Atlanta is home to many cemeteries. A few, like Oakland, have remained a prominent part of the city’s culture. Most, though, are known only to a few family members or to the current owner of the property the cemetery rests on. Some have been forgotten entirely. This year, in a series of blog posts here, I’ll be peeling back the heavy curtains of history that have long covered these forgotten cemeteries.
Digging for Clues
Over the past year, I and members of the City of Atlanta’s Urban Design Commission have been cataloging the various burial places in Atlanta. How do we figure out where they are? We start at Findagrave.com, a crowd-sourced website where individuals post photos, inscriptions, and other data about burials. Second, we use Fulton County GIS data to search for the property codes associated with the cemeteries. Third, we consult the Georgia Department of Transportation’s list of cemeteries. Fourth, we look at Franklin Garrett’s cemetery surveys. And finally, we pore through Fulton County death certificates and death extracts. Each of these sources is more tedious to use than the last, but together, they help us piece together the story of each Atlanta cemetery, even if it takes some digging.
Each of these sources is more tedious to use than the last, but together, they help us piece together the story of each Atlanta cemetery, even if it takes some digging.
Most of the cemeteries in Atlanta are listed on Findagrave.com, but sometimes the website lists a cemetery and its known burials but no location. This is what I discovered when I set out to find the Akridge Family Cemetery. I had to turn to other sources to discover the location to learn more.
Franklin Garrett’s Survey
Ninety years ago, in February 1931, Atlanta historian Franklin Garrett surveyed and recorded the Akridge Family Cemetery. He described its location as follows: “West side of Chapel Road between Simpson Street and Bankhead Avenue.” Today, Bankhead Avenue is now Donald Lee Hollowell Parkway, and Simpson Street is now Joseph E. Boone Boulevard. Chapel Road still exists. Through the Fulton County Tax Database, I located a property in that general area with a cemetery code. It was a vacant lot on a dead-end street. I also found references to the site in several obituaries published in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution with descriptions linking the family homestead to the same location.
Additional documentation regarding the site of the Akridge Family Cemetery can be gleaned from tax digests dating back as far as 1855. These digests record details of land ownership including acreage, use, and location. In this case, the Akridge family homestead was located in the 14th District—portions of land lots 141, 142, 143, and 147. Mason and Turner Ferry Road (later Bankhead Highway and now Donald Lee Hollowell) runs through those land lots.
The Site Visit
The final verification that this was indeed the Akridge Family Cemetery came via a site visit. Frankin Garrett described the cemetery: “The Akridge graves are surrounded by a rock wall about 3 feet high and measuring about 25 by 60 feet. 25 graves are visible within the enclosure, none of which bear inscribed markers. Outside of the wall are approximately 13 visible graves. Three of these bear inscribed markers.” After hiking through a vacant lot and cutting back extensive Kudzu, I saw a very obvious rock wall. It matched the dimensions that Garrett stated, but I didn’t find any grave markers outside the enclosure. Up until very recently, there had been an apartment building adjacent to the cemetery, and there was considerable trash inside and outside the stone wall. It is possible, then, that the markers were removed or are now buried. At this point, there is no doubt of the exact location of the Akridge Family Cemetery.
But who was buried there? Only three graves were known by Garrett and seven are listed on Findagrave.com. That leaves about 28 unknown. Check back next month for Part two of this series where I attempt to discover who is buried at the Akridge Family Cemetery.
1855, 1869, 1872 Fulton County Tax Digests
1860 Federal Census
Atlanta Journal Constitution