Colonial Park Cemetery is right in historic Savannah, and it dominates a large section between Oglethorpe Avenue on the north and East Perry Street on the south.
It contains the people of Savannah who were buried between 1750-1853. Besides very old headstones, there are many historical plaques.
The Cemetery is open from dawn to dusk, and entry is FREE.
The site contains the graves of five governors and many Revolutionary War soldiers. In addition, there are over 700 victims of the 1820 yellow fever epidemic buried here. Also, several people who were victims of fatal duels (which were conducted right here) are buried in the very cemetery where they were killed!
Perhaps the saddest fact of all concerning Colonial Park Cemetery is that it became a campground for Sherman's soldiers during the Civil War.
Allan and I really enjoyed visiting this old, small cemetery. We spent a few hours just perusing the grave markers and commenting to each other about the people, the situations, the war, etc.
Among the early Georgians who were buried here is Button Gwinnett who was one of Georgia's three signers of the Declaration of Independence.
At the entrance to Colonial Park Cemetery is an impressive entrance monument that the Daughters of the American Revolutionary War had erected in 1913 in memory of patriots. Under a large Eagle sculpture is engraved in huge letters DAR. I think that it would have been more appropriate to have engraved the name of the Cemetery. It is a beautiful entranceway, however.
Take time to read the headstones to discover prominent businessmen, governors, & inventors buried here. However, & more importantly, you will be able to read stories of "regular" Savannahians who died sometime during the cemetery's 103-year-history.
Sadly, years of neglect & vandalism destroyed many of the tombstones. There are hundreds of stones that are missing, & many inscriptions on other tombstones are very worn or have been altered.
Our Ghost Tour Guide told us that "Sherman's troops are thought to have been responsible for the vandalism during the Union occupation of Savannah in 1864."
% Depicted in the photo in my 1st tip on the cemetery, old grave headstones are attached to the brick wall at the back of the cemetery. While Sherman's troops camped there, they broke off many of the headstones to put up their tents.
The photo on this page shows an unusual custom in this cemetery, an odd-shaped crypt built in the shape of a bed with the headboard to the right. They wanted the shape to symbolize "everlasting sleep". Entire families were buried in one of these crypts, one family member on top of the other!
Unlike today's cemeteries, these old tombstones told a complete story. I wrote down as best I could one poignant inscription:
"iIn Memory of JACOB R. TAYLOR, Son of John P. Taylor of Philadelphia. A youth of exemplary department conciliating manners and (?) promise, who in the 19th year of his age, when unarmed and peaceably walking the streets of Savannah, was on the evening of the 11th of November, 1811, attacked and inyhumanly decimated (?) by an armed band (?) belonging to the crews of the French Privateers La Vengeance and La Franchise. Rest infinite youth far from thy friends inurnd by strangers honourd and by strangers mourned. Though thy lone turf no kindred drops can (?), Yet virtue hallows with her tears thy grave."
(?)=Could not read what it said.
This is a beautiful cemetery to take a stroll through on a sunny Savannah day. Though you will not see too many graves, be advised that the cemetery's boundaries used to stretch much further than the now gated plot. There are bodies buried even beneath the streets that surround the cemetery. There is a placard in the middle of the cemetery about a mass grave for Yellow Fever victims, but in fact, the mass grave is located beneath the parking lot of the Police Department, so we were told- just some quirky facts about the cemetery. Pay attention to dates and ages on the gravestones. Apparently when Sherman's army marched through Savannah, the bored soldiers spent their time in the cemetery changing dates and ages on the tombstones so you will find Josiah Muir's stone on the back wall that says he is 11 with a child that is 17, and another gravestone that claims to lay above a man who is 1700 years old. Odd little place- check it out.
There are some very historic markers in the cemeteries. Colonial Park is on 6 acres and the burials started in 1750;s and continued through 1853, when closed due to overfill of bodies. There are 5 primary older cemeteries in the local area. Tombstones are fun reading to get the feel for history.
Okay, bad play on words but I like that title;-)
Though Savannah has many “green spaces”, Colonial Cemetery is unlike the others. First, it is a cemetery (no kidding). Second, it’s a history lesson in itself. Some of the earliest settlers are buried there...also generals and other military notables. It’s well maintained and you can spend quite a bit of time there just wandering around. Due to its size, you don’t notice that there’s 2 busy streets right there so you do have the sense of peace despite its location. It’s easy to incorporate into any walking tour and it’s included on guided rides as well.
This cemetery was used when the city was first settled. General Sherman's soldiers set up camp here when they occupied Savannah during the Civil War. They broke off or moved many headstones to make room for their tents. Because of this, many graves are no longer marked and all of the old headstones are stacked against the back wall of the cemetery. So sad!
Okay, some people are a little creeped out by cemeteries, but I've always thought of them as nice quiet places to get away. After all, the tenants are all resting peacefully. Behind wrought iron gates, this cemetery has some historic and interesting graves.