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Dec 09

Cemetery Evolution

Posted on December 9, 2015 at 2:28 PM by Ken Kocher

Almost from its founding, Madison established and maintained public burial grounds, where the citizenry shared a secular cemetery in lieu of local churches having denominational graveyards.
[Side note:  There are also three documented very small private graveyards within the city limits.]

The Madison Historic Cemeteries now include: Old Cemetery, New Cemetery, Fairview Cemetery, and Madison Memorial Cemetery.   Old and New cemetery-aerial.jpgcemeteries are officially closed for interments, and records for such are scarce as the City Hall on Town Square (former Courthouse) burned in 1916.  

Located at 420 W. Central Avenue, Old Cemetery is likely the remnant of Johnson Porter's original 202.5-acre land lottery parcel after Henry Carlton purchased 102 acres in 1811.  All extant burial deeds date to after the razing of the Episcopal Church (purchased in 1939 by the City and once located near the main gate).  Similar to a rural cemetery, this burial ground features a wandering driveway and encompasses a later addition, the lower section comprised primarily of burials of many former slaves.  The two known Revolutionary War Patriots, Norris and Pearman, are here; however, the Confederate memorial area contains no actual burials.

New Cemetery - north of Central Avenue across the railroad - includes two City acquisitions:  1) 1880; the western six acres from Mr. LeRoy M. Wilson's estate, including a right-of-way for Washington Street access; 2) 1882; nearly five new-cemetery plat.jpgacres from the Morgan County Commission, allowing access across the railroad and connecting to Central Avenue.  The Confederate burial area is now part of this cemetery as well.  This cemetery follows a grid pattern and was originally laid out with race specific burial grounds, as well as a rear portion used as a “Potter’s Field.”

In 1926, the City purchased from S. F. Beckham eight acres, known then as Fairview Cemetery.  Adjoining New Cemetery across the ravine, Fairview was chartered in 1904 as a perpetual care cemetery by early enterprising stockholders, such as D.P. Few. Added to the public realm, this cemetery also may have started off segregated and with family plots, but the burial pattern has shifted in the modern era to be integrated and less family-oriented.

Madison Memorial Cemetery also had its early origins as a perpetual care cemetery for profit - formerly known as Morgan Memorial Park, Inc., chartered in 1957 when purchased from Rosa S. Parker.  The City acquired the four acres from John M. Massey, Jr. in 1979, eliminating race-restrictive covenants and renaming the cemetery Madison Memorial.  This modern burial ground is a lawn cemetery, featuring flat markers and no bounded family plots. 

The City’s newest burial grounds were secured under the leadership of Mayor Bruce E. Gilbert.  In 2013, the Prichard Family donated 19 acres of abutting land for cemetery expansion, assuring the next 100-year burial ground.  The Cemetery Stewardship Commission (CSC) is working with Georgia Civil, Inc., as they design the new cemetery.  This new burial ground is intended to accommodate modern requests for a return to family plots and the introduction of mausoleums, columbaria, and ash burials.   

Madison Moments, a weekly blog highlighting Madison's rich history, is a creation of the Madison Historic Preservation Commission in collaboration with other City Boards and Departments. This installment was contributed by the Cemetery Stewardship Commission and written by Monica Callahan, Madison's Director of Planning. Established in 2002, the CSC reflects the community's renewed interest in acknowledging and protecting its local cemeteries.


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