Oakland Resident Spotlight: Atlanta Street Names, November 1867

by Larry Upthegrove

Activity on Peachtree Street, near Five Points in downtown Atlanta, in 1875. Picture shows the east side of Peachtree Street, from a point just south of Decatur to and including First Methodist Church on Houston Street still in process of construction. In the photo one can see W. J. Land’s chemical laboratory, M. Wiseberg’s Millinery, and Henry R. Powers Groceries. (File Photo from AJC Archives).

In 1867 Atlanta, once more the winds of change are blowing.  There are those that believe to be more “fashionable,” Atlanta should change its street names to be more like New York City and other cities with “Avenues” and “Front” streets, etc., in spite of the fact that there is no waterfront to be found in the city.

Atlanta City Council is now wrestling with the problem and has appointed a committee to make recommendations for changes to the Council.  It is interesting to note that neither of the arguments concern themselves with the recent Confederacy or perceived heroes thereof.  That will come later, as new subdivisions are developed and streets are named by the developers.

Future Oakland Cemetery resident James Clarke, who sometimes writes for the Intelligencer, has called himself a “Minority Committee” and has answered the recommendations with a different opinion that he would like to see submitted to the Mayor and Council.

Here is the Committee’s report, followed immediately James Clarke’s response. (Editor’s Note: This report has been rewritten it in its entirety because the newspaper source is so badly distorted that it is extremely difficult to read unless one is practiced in parsing old texts.)

To the Honorable Mayor and Council of the City of Atlanta:

The committee to whom was referred the petition of many citizens, asking for the re-naming of streets and the numbering of houses, &c. beg leave to report:  That, having fully considered the matter, they are satisfied that the adoption of the plan offered will afford great convenience to our citizens, and do away, to a great extent, the confusion with strangers, and recommend the granting of the petition as follows:

1st.  That the city be divided by the Georgia Railroad and Western and Atlantic Railroad, running on a general East and West line; and by Whitehall and Peachtree streets, running on a general North and South line; for the purpose of numbering the business houses and residences.  The numbers, beginning at these lines, shall run North and South, East and West.

2d.  That where two streets run into each other, they shall hereafter be known under one name.

3d.  That all streets crossing the Georgia Railroad, shall have the word ‘North’ prefixed, when north of these roads, and the word ‘South’ prefixed when south of the same.  And all streets crossing Whitehall and Peachtree streets shall have the word ‘East’ prefixed when east of these streets, and the word ‘West’ prefixed when west of the same.

View of Peachtree Street, circa 1864.

4’th.  That the Georgia Railroad and Western and Atlantic Railroad shall be known as ‘Railroad Avenue West,’ from Whitehall street to the limits of the city west.

5’th.  That the Macon and Western Railroad shall be known as ‘Railroad Avenue South.’
6’th.  That Alabama street shall be known as ‘Front Street’.
7’th.  That Collins street shall be known as ‘Washington street’
8’th.  That Lloyd street shall be known as ‘Ivey street.’
9’th.  That Decatur street shall be known as ‘Marietta street.’
10’th.  That Peachtree street shall be known as ‘Whitehall street.’
11’th.  That McDonough street be changed to ‘Calhoun street’
12’th.  That Broad street be changed to ‘Broadway.’
13’th.  That we recommend an ordinance that all streets to be opened, shall in no case be less than sixty (60) feet wide.

14’th.  That we recommend the establishment of easy and permanent grades to the streets, and the grading to the inner sides of each lot, by permission, so that the fencing may be on a level with the street, and conductors for water made inside this line, and that all lot owners or tenants be requested to set out shade trees.

15’th.  That the City Engineer be requested to furnish to each owner or occupant of any business house, or residence, the number, properly attaching upon the plan of subdividing (into fronts of twenty-five (25) feet, running back one hundred feet, or less as may be where not already build upon.)  at his earliest convenience, and the number entered upon the new map to govern future deeds.

16’th.  That a contract be made by the city for numbering each business house and residence, and the owner or tenant be required to pay the same.

