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Oakland Cemetery's Silent Citizens: In Their Decimated City as 1864 Ends

by Larry Upthegrove

Atlanta, 1864 after Union troop destruction
Atlanta, 1864 after Union troop destruction
Gradually, they are returning.  Many not knowing the fate of their houses until they pick their way down rubble-littered streets and spot the charred debris and chimney sentinels that was once their comfortable home. Others find their house a wreck, but still standing; without windows or doors, the home will provide a minimum of shelter during the coming weeks. Here and there are tin huts occupied by families in dire circumstances, many clad scantily as the winter moves in with its icy breath.  Everywhere, there are lean and hungry dogs and cats searching for food and fighting over every possible scrap.
Atlanta, 1864. After the fire.
Atlanta, 1864. After the fire.
Some houses are in good shape. As their owners return, those homes will be filled with destitute friends and relatives as Atlantans lock arms, push and pull each other, working together to turn this desolate place into a thriving city once more.
Some of the future Oakland citizens who have already returned are: Mayor James Calhoun, who, on Dec. 7, has already been re-elected to serve a fourth term as mayor in 1865; Oliver H. Jones, former provost marshall; Dr. J.F. Alexander; John W. Duncan, who will head the gas company; William M. Butt, former mayor; Perino Brown, banker; newspaper man, Jared Whitaker; attorney Nathaniel Hammond; 1st Baptist Church minister Henry C. Hornady; Alvin Seago; telegraph operator Cicero Strong; music teacher Pinkney Howard; John G. Pounds; prominent attorney John Collier; Thomas Ripley; F.M. Richardson, T.W.J. Hill; E.R. Sasseen; Jethro Manning; jeweler, Er Lawshe; and J.G. McLin.
Other residents who returned by the end of the year are: Robert Cowart; Dr. J.N. Simmons; L.S. Salmon; W. W. Roark; W.L. Hubbard; Deputy Marshall Ben Williford; and L.S. Mead.
2Atlanta devastation
Atlanta devestation
Although most efforts are for finding food and shelter, there is some progress toward civilization’s return.  Whit Anderson has opened a barroom on Decatur Street, and Sid Holland, a small grocery on Peachtree Street.  The Intelligencer has returned from Macon and is set up in an old shoe factory on Alabama Street.  Dick Wall has re-opened the post office on Decatur Street, and Bob Yancey has his shaving emporium open next door. Soon-to-be-Oakland-resident Johnson Bridwell has started a salt factory.  The Macon & Western Railroad is running to Lovejoy’s station, and the Atlanta and LaGrange Railroad to Palmetto.  Only one ferry across the Chattahoochee is working, but the Green and Howell Ferry is now open.
Several valued Atlanta citizens became Oakland Cemetery Silent Citizens during 1864.  Samuel Walker, who acquired part of the land that Piedmont Park is now built on, died in February, and therefore didn’t have to see his longtime home go up in Yankee flames.  He was originally buried in a family graveyard on his farm but moved to Oakland in 1897.  One of the millstones from his mill now adorns the facade of the Piedmont Driving Club, which bought Walker’s land from his son, Oakland Resident Benjamin F. Walker. Connecticut-born Ammi Williams, whom Williams Street is named for, and father-in-law of Lemuel P. Grant, who donated Grant Park to the City of Atlanta.
Not Oakland Citizens but well worth mentioning is the 1864 death of Hardy Pace who established Pace’s Ferry and Vinings. Also, John L. Evins, early pioneer of the Buckhead area with extensive land holdings in the Peachtree Dunwoody and Windsor Parkway area.  Hardy Pace is buried in his family cemetery at the top of Mt. Wilkinson, overlooking the town of Vinings and the City of Atlanta. Mr. Evins is buried in the Nancy Creek Primitive Baptist Church graveyard in Brookhaven.
On Christmas Day 1864, minister Henry Hornady had the Baptist Church cleaned up enough to have services for all denominations who are returned, and spoke words of Thanksgiving for personal safety and hope for the new year.

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