Volunteer Voices: Getting to Know Oakland Volunteer LaDoris Bias-Davis

Oakland Cemetery relies on the incredible energy, dedication, and generosity of over 200 volunteers. Working in the gardens, giving tours, staffing the Visitors Center & Museum Shop, or giving countless hours at special and private events, Oakland volunteers never fail to amaze with their passion and commitment. Weve asked our volunteers to share their stories of how they became involved at Oakland and their experiences here.

Meet LaDoris Bias-Davis

Tell us a little about yourself:
I am LaDoris Bias-Davis. I’m Mississippi born and bred into a family of 13, so you know I have stories to tell! I’m an educator/trainer-consultant and storyteller/actor by trade. I’ve been telling tales and facilitating workshops across the United States for 15 years. My programs are tailored to schools, libraries, youth groups, early childhood organizations, literacy/reading programs, motivational assemblies, corporations, family reunions and more. From fables to fairy tales, fiction to non-fiction, Bible stories to “bet ya can’t tell just one” stories, the Ezra Jack Keats collection, Gullah tales, African-American and inter-cultural tales and “me and Mississippi” collection of personal stories, I try to engage audiences and provide programs for interactive learning. I have a bachelor of arts in speech and theatre, and a graduate degree in early literacy education. But really I’ve been spinning tales and creating characters since I learned to talk.

How did you get involved in volunteering with Oakland?
Oakland was looking for actors of African-American descent for the Capturing the Spirit of Oakland Halloween Tours about nine or 10 years ago. The intent was to showcase some of the stories in Oakland’s African American section. I was recommended by someone who knew someone already volunteering at Oakland. I came aboard as Carrie Steele-Logan and the rest, as they say, is history.

What do you like most about volunteering at Oakland?
My role at Oakland is to share stories and bring to life the history and lives of some of the amazing residents here. I volunteer at Sunday in the Park, the Juneteenth observance, and at Capturing the Spirit of Oakland Halloween tours, usually in the role of an actress or storyteller. I volunteer at Oakland because I love being involved in learning about the wonderful people buried there and sharing their stories with thousands of people year after year. I love the camaraderie of the staff and fellow volunteers. What I like most is working with fellow volunteers and bringing to life the characters so their stories can be told and their lives and contributions appreciated. It is an amazing place to be a part of!

Volunteer LaDoris Davis portrayed Dr. Beatrice Thompson during Capturing the Spirit of Oakland.

What is your favorite Oakland experience or memory?
My favorite experience is every single night of the Halloween tours and every single character I’ve played. One particular highlight was when I, playing Julia Hayes Palmer, was paired with a male actor playing Dr. Fred Palmer, a white man who invented Palmer’s Cocoa Butter and married Julia, a former slave. We gave the script a lot of drama as we informed the crowd “our marriage caused quite a stir back in our day!” The crowds roared with laughter! Oakland visitors help make the moments memorable and unforgettable.

HOF Volunteer applications have closed for 2018. However, if you would like to be considered for future volunteer opportunities or want to know more about what our volunteers do, please contact Richard Harker, Director of Special Events and Volunteers: rharker@oaklandcemetery.com or 404-688-2107. 

Volunteer Voices: Getting to Know Oakland Volunteer Loran Crabtree

Oakland Cemetery relies on the incredible energy, dedication, and generosity of over two hundred volunteers. Working in the gardens, giving tours, staffing the Visitor Center, or giving countless hours at special and private events, Oakland volunteers never fail to amaze with their passion and commitment. Weve asked some of Oaklands volunteers to share their stories of how they became involved as Oakland volunteers and their experiences here.

Meet Loran Crabtree

Loran serving as a tour guide at Oakland Cemetery.

Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I’m 28 years old and born and raised in the metro Atlanta area (Atlanta and Forsyth County.) I’ve been a police officer for the last six years. My family has been in the City of Atlanta since the 1870s. My great, great, great grandfathers on both sides served in the Civil War. My great uncle was an Atlanta police officer who was killed in the line of duty in 1902.

How did you get involved in volunteering at Oakland?
I was interested in local Atlanta history and a friend of mine mentioned Oakland was hosting a volunteer orientation… and the rest, as they say, is history. I volunteer at Oakland because local Atlanta history is very important to me. Having the Crabtree side of my family live and prosper in Atlanta since the 1870s makes it a special place for me. Volunteering at Oakland ensures that the people buried here won’t be forgotten and neither will their stories. Oakland is also a very relaxing place to me. With the stress of my job and life in general, I need an outlet that is relaxing and volunteering at Oakland does this for me.