17’th.  That the Street Committee be authorized to put up a suitable number of sign boards at the corners of the different streets indicating the same.

18’th.  That the name of ‘Oak’ be given to the cross street connecting Peachtree street with Ivey street, commencing at W. M. Lowry’s residence, and ending at (Formerly) Fishback’s property.

James M. Ball, Chairman

L.P. Grant
W.B. Cox
Rushton L.H. Davis
D. Thurman Joseph Winship
G.W. Adair
John C. Wallace
James E. Gullatt
R.K. Rawson
Richard Peters

Mr. Clark, one of said Committee, submitted the following as a minority report:

The Daily Intelligencer office, circa 1864.

Minority Report on Col. Ball’s Plan For Changing Names of Streets, Numbering Houses, ETC.:

To the Honorable Mayor and Council:

As far as this scheme proposes the alterations of the names of certain streets of the city, it is subject to several grave objections.  We do not say that no circumstances will justify a change of the names of streets; but we do say, that such change should not be made without very solid reasons, and without the unanimous consent of the property holders on the street to be changed.  We see here no sufficient reasons for, and see many strong reasons against the change.

1’st.  All the title deeds of the entire property of the city are made with important reference to the present names of the streets; the boundaries, the identity of every man’s property, are ascertained by the streets under and by their present names.  The changes contemplated would have an unsettling and disturbing influence on property interests and possessions throughout the city.  In their metes and bounds, they will have no connection or reference whatever to the new-fangled names, but are evidence and identified on the records of the country, and by the judgements of the courts, alone by the present streets with their present long-established names.  The changes, therefore, would be unsettling and disturbing in their influence, and might lead to litigation and confusion.

2’nd.  It is a ‘Bad Precedent’.  The same disposition to change, with reasons fully as strong as any that may lead to the innovations proposed now, may, in future years, repeat the same unsettling and disturbing influence, to the utter want of that stability which should exist in all human affairs.  This tendency should be guarded against by the city government, by arresting, at the outset, every attempt to innovate or unsettle what has been long established.

3’rd.  The changes contemplated would invade private, vested rights.

We lay this down as a clear principle:  every man who has purchased property on a street has a vested right to the name of the street, on which this property is situated.  To make this principle more distinct and specific, we hold that every man who holds a conveyance to real estate on Peachtree Street, has not only a vested right to the property conveyed, but also to the name of the street, the name of the street has a direct influence on the price of the purchase, and becomes, as a consequence, a part of the purchase itself, and this interest can no more be taken away by the government of the city, than the title to the property itself can be taken away.  Nothing will warrant or authorize the change of the name of a street that has inhabitants and improved property on it, but the unanimous consent of the property holders for the street.  If even a single owner of property on this street (Peachtree) should object to changing the name of this street, there would be no power in the city to make the change than there would be to destroy the title of the owner to the property itself, which lies conterminous to this street; and so with the owners of the property on all the other streets.

And this principle holds, whether the name has any intrinsic value or not; it is sufficient that it has a value in the estimation of the property holder himself, and however others may view it, so far as its value is concerned, it is his right for which he has paid his money and it should not be violated.

4’th.  This city has grown up and acquired its present importance with their present existing names of her streets.  In the names of the streets there have been found no hindering cause to our progress.  The names of our principal commercial streets are well known throughout the South, so far as our trade and commercial correspondence extend.  Orders have been sent for years to houses on these streets by their present names.  City registers, for the information of the public, have been compiled, and sent forth at considerable expense of labor and money.  The city, then, so far as it is known abroad, is known as it is, by and with the present names of its thoroughfares.

Now, would it be sound policy, would it be just to merchants and owners of property, who have obtained notoriety and advantages abroad by and under the present names of the streets, to destroy this notoriety and these advantages, by the introduction of new names, and thus to throw that confusion into the city that would inevitably result?  The principal streets of the city are well known, at home and abroad, as important streets, by their present names, and have been from an early period of our history.  A change of their names would be clearly an invasion of their importance.  Even the man who has acquired eminence under a certain name, with a new name given and the old time-honored one obliterated, would, with the loss of his name, lose much of his distinction in the world.  So that we see there is much, and can be much, in a name.

