wants to enlist local and state help in rehabilitating the gracious sentinels of time.

"There's a need for an effort to replace these trees," she said.

The magnolia stands, with trees that date to the War of 1812, are the oldest in the state.

The cost of replacing the dead, dying and removed trees is estimated at $116,000, Ms. Bush said, but "to preserve the historic character of the cemeteries, that's not a whole lot of money to spend from a practical standpoint."

She hopes to raise the money from government and private sources.

Buried in the cemeteries are veterans of conflicts ranging from the French and Indian War of the 1750s to the Civil War, Ms. Bush said.

Prominent Augusta names such as D'Antignac and Phinizy appear on grave markers in Magnolia Cemetery, where vandals have knocked over tombstones, old gates have fallen into disrepair and pathways are covered by grass. Pollution, rain and wind have also worn the monuments, she said.

Why start with the trees?

"You have to start somewhere," Ms. Bush said. "If you can get a few magnolias replanted, you can capture imaginations."

It is part of passing on Augusta's heritage to future generations, she said.

"This is a part of our history and our culture. I find it's difficult to teach children respect for their future without showing where they've come from."

Ms. Bush has allies: The Augusta Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Augusta Genealogical Society have expressed their support, and sociology classes at Augusta State University have worked to create better cemetery records for Cedar Grove Cemetery and did landscape work there, she said.

Reach Jeremy Craig at (706) 823-3409 or jeremy.craig@augustachronicle.com.