What do you do at Oakland?
I’m mainly a tour guide but I work in the Visitors Center & Museum Shop, and I work at the Foundation’s special events. I also independently research Oakland and the cemetery’s residents. I love being around the other volunteers and networking with them. I also enjoy meeting the guests who come to Oakland and conversing with them.

What is your favorite Oakland experience or moment?
This would be a tie between portraying a Confederate soldier for the Capturing the Spirit of Oakland Halloween Tour and meeting some of Captain William A. Fuller’s descendants. At Capturing the Spirit of Oakland in 2015, I read the roll call of Confederate dead. I met Capt. Fuller’s descendants one day when I was working in the Visitors Center. A lady came in and as we started talking, it turned out she was Capt. Fuller’s great, great granddaughter. We discussed the Great Locomotive Chase, and she even described to me remembering when the Fuller family cemetery was dug up and moved to make way for a Shoney’s.

If you are interested in volunteering at Historic Oakland Cemetery, want to be considered for our January 2018 new volunteer orientation, or want to know more about what our volunteers do, please e-mail Richard Harker, Director of Special Events and Volunteers, rharker@oaklandcemetery.com or call 404-688-2107. 

Volunteer Voices: Getting to Know Oakland Volunteer Christine Leinbach

Oakland Cemetery relies on the incredible energy, dedication, and generosity of over 200 volunteers. Working in the gardens, giving tours, staffing the Visitors Center & Museum Shop, or giving countless hours at special and private events, Oakland volunteers never fail to amaze with their passion and commitment. Weve asked some of Oaklands volunteers to share their stories of how they became involved as Oakland volunteers and their experiences here.


Meet Christine “Chris” Leinbach

Christine Leinbach

Tell us a little bit about yourself and you came to be involved with Oakland.
Not long after my husband Peter and I moved south to the Atlanta “suburb” of Buford in 2010, we joined the Atlanta History Center. We were new to this area, having moved from Reading, Pennsylvania to be nearer our then only three grandkids, who live in Cumming – we now have two more in California! We wanted to become more familiar with our new home, and thought what better way to do that than to learn its history?

It was through one of the Atlanta History Center’s “Party with The Past” events that we were introduced to Oakland Cemetery. Coming to that event was particularly exciting for us. We have always had an interest in old cemeteries. Living just north of Philadelphia for so many years, we were surrounded by early American history; not to mention Peter’s family had roots in Reading going back to the 1600s.

It wasn’t unusual in the 1970s for me to take my young children on rides around the Reading countryside, checking out old graveyards and churchyards for long lost ancestors, picnicking at the gravesites too, much as I imagine those ancestors did decades earlier! So, we eagerly anticipated partying with the past at Oakland, and it did not disappoint! That was in fall 2012 and in January 2013, we attended a volunteer orientation and the rest is, well, history.

Peter and I started out as garden volunteers. Before long (with encouragement from Mary Woodlan, the director of volunteers at that time) I became a tour guide, which allows me to share Oakland’s wonderful story with people of all walks of life and all ages. And for the last five Halloweens, it has been my great pleasure and honor to portray a resident during the Capturing the Spirit of Oakland Halloween Tours.

Christine in the Victorian spirit during Oakland’s Victorian Holiday event.

Why do you volunteer at Oakland?
As a transplanted “Yankee” I have learned so much and come to appreciate the rich history of my new home through the stories of the residents in this hallowed place. There are over 70,000 souls resting here and each one has a special tale. It is hard for me to choose one favorite experience as a result of my volunteering, however, I think being able to bring some of the residents’ stories back to life, even for a little while, during those last weeks in October is probably the most gratifying for me.

It is humbling to revisit these individuals and peel away some of the layers of their lives. Most moving for me is discovering that they were not really different from you or I, despite the century or more separating us their joys and heartaches, successes and tragedies, dreams and disappointments actually mirror our own. I have a passion to keep those stories alive and remind visitors that the folks buried here are not just names on stones; at one time they were vital individuals. Peter and I can’t imagine not being part of Oakland nor missing out on coming to know the great people, our fellow volunteers and the staff here, who we now call special friends. This is truly our family of “creation.”

Christine during Capturing the Spirit of Oakland

What else should we know about you?
I retired before moving here. I was an activities/art therapist in a psych unit at a major hospital in Pennsylvania. My specialty was geriatrics, using art primarily to calm and help individuals with acute dementia related issues. I continue to use my art background now, painting mostly. My subject matter revolves around my grandkids, dogs and especially the beautiful grounds and gardens at Oakland. My husband Peter and I enjoy spending time gardening (at home and at Oakland!) as well as being with our grandkids on both coasts and relaxing with our three sweet dogs.