There is nothing in the names of the streets proposed to be changed that is objectionable, and no reason whatever against the names.  Marietta street has a pointing towards a young city on the Western and Atlantic Railroad, which, before the war, was distinguished for its beauty, the refinement and intelligence of its people, and for its growing importance; and will become equally as distinguished again, and may well give name to that important street of our city which leads in that direction.  The standing Peachtree is a locality well known in Georgia for the last generation, and as it has given a name to an important street of Atlanta for more than twenty years, the name has acquired a notoriety and respectability which may not be assailed.

Decatur street directs to Decatur, an important and fashionable town when the street was named, and within six miles of our city, and which, if this city increases in population and importance, as anticipated by it friends, will again acquire respectability and importance by is near proximity to us.  Take, therefore, Decatur as it was, and as it will again become in a few years, there is every reason why this name, consecrated, as it is, by one of our most illustrious naval heroes, should remain unaltered.

Alabama street has a pointing to an important State on our western border, a liberal patron of our trade for many past years, and will certainly be a more munificent patron when the important railroad to Jacksonville is completed.  The name, therefore, of the street derived from this great State, so important to us at present and in prospect, should not be changed.

We therefore object to any alterations in the names of the streets.

So far as this scheme contemplates giving names to the reservations on each side of the railroads centering here, thus dividing the city, by these avenues, into four grand divisions, which we consider the most important feature of the plan, we make no objections, and are much in favor of having all the tenements on the streets numbered.  We cannot conceive the present names of our principal streets, widely and well known as they are, to be, in any sense, and obstacle to this work.  The numbering can be accomplished on the present streets with their present names as accurately as under any new names that might be given, as new names would neither increase nor diminish the number of houses to be numbered; nay, each number and house would be better known and more readily found and approached on the streets having the present well known and familiar names, than they could by and scheme of alteration in names that could be adopted.

We therefore recommend that the plan, so far as it concerns the railroad and avenues in the city, and the numbering of the houses on the streets be adopted—the names of the streets remaining unaltered.  All of which is respectfully submitted.

James Clarke

If you would like to discuss Mr. Clarke’s opinions or objections with him, he can be found within the red circle during Oakland Cemetery’s normal hours — and he is quite attentive!


HOF Statement on Confederate Monuments Advisory Committee

On November 6, Mayor Kasim Reed’s Confederate Monuments Advisory Committee recommended that ownership of the Lion of Atlanta monument and Confederate Obelisk be transferred from the City of Atlanta to Historic Oakland Foundation, which works in partnership with the City to preserve, restore, enhance, and share Historic Oakland Cemetery. In addition to transferring ownership, the committee recommends relocating the flagpole currently at the obelisk and providing information that puts the monuments in context. 

Read a full summary of the committee’s recommendations in The Saporta Report

Historic Oakland Foundation applauds the recommendation of Mayor Kasim Reed’s Confederate Monuments Advisory Committee as it pertains to the Lion of Atlanta and the Confederate Obelisk located in Oakland Cemetery. The process by which the Committee came to its conclusions was thoughtfully and meticulously researched; providing an inclusive environment for community input.

We look forward to working with the City of Atlanta on next steps. This includes finalizing the details pertaining to ownership of the artifacts and developing and installing materials that contextualize the monuments appropriately.

David Moore
Executive Director
Historic Oakland Foundation

Oakland Resident Spotlight: Major Charles Hubner, Poet Laureate of the South

Charles W. Hubner: Poet Laureate of the South
by Larry Upthegrove

Charles Hubner was born on January 16, 1835 in Baltimore, to Bavarian parents. His mother was a teacher and his father a merchant tailor.  They lived comfortably, with Charles studying literature and music, his two great loves.  In fact, at age 10 Charles wrote his first hymn, a sign of things to come for him.

