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Historic Oakland Cemetery’s ‘Goat Man’ gets a final footnote

William Jasper "the Goat Man" Franklin and "Pete" during Capturing the Spirit of Oakland
William Jasper “the Goat Man” Franklin and “Pete” during Capturing the Spirit of Oakland
A Victorian-era predecessor to Baton Bob remained in relative obscurity until Historic Oakland Foundation (HOF) brought his story back to life at the 10th annual Capturing the Spirit of Oakland Halloween Tours. Over the course of six nights, HOF raised over $2,400 that will be used to construct and lay a headstone at the unmarked grave of a 19th century Atlantan known as “the Goat Man.”
Born in 1849, William Jasper “the Goat Man” Franklin was a familiar sight around the streets of Atlanta. Partially paralyzed by meningitis, Franklin navigated the city in a cart pulled by his goat Peter. Franklin earned a meager living peddling pencils and apples around town, particularly on the steps of the state capitol.
A local celebrity of sorts, Franklin was considered by some to be a public nuisance, and an ordinance was passed in the late 1880s to keep him and Peter off the streets. However, that legislation was rarely enforced, and eventually “the Goat Man” and Peter returned.
Franklin died in 1910 and was buried next to his parents at Oakland Cemetery in an unmarked plot. His story was known to few until HOF recreated it during Capturing the Spirit, when actors accompanied by a live goat brought “the Goat Man” to life for over 6,000 attendees.
Capturing the Spirit of Oakland ticketholders could contribute to Franklin’s headstone fund in any amount, and received a souvenir pencil as a token of appreciation.
“We had a truly overwhelming response to William and Peter’s story, and actually sold out of pencils within the first weekend of tours,” said Mary Woodlan, director of special events at HOF. “Each year, it’s an honor to spotlight some of the unique Atlanta personalities who lie in rest at Oakland. By experiencing ‘the Goat Man’s’ story and making a donation for his family marker, visitors are in effect helping preserve his memory, which ties directly to the Foundation’s mission.”
Once Franklin’s headstone is complete, Historic Oakland Foundation anticipates hosting a dedication ceremony in the late spring of 2016.

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