If you are interested in volunteering at Historic Oakland Cemetery, want to be considered for our January 2018 new volunteer orientation, or want to know more about what our volunteers do, please click here to learn more about HOF’s volunteer needs and submit an application.   

Historic Oakland Cemetery focuses on African American Grounds restoration on Georgia Gives Day

Deborah Strahorn portrays Myra Miller at Capturing the Spirit of Oakland 2017

On Tuesday, Nov. 28 Historic Oakland Foundation (HOF) joins non-profit organizations across the state for Georgia Gives Day. On this statewide day of online giving, HOF has a goal to raise $5,000 in support of its ongoing restoration project in the African American Grounds.

The 3.5-acre area in Oakland Cemetery has not undergone a large-scale restoration in more than 100 years. HOF requires approximately $400,000 to fully restore the area, which will undergo both hardscape and landscape repairs. To date HOF has received generous gifts from individuals, foundations, and corporations including Georgia-Pacific Foundation and Georgia Power Foundation, Inc.

The African American Grounds restoration project began this January, six months after HOF completed a ground-penetrating radar survey of the area. Historically, African American burial traditions utilized natural markers like wood, shrubbery, or flowers, which have been lost through the passage of time. Therefore, much of this section of Oakland Cemetery is bereft of headstones or other visual markers.

To determine what lies beneath, HOF partnered with Atlanta-based remote sensing firm Bigman Geophysical for a technologically-advanced survey of the American Grounds. That survey found nearly 900 probable unmarked burials in the area.

During the recent Capturing the Spirit of Oakland Halloween Tours – held over two weekends in October – HOF raised more than $9,000 for the African American Grounds, thanks to attendees who donated after hearing the story of Oakland resident Myra Miller.

Born a slave in 1811, Miller was among the 10 residents featured on this year’s tours. Miller and her husband moved to Atlanta in the mid-1870s, and she established herself as one of the city’s finest and most sought-after bakers. Miller owned and operated a bakery in downtown Atlanta, and wedding cakes were her specialty.

Capturing the Spirit of Oakland is HOF’s largest annual fundraiser, bringing more than 7,000 visitors through the cemetery’s gates over seven nights. This year’s donations for the African American Grounds broke HOF records.

In 2016 Capturing the Spirit of Oakland attendees donated more than $7,500 to the African American Grounds. The tours featuredDr. Beatrice Thompson, who graduated from medical school in 1901 before setting up a practice in Athens, Ga. During her lifetime Dr. Thompson championed fellow entrepreneurs and invested in Athens’ first black-owned pharmacy.

“Supporting Oakland Cemetery on Georgia Gives Day makes it possible for us to restore and maintain this treasured area, as the families originally intended,” said HOF Executive Director David Moore. “Our Foundation works every day to keep Atlanta’s history alive through a diverse range of programming and projects, and community support is critical to our success.”

Historic Oakland Cemetery hosts 40th anniversary, free festival this fall

Sunday in the Park: An event worth waiting 167 years for! (click to enlarge)

Families looking for fall activities need look no further than Historic Oakland Cemetery. On Sunday, Oct. 1, Atlanta’s most tangible link to the past opens its gates for Sunday in the Park, a free festival and celebration of Historic Oakland Foundation’s (HOF) 40th anniversary.

From noon to 6 p.m. Sunday in the Park attendees will find activities for all ages and interests, including: living history demonstrations and presentations on Victorian mourning customs; kid’s crafts and storytelling; a Victorian costume contest; tintype photography booth; and much more. Bands and dancers will perform throughout the day, and Sunday in the Park also includes a market with wares from over 20 local artists.

“What started nearly 40 years ago as a small picnic for Oakland Cemetery’s descendants has evolved into an annual tradition,” said David Moore, HOF executive director. “In thanks to all who’ve supported Oakland over the decades, we’re happy to make Sunday in the Park a free event this year and welcome all to celebrate Oakland’s past, present, and future.”

Oakland Cemetery’s fall event season begins with its Fall Plant Sale, held Sept. 29-30. After Sunday in the Park, the cemetery hosts its 10th annual Run Like Hell 5K on Oct. 14, followed by two weekends of the acclaimed Capturing the Spirit of Oakland Halloween Tours, which sold out in July.

“All of Oakland Cemetery’s programming and events strive to be educational, entertaining, and enlightening,” said Moore. “The Foundation has grown by leaps and bounds over the past forty years, as has Atlanta. We’ll share some of our ‘greatest hits,’ at Sunday in the Park and shed some light on where we’re going.”