Hubner’s poetic tribute to Edgar Allan Poe

His route to art school took him past a hospital, where, one day, a plain coffin was being taken to a hearse nearby.  Two gentlemen had their hats off, standing by with respect as the coffin passed.  Charles asked “Please, sir, who are they going to bury?”

The man replied: “My son, that is the body of a great poet, Edgar Allan Poe. You will learn about him some day.”

Charles could have hardly dreamed that 60 years later, he would receive the “Poe Medal” at that very spot for authoring the poem that would pay tribute to Poe on his 100th birthday.

Not all of Charles interests were artistic.  He also loved reading about the West and various wars.  It was a great, exciting time for a young man when the nation was going to war against Mexico.

In addition to his studies, Charles’ life during his teens involved working as a clerk for several different businesses in Pittsburg, as well as Baltimore until he and his mother began traveling to Bavaria to visit her relatives.  They experienced several horrific Atlantic Ocean crossings. When returning to the United States in his late teens, Charles worked menial jobs such as wood cutting, river boating, and more store clerking.

By 1851 at age 16, he found himself in Boonville, Missouri.  Five years later as the disagreements between Kansas and Missouri seemed ready to boil into full-fledged war, seemingly Charles would have to be a part of it.  He joined Missouri forces, drilling and training every night until they seemed ready, but the situations cooled enough that the unit was disbanded.  The next three years Charles spent some time with his father in Iowa, then traveled in Europe again, returning to the United States and locating to New Orleans in 1859, where he spent a couple of years teaching school along the Mississippi River towns.

1861 was an eventful year for Hubner. In Fayetteville, Arkansas, he entered Confederate artillery service, meeting the love of his life, Ida, in that same place.  Their romance was fast forming, but they were determined to not marry until peace prevailed, so the courtship would last four long years.

A young Charles Hubner and his first bride, Ida.

Charles’ battery was in Company H of the first Tennessee Regiment, Bee’s Brigade.  General Elliott Bee was fatally wounded during the first major action of the Civil War at Manassas, Virginia along the creek called Bull Run.  Charles was in the honor guard, firing rifle salute over the grave of General Bee.

Charles spent his year’s enlistment fighting with the artillery and helping high command manage their armies with his acquired clerical skills.  When his time was up, he left Richmond for Chattanooga and joined the U.S. Military Telegraph Corps, where he achieved the rank of Major.  He had charge of the headquarters couriers, detailed to carry military dispatches, and served in this capacity later under Joseph E. Johnston from Chattanooga to Atlanta.  In fact, on July 17, 1864 at 10 p.m., Hubner was charged to deliver a telegram to General Johnston which relieved him of command of the Army of Tennessee, just two days before the Battle of Peachtree Creek.

After the fall of Atlanta, Charles was ordered to run the telegraph office in Selma, Alabama, a huge supply and shipping depot for the South. When the war ended, he was mustered out of service in Selma, where he obtained a position as a clerk in a book store.  He began to write and contribute poems to the Weekly Visitor and the Selma Daily Times. In the meantime, General Johnston was writing his own history of the war.  The two men were well acquainted, and Johnston sought a quiet and secluded desk in the rear of the book store to do his writing.  The two former Confederate officers had numerous conversations regarding the war.

Finally on November 15, 1865, Charles and Ida were married at Woodbine, Tennessee.  For three years the Hubners were very happy. Charles worked for several papers as editor, and their son was born in 1867.  Later Charles contracted malaria and was so sick that doctors told him to go live in Europe to be treated there, so he left his wife and baby and went to his mother’s residence.  By 1869 he recovered and returned to his wife and son, establishing himself in Memphis.  It was there Western Union hired him to take charge of their Atlanta office. On January 1, 1870, the young family arrived in the city that was to adopt them.

In the next five years, the Hubner family grew by two daughters, while Charles became less and less a telegrapher and more and more a contributor and editor of newspapers and periodicals.  They had a happy family and life was wonderful until tragedy struck.

