There is something about a graveyard that has always held a fascination for us. Each stone is etched with an inscription with a thousand stories behind it.
In a large cemetery like Oak Hill in Newnan we could wander around for hours, reading the details etched on each grave and try to imagine the person that inspired the epitaphs.
Oak Hill Cemetery is a 60-acre property that began as a small graveyard to Newnan’s Baptist church in 1833. This was only five years after Newnan was established.
One year later, the Presbyterian church across the road would also add a church cemetery. Later, long after the two church buildings were gone the cemeteries became united as Oak Hill.
Oak Hill is a beautiful well-maintained cemetery with an incredible amount of history contained within the iron fences.
It is laid out in a rambling fashion with many unexpected corners.
Time and the elements have erased the writing from some of the older gravestones so that they are just flat granite slabs.
Other graves have large, impressive markers that speak to the owner’s wealth and status in the community.
Many fascinating pieces of Newnan history can be found among the stones of Oak Hill Cemetery.
During the Civil War, several of the buildings in downtown Newnan became hospital facilities to treat the wounded soldiers from both sides.
The casualties from the hospitals and from those who lost their lives in the Battle of Brown’s Mill were interred at Oak Hill Cemetery.
These 269 soldiers occupy their own section of the cemetery.
The area is marked with a large monument erected by the Ladies Memorial Association.
Due to excellent record keeping in the civil war hospitals, only two of the soldiers are unidentified.
This section also contains the gravestones of two revolutionary war veterans.
We felt a little awed as we looked at the gravestones of James Akens and William Smith who had fought to win the freedom of the colonies from Britain.
The rest of the cemetery also contains the graves of veterans from nearly every war the United States has ever been involved in.
The remains of Coweta County resident Private William Thomas Overby, known as the Nathan Hale of the south, can be found in the civil war section of the cemetery. Overby was a Confederate private who was captured by Union soldiers. He was offered his life in exchange for information on the location of his unit. He refused and was executed. In 1997, his grave was relocated from Virginia to Georgia.
Another fascinating piece of Coweta history lies in the grave of Moses P. Kellogg.
This Connecticut native founded College Temple, the first women’s college in Coweta.
You can also find the graves of two progressive Georgia governors in Oak Hill Cemetery.
William Yates Atkinson served as governor around the turn of the twentieth century. Among other things, he was responsible for employing the first salaried woman to the Georgia government.
Ellis Gibbs Arnall was the sixty-ninth governor of Georgia. He instituted major educational reforms and lowered the voting age to eighteen.
RD Cole Manufacturing Company was an important business in Newnan’s early history.
The founder of the company and many of his relatives can be found at Oak Hill.
The cemetery is dotted with squat, twisted cedars that represent eternal life.
It is a beautiful place for quiet reflection.
In the morning, there are birds everywhere. They flit in between the graves and perch in the trees scattered over the cemetery. Bird watchers would love the variety and number of birds that make a home here.
The chirping birds, peaceful green space and wide roads seem to attract people. We saw several people jogging or walking their pets on the roads that wind across the cemetery.
The City of Newnan provides an online brochure that you can use to take a self-guided tour of notable graves.
It is also interesting to walk around and explore the graves of long forgotten Cowetans. We suggest you take a day to explore Oak Hill in a respectful, thoughtful manner.
We would love to hear your stories of Oak Hill Cemetery. Please feel free to share in the comments.