During Sunday in the Park, HOF will close its 40 in 40 fundraising campaign, which launched on Aug. 23 with a goal to raise $40,000 in 40 days, commemorating the organization’s 40th anniversary. Should HOF reach the 40 in 40 goal, its fundraising will be doubled with a $40,000 matching gift generously provided by John R. Moore and Jimmy L. Bryant, The Gertrude and William C. Wardlaw Fund, and anonymous donors.

All event proceeds benefit HOF’s mission to preserve, restore, enhance, and share Oakland Cemetery.

Thank You to Sunday in the Park Sponsors! 

 

October brings festivities and family-friendly fun to Historic Oakland Cemetery

In 1976, after decades of deterioration, vandalism, and general neglect, Oakland Cemetery found a rebirth of sorts when a small group of concerned and committed Atlantans rallied to restore the cemetery to its former glory. In 1977 the organization became a federally-recognized nonprofit organization, and this October Historic Oakland Foundation celebrates that 40th anniversary with a month full of activities perfect for fall.

On Sunday, Oct. 1 Oakland Cemetery hosts the 39th annual Sunday in the Park fall festival. This year’s Sunday in the Park will be free and open to the public, as HOF’s way of saying thanks to the thousands who have supported Oakland Cemetery over the last four decades.

“The past 40 years have been phenomenal for Oakland Cemetery. This is a crucial time in our organization’s growth, and we’re just as excited for what the future holds for HOF,” said David Moore, executive director of HOF. “We invite everyone to come out to Sunday in the Park, celebrate with us, learn something new, and spend a beautiful fall day in an unforgettable setting.”

During Sunday in the Park the cemetery will feature exhibits chronicling Oakland Cemetery and HOF’s evolution, as well as historical highlights for the city. The festival also includes a Victorian costume contest, living history demonstrations, live performances, kid’s crafts, an artist market, and much more. Sunday in the Park opens at noon and continues through 6 p.m.

Support HOF’s 40 in 40 campaign at Sunday in the Park!

Sunday in the Park caps off HOF’s 40 in 40 campaign, which began Aug. 23 and seeks to raise $40,000 in 40 days in celebration of the organization’s milestone anniversary. Though free to attend Sunday in the Park, donations are welcomed and also count toward the 40 in 40 fundraising goal, which supports a range of preservation, education, and public interest projects at Oakland Cemetery.

Following Sunday in the Park, Oakland is off to the races with the 10th annual Run Like Hell 5K on Oct. 14. This year’s race features a new, faster route spanning the cemetery, Memorial Drive Greenway Project, and Georgia State Capitol. Run Like Hell is a family-friendly race and an AJC Peachtree Road Race qualifier. Run Like Hell includes a Halloween costume contest, post-race activities, and the opportunity for participants to fundraise in support of HOF’s African American Grounds restoration project. Early race registration ends on Sept. 15, and registration closes on Oct. 11. Race details and registration available at www.itsyourrace.com.

Run with Oakland on Oct. 14!

The acclaimed Capturing the Spirit of Oakland Halloween Tours rounds out the month, with tours held over two weekends on Oct. 20-22 and Oct. 26-29. As one of the only opportunities to visit Oakland Cemetery after dark, Capturing the Spirit resurrects the stories of Oakland residents through vivid historic reenactments. Ticket sales for Capturing the Spirit broke records this year, with all tours selling out within a week of going on sale to the general public in July.

“Everything we do at HOF drives home our mission to uphold this unique historic landmark,” said Moore. “Through educational programming, special events, public outreach, and more, we showcase Oakland Cemetery as a one-stop repository of architecture, botanical gardens, modernity, and history.”

All proceeds from Oakland Cemetery’s special events and tours benefit HOF’s mission is to preserve, restore, enhance, and share Oakland Cemetery, Atlanta’s oldest public burial ground and treasured historic landmark. Event and ticketing details available by clicking here.

F.A.Q.: Capturing the Spirit of Oakland Halloween Tour Sales

Enjoy historic Oakland Cemetery after dark at Capturing the Spirit of Oakland Halloween Tours, an autumn tradition in Atlanta! One of the only times to experience Oakland Cemetery after dark, Capturing the Spirit brings to life the stories of some of the cemetery’s noted residents. A costumed docent guides you through the cemetery’s beautifully-lit Victorian gardens as you the stories of Atlanta’s sons and daughters come to life.

Capturing the Spirit of Oakland Tours will be held nightly Oct. 20-22 and Oct. 26-29. Tours begin at 5:30 p.m. and continue every 15 minutes until 10:30 p.m. Tours on Oct. 22 and Oct. 26 end at 9:30 p.m.