In 1875 Ida developed a fever and a distressing cough that persisted in spite of all the doctors could do.  Four months later on January 29, 1876, Ida Ann Hubner died.  She was buried a few days later in Oakland Cemetery.

Mary Francis Whitney Hubner

Before she died, Ida begged her best friend and neighbor, Mary Frances Whitney, to help Charles look after the three children. In fact, it was the whole Whitney family that helped Charles.  They took care of his children in the daytime, and after work Charles had his dinner and then picked up the already-fed kids and took them home.  Before long, he was taking his evening meal with Mary Frances Whitney as well, and “Miss Frank” became a close friend to both Charles and the children.

The two would talk for hours about literature and music, and they visited Ida’s, grave.  Charles and Mary Frances planted flowers all around the grave together. He needed her, and she loved him; it was inevitable that they would become man and wife. They married on March 15, 1877 and on February 23 of the next year, a son was born. Two years later a daughter was born but died as an infant.

Charles Hubner

During that time Charles’ career skyrocketed. He wrote for major publications and had several books published.  His friends included Sydney Lanier, Joel Chandler Harris, and other men who topped the Southern literary field in those days. Charles’ days and many evenings were occupied with the sort of things he reveled in. His wife loved hearing about those things, and they had many happy times together.

Once a month Mrs. Hubner and her mother, Mrs. Joshua Whitney, loaded their buggy with tools, a lunch basket, and the children, and they’d drive out to Oakland Cemetery to work on the family plots. In about 1881 they planted a small magnolia tree on the Hubner lot, which has grown to impressive size today.  The children played around the mausoleum nearby, admiring the angel who guarded the graves of their Aunt Julia and two little cousins.

The Hubners had a long and fruitful life together. Mary Frances lived until 1927, and she was buried on her family lot at Oakland Cemetery, alongside her mother, father, and others. In 1928 Charlotte’s Poetry Society of the South named the Major “Poet Laureate of the South.”  In early 1929 Charles Hubner died at nearly 94 years old. There were very few Georgians that did not know Major Charles Hubner, either personally or by reputation. The magnolia planted by “Miss Frank” and her mother is a living memorial to the mother and daughter bond.

Hubner lot at Oakland Cemetery

Oakland Cemetery’s Wooden Headboards

by Sara L. Van Beck, Garden Historian

Strolling around Oakland today, much of the oldest part of the cemetery appears very open, lacking grave markers of any sort. However, we know from the burial abstracts there are very few actual “open spaces” in the cemetery. So, why do these areas seem so open? What happened?

Back then, as is now, not everyone had the money to spend on a high-cost funeral, an extravagant marble marker, or expensive wrought iron fencing. As can still be found in a few locations at Oakland, some had rough-hewn rocks set on-end for headstones. Others used bricks to outline a grave rather than marble. Some in the African American community used natural markers like plants and flowers, and many Atlantans turned to simple wood.

After the Civil War, Oakland Cemetery as we now know it really began to take shape. The city expanded the cemetery to its present boundaries, and the Confederate dead were collected to be given a permanent burial.

A stone marker in the Confederate grounds.

When, in 1869, the Atlanta Ladies Memorial Association (ALMA) first gathered the war dead from their rude graves around Atlanta, they re-interred the dead in graves marked with painted wooden headboards. These headboards were inexpensive – a serious consideration as the ladies also had to pay for coffins and workers to collect and move the dead. Also, wooden headboards could be produced quickly. However, after about 10 years the wood was rotting, and replacing them with stone became a pressing need. Through the 1880s ALMA engaged in numerous fundraising activities to replace the wood headboards with the marble ones standing today.

All the land the city bought when it expanded Oakland in 1866-1867 became the “new” cemetery, while the “old” cemetery was what we now call the Original Six Acres and the area just east of the Memorial Drive gate (purchased in 1857). As the city and cemetery staff transformed the old, stodgy City Grave Yard into the picturesque “rural” design we now know, they took it upon themselves to clean up the “old” cemetery to make it more in keeping with the new aesthetic. In the annual report for 1876, the Cemetery Committee reported to the Atlanta City Council that along with planting many new hedges:

“All occupied lots have received careful attention, all the grass, rubbish, and other unsightly matter, such as old wooden enclosures and tumbled down brick tombs have been removed from the cemetery without additional charge to the parties owning such lots.”

Clearing away the old and unsightly continued in 1877, with staff reporting to Council they had removed “all unsightly brick and wooden enclosures” and continued to prune shrubs and hedges into a unified appearance.

In the Original Six Acres near Memorial Drive, one brick barrel vault remains (one also remains in the Confederate section), a likely lone survivor of the old brick tomb burial tradition. With new hedges and decrepit structures gone, Oakland Cemetery had a more open, garden-like atmosphere.

One of the remaining brick barrel vaults at Oakland Cemetery.

In the same year, the city wanted to make more land available to sell to white citizens. It decreed those buried in Slave Square be moved and the lots re-surveyed and sold. In the process, “those who may have head boards, … may be interred by themselves.” Removing more wooden headboards in the then-African American section and replacing those markers with grand mausolea was seen as an aesthetic improvement.

In 1882 former Sexton Holland was interviewed by the Atlanta Constitution regarding his opinion that a new city cemetery would be needed in the near future. One of the greatest issues at Oakland the Sexton expected to be remedied with a new cemetery was a more regular system of management, which would facilitate finding burials after wooden headboards had rotted away.

The wooden headboard.

By this point, tracking interment locations was exceedingly difficult because many burials could not be accurately located after the wood headboards disintegrated. As the wooden headboards in the Confederate Memorial Grounds were lasting only 10 to 15 years in the Georgia climate, this meant that even burials in the “new cemetery” were now posing challenges. It also belies the finances of many families who didn’t have the means to replace the headboards with permanent stone markers. In a newspaper article later the same year, a reporter speaks of his visit to the pauper graves, remarking on the plain boards for some of the dead, while looking up the hill at the granite and marble memorials of Atlanta’s more affluent citizenry.

Oakland’s sole remaining wood headboard resides in the “new” cemetery but not in the African American Grounds. A professional conservator queried about the board suggests it was made of either yellow pine or cypress. Perchance its survival can be attributed to the luck of a protected, well-drained location (mitigating against light exposure and rot) and the use of a highly rot-resistant wood.

All reflect the tradition that wood headboards were widely used for decades by the less affluent citizens of Atlanta, both white and black, and that the Oakland of old was a very different place than the open, rolling garden we admire today.

Oakland Resident Spotlight: The Houstons

by Larry Upthegrove

Historic Oakland Cemetery resident Oswald Houston and his wife Anna Shaw came to Atlanta in 1847 from South Carolina’s Abbeville district. The couple previously lived in Tennessee, Kentucky, and Savannah.

At age 49 Oswald, being of good business acumen, was elected city treasurer in Atlanta’s first “city” government of 1848.  He was re-elected and faithfully served the same position through 1854, before suffering a stroke in 1855, which rendered him an invalid.  During his active years, he was engaged in merchandising and was a leader in the Presbyterian church, becoming one of the organizers of the First Presbyterian Church of Atlanta. Downtown Atlanta’s Houston Street was named for him and remained so until 1994 when Mayor Maynard Jackson had it renamed John Wesley Dobbs Ave.

Accompanying his parents, 16-year-old Washington Houston also arrived in Atlanta in 1847, just in time to see it transform from the “town” of Atlanta to the “city” of Atlanta.

Prior to 1848, only Oakland Resident John Mims was doing “agency banking” for the Georgia Railroad, selling exchange on Augusta. Scott, Carhart & Company established a banking agency and hired now 17-year-old “Wash” Houston to be cashier.  He received the new city’s first banking deposit from J.B. Lofton, who walked into the office with two saddle bags of money for deposit.  He then spent several years employed by the Georgia, Atlanta and West Point and Atlanta and Charlotte Air Line railroads, in various capacities.