Tickets for tours Oct. 22 – Oct. 28 are SOLD OUT. An additional Capturing the Spirit tour date has been added for Sunday, Oct. 29. Tickets for that tour will go on sale to HOF members only from Sept. 2 through Sept. 4. Any tickets remaining after the members only pre-sale will be available to the general public beginning Sept. 5. Tickets are limited to six (6) per order.

Capturing the Spirit tickets are in high demand and have sold faster than ever in 2017. We strongly suggest becoming an HOF member to get early access to Oct. 29 tour date tickets.


When do tickets go on sale? 
Tickets to Capturing the Spirit of Oakland Halloween Tours are available in advance only, at Freshtix.com.

Tour tickets go on sale to Historic Oakland Foundation Members at 9 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 2. 

Tickets go on sale to the general public at 9 a.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 5. 

I’m an HOF Member. How do I purchase my tickets in advance?
In years past, HOF Members were sent a promo code to purchase advance tickets.
This year instead of a promo code, HOF Members will receive an e-mail containing a link to a private, HOF Members Only ticketing page at Freshtix.com. Member e-mails will be sent at 8:30 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 2, in advance of tickets going on sale at 9 a.m.

If I join HOF between now and Sept. 2, can I still get early access to Halloween tickets?
Yes. To become a HOF Member, please click here. After completing your purchase, your HOF Membership confirmation receipt will include a link to the private, HOF Members Only link at Freshtix.com.

I didn’t receive my Members Only email. What do I do?
Ticketing e-mails will be sent to the e-mail address you used to purchase HOF Membership. Be sure to check your spam, junk, or clutter folder in your inbox to ensure e-mails from Historic Oakland Foundation weren’t sent there.

If your email address has changed or you cannot remember which e-mail address you used to become a Member, please contact info@oaklandcemetery.com with Subject Line: HOF Member Email.

How many tickets can I purchase? 
We understand that large groups may want to attend Capturing the Spirit of Oakland Halloween Tours.

There is a 6 ticket limit per household/credit card for this event. Orders exceeding the ticket limit may be cancelled without notice by Freshtix at its discretion. This includes duplicate orders having the same name, billing address, or credit card.

How much are tickets to Capturing the Spirit of Oakland Halloween Tours?
Tickets are $27 (plus taxes and fees) for adults, and $15 (plus taxes and fees) for children ages 4-12. Children 3 and under are free.

How do I purchase tickets on FreshTix? 

  • Use the arrow functions in the upper left corner (indicated in the green box below) to scroll the calendar to October.

  • Click on the “List View” button in the upper right corner (indicated in the green box below) to see a list of each tour time available for your selected date.

  • Select your desired tour time from the list. Please ensure you’ve carefully selected your preferred tour date and time before completing your transaction, as no refunds or exchanges will be issued.
  • Select the quantity of tickets from the drop-down menu. If the quantity of tickets exceeds available capacity, you will receive an error message:

  • If desired, select the quantity of t-shirts from the drop-down menu.
  • Proceed to checkout.

Can I purchase a Capturing the Spirit t-shirt? 
Limited-edition Capturing the Spirit of Oakland t-shirts are $28 (plus taxes and fees) for sizes S-XL and $30 (plus taxes and fees) for sizes XXL and XXXL.

T-shirts feature the 2017 Capturing the Spirit of Oakland design on the front, and this year’s featured tour residents on the reverse. Tees are long-sleeve and 100% cotton.

Your t-shirt will be available for pickup on the night of your tour. Please visit the Capturing the Spirit Pop-Up Shop and present your Freshtix receipt at pickup.

Each year Capturing the Spirit of Oakland features a new, unique tee design. Don’t forget to get yours!

Is Capturing the Spirit of Oakland family-friendly?
Designed to “enlighten, not frighten,” Capturing the Spirit of Oakland is family-friendly, but is recommended for children 8 and up.

 Can I bring a stroller to Capturing the Spirit of Oakland?
Yes, strollers are welcome. However, please note that some parts of Oakland Cemetery contain walkways that are narrow and uneven. Please use your discretion when planning your visit.

Is Oakland Cemetery wheelchair accessible?
Please note that as a historic site, some areas of Oakland Cemetery have uneven paths and are not ADA-accessible. Capturing the Spirit of Oakland tours last approximately one hour and the route is approximately one mile. Please be sure that you are capable of navigating the entire route.

Can I bring my dog along with me on the tour?
No. With the exception of service animals, dogs are not permitted during Capturing the Spirit.