Washington Houston married Amanda Katherine Powell on July 23, 1854.  Amanda was the daughter of the first doctor in Dekalb County, Dr. Chapman Powell. Dr. Powell was dubbed the “white medicine man” by the early residents of the area, mostly Indians.  His daughter Amanda grew up with seven siblings in a one-room log cabin, known to the Indians as “the Medicine House,” although it is thought that Dr. Powell had a small out building for the actual medicine work.

the “Medicine House”

Wash Houston bought this home place in 1860, and the couple raised three sons and seven daughters in a newer, bigger house in front of the log cabin, which finally ended up as part of the plantation display at Stone Mountain Park.  Dr. Powell moved to Atlanta, where he had already accumulated much property.

When the Civil War came Houston became the transportation agent for the Confederate government.  His duties kept him in Atlanta mostly, while his family lived at the Chapman homeplace on what would become Clairmont Road near North Decatur Road.

When the Federal army under Gen. Sherman swarmed into the area in July 1864, Wash had to cross friendly and enemy lines to get to check on the family.  In Caroline Clarke’s The Story of Decatur, Houston’s granddaughter Susie Houston tells the following story:

Amanda Powell Houston

There was another war tale about Grandpa (Major Houston). He was staying in Atlanta since his duties as Transportation Agent of the Confederate States Government required him to keep the trains running in and out of the city. 

Grandma was staying in the cellar of her home while the house was being used by Sherman as a hospital.  Aunt Lula was a tiny baby and very ill, so Grandpa tried to get through the Yankee lines, which had encircled the city, so he could find out about his family.  He got as far as the Avary farm.  He stopped to rest at the Avary’s and, while there, he saw several Yankee soldiers drive up in the Avary yard. 

Mrs. Avary said to him, ‘Major Houston, run hide in the collard patch.  There never has been a Yankee who would get near collards.’ Sure enough, they did not see him as he lay between the collard rows; however, later, as he was going through the woods past the cemetery, he was captured as a spy.  They were going to actually shoot him, when he gave the Masonic distress signal.  The Yankee captain, who held him prisoner, not only listened to his story but escorted him out to his house to see his wife and children, and back through the lines in Atlanta. 

The Yankee Captain never found out that he was a Major and actually serving with the Confederacy, but thought he was a merchant in the, as yet, uncaptured city.”

After the war Houston continued to live in Decatur but kept his interests in Atlanta under close watch.  He was active in the Presbyterian Church in Atlanta and a deacon and elder in the Decatur church.  With Milton A. Candler and William G. Whidby, he issued a call for a statewide Sunday School association.

W.J. Houston house on Clairmont Road

In 1893 Washington Houston was appointed by U. S. Secretary of the Interior Hoke Smith (another Historic Oakland resident) as chairman of a commission to negotiate a treaty with the Yuma Indians of southern California and Arizona.  The following year, Houston and his wife traveled to Oklahoma to negotiate with the Osage Indians, also at the request of the Secretary.

The Houston Mill ruins

In 1876 Houston hired millwrights to construct a corn mill near the south fork of Peachtree Creek on his land.  In 1900 when public demand for electricity was strong, he had millwrights convert the corn mill into a hydroelectric facility, the first such in the area, and he formed the Decatur Light, Power and Water Company, bringing electric lighting to Decatur for the first time.  The dam still stands and evidence of structures, including the remains of the millrace are still visible within the Emory University campus on Houston Mill Rd.

Late in his life, Houston was content with light farming and raising Ayrshire cattle.  Amanda Powell Houston was laid to rest Historic Oakland Cemetery on December 29, 1908 just a few yards from Oswald and Anna Houston, her in-laws.  Washington joined her just over two years later on February 21, 1911.

WJ Houston lot at Oakland

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.


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.

PRO Team Field Notes: The Flood Family Lot

by Dr. DL Henderson and Ashley Shares

Flood family plot before restoration (top) and after (bottom).

Flood family plot before restoration (top) and after (bottom).