Can I change my tour date or time after I’ve purchased my tickets?
No. Please ensure you’ve carefully selected your preferred tour date and time before completing your transaction, as no refunds or exchanges will be issued.

What if it rains during my tour?
Capturing the Spirit of Oakland is a rain or shine event. However, should serious inclement weather impact the event, tours will be cancelled and ticket holders will receive a pass good for two guided walking tours of Historic Oakland Cemetery.

This is a nighttime walking tour, so feel free to bring a flashlight or purchase one at the Visitors Center & Museum Shop. Be sure to wear clothing appropriate for the weather and comfortable shoes.

“Meet” a new bunch of residents each year!

I’ve been to Capturing the Spirit of Oakland before. Is this the same tour, or are there new characters?
Each year Capturing the Spirit of Oakland features new stories from new residents. You’ll never see the same tour twice!

How long is the tour route?
Capturing the Spirit of Oakland tours last approximately one hour and the route is approximately one mile.

Please note that as a historic site, some areas of Oakland Cemetery have uneven paths and are not ADA-accessible. Please be sure that you are capable of navigating the entire route.

During your tour, remain on the lighted pathway, as Historic Oakland Foundation and the City of Atlanta are not responsible for injuries incurred as a result of leaving the lighted path.

I have a question that’s not addressed here. Who should I contact?
If your question is related to online transactions on Freshtix, please contact Freshtix customer support by clicking here.

If your question is related to events at Oakland Cemetery, please contact info@oaklandcemetery.com or call 404-688-2107.

Historic Oakland Foundation offices are open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. M-Th and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Fridays. Due to the high volume of inquiries Capturing the Spirit of Oakland generates, please allow 1-2 business days for a response.

Oakland Resident Spotlight: Learning More About the Thompson Lot

By Ashley Shares and Dr. DL Henderson

The new headstone on the Thompson/Henderson lot pays tribute to Dr. Beatrice Blanche Saunders Thompson (d. 1964), a physician and surgeon, and her husband Sidney James Thompson (d. 1945), a Fulton County juvenile probation officer and founder of Atlanta’s oldest boys club.

Dr. Thompson attended Atlanta University and following a short first marriage to Robert Saunders which left her a widow, she continued her education at Walden University in Nashville, Tennessee. Bishop Henry McNeal Turner of the A.M.E. church was so thoroughly impressed with her diligence and scholarship that he financed her medical education at Meharry Medical College.

Dr. BBS Thompson in Athens Daily Herald, Aug. 13, 1914. (photo courtesy BillionGraves.com)

Dr. BBS Thompson in Athens Daily Herald, Aug. 13, 1914. (photo courtesy BillionGraves.com)

She graduated with honors in 1901 and became the first African American female to practice medicine in Athens, Georgia. She cared for both African American and white patients, and she performed the first surgery by an African American physician in Athens. Dr. Thompson was part owner of the E. D. Harris Drugstore, the first African American owned drugstore in Athens.

In 1909, she opened a practice in Knoxville, Tennessee, and joined the staff of the Knoxville Medical College. Her second husband, Sidney James Thompson, enrolled as a medical student, and Dr. Thompson was one of his instructors. Sidney Thompson apparently did not complete his medical education, and the couple later relocated to Atlanta where he began working as a baker. But his passion led him to start a boys club in Atlanta under the auspices of the Law and Order League of America. This club, established in the early 1930s, was the founding organization of the current George Washington Carver Boys and Girls Club, and the club is now affiliated with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Atlanta.

Dr. Thompson’s younger sister Estelle Amelia Henderson (d. 1936) passed the Alabama bar in 1919. In Atlanta, attorney Henderson taught at Morris Brown College and served as the college’s financial agent. No record of her passing the bar in Georgia has been found, but she is listed as an attorney at law in the Atlanta City Directory and the Fulton County census records in the 1920s and 1930s.

She practiced from her office in the Odd Fellows building on Auburn Avenue. The 1921 publication of Henderson’s book on race relations, “Is Washington Alive in the Life of the Negro?” was announced in the Atlanta Constitution and endorsed by U. S. President Taft and Vice President Fairbanks. Her husband, Fred R. Henderson (d. 1958), worked as a carpenter. He learned his profession at Tuskegee Institute under Booker T. Washington. After Estelle’s death, he married Pearl Hooks Stewart (d. 1980) who is also buried on the Henderson/Thompson lot. Other family members buried on the lot include Mary Underwood Reed (d. 1933), mother of Dr. Thompson and Estelle Henderson; their stepfather, Daniel W. Reed (d. 1930); their half-brother Henry A. Reed (d. 1926) and his wife, Eloise (d. 1924).

The actresses who portrayed Dr. Thompson during Capturing the Spirit at Dr. Thompson's lot.

The actresses who portrayed Dr. Thompson during Capturing the Spirit at Dr. Thompson’s lot.

In 2016 the restoration of Dr. BBS Thompson’s family lot was made possible by generous donations at Oakland Cemetery’s annual Capturing the Spirit of Oakland Halloween Tour. In February of this year, Dr. Thompson’s headstone and those of her family members were repaired and re-set by member of Oakland’s Preservation, Restoration, and Operations (PRO) Team.

The work began with repairing the cradlings of Estella and Fred Henderson. Cradling surrounds a single grave and is meant to mimic a bedframe. The broken cradling pieces were repaired using stainless steel pins inserted into holes drilled on the interior of the stone. The pieces were adhered with mason’s epoxy. Next, two small concrete and plaster headstones were carefully repaired using the same epoxy.

These headstones were originally given to the family of the deceased as part of a funeral home’s burial package. All of the larger headstones on the lot were re-set. To do this, the PRO Team removed the headstones and properly leveled and compacted the soil beneath them. Eighty-nine stone, a rough and angular gravel, was added to facilitate drainage. The headstones were placed back and a string line was used to make sure they were in line with one another. Something special that was done on this lot was to provide Dr. Thompson and her husband Sydney with a new granite headstone. Dr. Thompson still has her funeral home marker, but Sydney had none. The style selected in known as a “beveled companion stone” and it marks both of their grave sites. This marker type would have been available during the times of their deaths.

Dr. DL Henderson is a professional genealogist and Board Trustee at Historic Oakland Foundation.

Ashley Shares is Preservation Manager at Historic Oakland Foundation.

As HOF begins planning for the African American Grounds hardscape and landscape restoration, community engagement and support is critical. You can make a financial contribution to the restoration project in person at Oakland Cemetery’s Visitors Center & Museum Shop, located at the Bell Tower. Or donate online by clicking here. On the online donation page, be sure to select “African American Section” from the designation drop-down menu. Visit our African American Grounds page to learn about this restoration project in-depth. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oakland Tours in Focus: The Great Locomotive Chase

By Larry Upthegrove

Raider Andrew James

Raider Andrew James

In Marietta, Ga., on the morning of April 12, 1862 at 4:15 a.m., Kentuckian James Andrews – along with a group of 21 Federal volunteers from Ohio – determined to use a stolen railroad engine to transport themselves northward. The raiders intended to destroy railroad bridges in a coordinated effort with the Federal army that was moving on Chattanooga. They met the northbound train, pulled by the engine General and conducted by the youngest conductor on the Western and Atlantic Railroad, 26-year-old William Allen Fuller. Only 20 of the 22 raiders reported to the train station, as two of them overslept and missed the train.

When the train stopped for breakfast at Big Shanty, Ga. (now Kennesaw), the train crew and most passengers disembarked for a 20 minute break. Andrews and his men, claiming they’d already had breakfast at their hotel, stayed onboard until the train crew exited.  Then, they unhitched all the passenger cars (keeping several box cars) and steamed away with the train. Conductor Fuller and the engineer, Jeff Cain, along with Anthony Murphy, a railroad shop supervisor, began the chase on foot.

William A. Fuller

Conductor William A. Fuller

Soon the pursuers encountered a work gang with a push cart that they borrowed, and they were able increase their speed, especially downhill. After an all-day chase, the determined Fuller and Murphy (Cain gave out) used three different borrowed engines to pursue the enemy spies and finally prevailed, late in the day.  The final leg of the chase involved using a borrowed engine and crew, the Texas, running it to speeds of 65 mph backwards in hot pursuit of the General and its human cargo. The Rebs kept so much pressure on the Yankees that they were unable to take on wood and water, forcing the engine thieves to abandon the General and disperse to the woods near Rossville, Ga. Unfortunately for them, Confederate soldiers were training in the area in just the right position for rounding up the hapless adventurers.

All the members of the raiding party were captured, including the two who had overslept.  They had to endure trials and incarceration.  Andrews was executed by hanging, and two weeks later, seven more of the raiders were hung on property adjacent to Oakland Cemetery.  Eight of the survivors were able to escape from Atlanta’s Fulton County jail and the other six were eventually exchanged as prisoners of war.  Most of the raiders received the Congressional Medal of Honor, the very first ones ever issued. Several of the participants on the Confederate side are buried at Historic Oakland Cemetery, including the main players.

In 1956, Walt Disney made a movie about this event and the ensuing drama of the trials.

Promotional poster for Disney's "Great Locomotive Chase" courtesy Yesterland.com.

Promotional poster for Disney’s “Great Locomotive Chase” courtesy Yesterland.com.

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On Saturday, April 22 Historic Oakland Foundation offers a special topic tour commemorating the 155th anniversary of the Great Locomotive Chase.

On April 12, 1862, a group of Union raiders stole a Confederate locomotive and took it northward to Chattanooga with the intent of destroying railroad lines and crippling the Confederate war effort. The chaotic pursuit that followed, known as the Great Locomotive Chase, is considered one of the most famous exploits of the Civil War. Join us on a wild ride through history and learn about the Oakland residents involved the daring train chase. Discover the fates of the Union raiders and the Confederate railroad men, and who met their end at the hangman’s noose just outside Oakland’s walls.

Tour Prices
Adults: $12
Students: (with ID) $6
Seniors: (65 and older) $6
Historic Oakland Foundation Members: Free

Please note that not all areas of Historic Oakland Cemetery are wheelchair accessible. Please use your discretion when planning your tour visit.

Oakland Remembers World War I: Sen. Christopher C. Wimbish

Headstone for Lt. Christopher C. Wimbish at Oakland Cemetery

Headstone for Lt. Christopher C. Wimbish at Oakland Cemetery

One hundred years ago on April 6, Congress declared war on Germany and the United States officially entered World War I. Over four years, the total number of military and civilian casualties in the Great War climbed to over 38 million, with over 17 million killed and 20 million wounded. The United States mobilized over 4 million military personnel, a group that included many Atlantans. More than 500,000 Georgia men registered for the Selective Service Act and the state was home to more training camps than any other in the country. Several WWI veterans and citizens involved in the effort are buried at Oakland Cemetery.

Beginning in April and through Nov. 11, 2018 – the centennial of the WWI armistice – HOF will recognize the Oakland residents who served in World War I in a new blog series, “Oakland Remembers World War I.”

Lt. Christopher C. Wimbish was born in Atlanta on Feb. 6, 1895. His parents were Christopher C. Wimbish Sr., a customs collector, and Maggie Baker Wimbish, a leading Atlanta educator. Wimbish attended Houston Street Public School in Atlanta and received a degree from Howard University in Washington D.C. He returned to Atlanta and worked as a life insurance agent. When war was declared in spring 1917, he volunteered for service in the infantry. He was commissioned as a first lieutenant and served with the 366th Infantry Regiment, 92nd Division, an African American infantry division formed with soldiers from across the United States. According to military records, the 366th regiment saw action in Alsace, the Argonne Forest, and Lorraine. After peace was reached in November 1918, Wimbish remained in France for several months. He returned to America aboard the Aquitania in February 1919 and was honorably discharged in April 1919.

Officers of the United States Army's segregated 366th Infantry Regiment on board the Aquitania, enroute home from World War I service. Left to right: Lieutenant C.L. Abbot, South Dakota; Captain Joseph L. Lowe, Pacific Grove, California; Lieutenant Aaron R. Fisher, Lyles, Indiana, recipient of Distinguished Service Cross; Captain E. White, Pine Bluff, Arkansas.

Officers of the United States Army’s segregated 366th Infantry Regiment on board the Aquitania, en route home from World War I service. Left to right: Lieutenant C.L. Abbot, South Dakota; Captain Joseph L. Lowe, Pacific Grove, California; Lieutenant Aaron R. Fisher, Lyles, Indiana, recipient of Distinguished Service Cross; Captain E. White, Pine Bluff, Arkansas.

After the war Wimbish attended Northwestern University law school in Chicago. He graduated in 1925 and was admitted to the Illinois Bar. He became a member of the legal firm of Temple, Brown, and Harewood. In 1927, Wimbish was named Assistant State’s Attorney. He held this post until 1931, and later served as counsel for the City of Chicago. After making his name as a prominent attorney, Wimbish entered Chicago’s political arena. Originally a Republican, Wimbish switched to the Democratic Party and campaigned to be the Democratic nominee for the Illinois State Senate in 1938. Unsuccessful in 1938, he was elected to the Illinois State Senate from the Third District in 1942 and served until 1954. After his time as a senator, Wimbish became a trustee of the Metropolitan Sanitary District of Greater Chicago in 1958.

He held this position until his death on December 27, 1962, and Sen. Christopher C. Wimbish was buried in Oakland’s African American Grounds in the Wimbish family lot.