This month the Preservation, Restoration, and Operations (PRO) Team has restored Lot 2 of Block 70 in the African American Grounds. Block 70 is located east of the Confederate Obelisk on the north side of Monument Drive. Work on this lot consisted of: leveling and resetting a medium-sized marble obelisk belonging to Henrietta Flood; a medium marble “cross and base” monument belonging to Samuel Flood; and a small marble marker that bears no inscription but is possibly a headstone belonging to James Flood, who died in 1940. Additionally, the PRO Team reset marble coping on the west and south sides.

To reset the two medium-sized markers, we removed them piece-by-piece using a chain hoist and nylon strapping. The existing below-ground bases (made of brick and concrete, respectively) were intact and nearly level. We reused these pieces, along with a bed of compacted gravel to facilitate drainage away from the markers.

The coping on the west side of the lot had sunken severely. To remedy this, the PRO Team dug out and removed the three differently-sized pieces, then tightly compacted the soil and laid and a bed of gravel. The coping on the south side, which sits on a concrete parged* wall, was loose and out of alignment. A parged wall refers to a wall, in this case brick, where the entire surface of the multi-unit structural system is covered in a smooth layer of cement to mimic the appearance of one solid surface.

We reset the pieces on thin beds of type-N mortar. Type-N mortar is preferred for soft stone masonry because it withstands severe weather conditions and heat. By using this mortar, we’ve ensured that the coping will stay put for years to come.

Flood family plot coping after restoration.

Flood family plot coping after restoration.

In concert with the plot restoration, we delved deeper into the Flood family records to put history behind the names. Only months before his death in September 1905, Samuel Flood wrote his last will and testament. He arranged for payment of all his debts and made specific monetary bequests to relatives. An issue of special importance to Samuel was his grave marker and the care of his cemetery lot. He left explicit instructions in his will to ensure his final wishes were carried out.

Samuel, a carpenter, suffered the loss of his wife Henrietta, in 1881. He buried her at Oakland, and her grave is marked by a marble monument featuring a cross-vaulted top. The couple had no children of their own, but Samuel left his estate to his niece and nephews. He gave the bulk of his assets to his oldest nephew, Charlie Flood. Samuel also bequeathed to Charlie the responsibility of making his funeral arrangements, buying his tombstone, and taking care of the Flood family lot at Oakland.

Samuel was particular about the cost of his grave marker. The will specifically requested that Charlie purchase a tombstone at a cost “not less than $100 and not more than $150.” For this price in 1905, Charlie would have been able to choose from a wide selection of quality gravestones. The marble tombstone over Samuel Flood’s grave bears a cross with the inscription, “In Loving Memory of My Uncle.” In addition, Samuel recognized that his childlessness, and the lack of perpetual care at Oakland, might leave his grave untended. His will also directed Charlie to keep the Flood family lot “in good repairs and condition.”

Samuel Flood marker (detail). Courtesy Linda Ferree, Findagrave

Samuel Flood marker (detail). Courtesy Linda Ferree, Findagrave.com.

Charlie Flood died in 1925 and was buried in his uncle’s lot, but it is unknown if other family members cared for the lot after his death. For Samuel Flood, the preservation of his cemetery lot was an important family duty, but over the years, as descendants have moved away or lost contact, many lots at Oakland have gone untended. Today, the Flood family lot is being restored to good condition as part of the African American Grounds restoration project.

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: Augustus Thompson and the Odd Fellows

by Marcy Breffle, Education Coordinator

Augustus Thompson (1837-1910) was born on a Jackson, Miss., plantation to a free father and a slave mother named Minerva Lee. In 1840, Minerva and her children were willed to a man named Julius Sappho from Madison, Ga. Thompson moved with his mother and siblings to Georgia, while his father remained in Mississippi to avoid enslavement. Educational opportunities were denied to slaves, but Thompson trained as a blacksmith apprentice in Georgia. He became a master smithy after six years. During the Civil War, Thompson was employed by the Confederate Gun Factory Company in Lexington and the Augusta Machine Works in Augusta to make guns for Confederate troops. Freed during the war, Thompson continued to work in Augusta for the next several years.

IMG_0955Thompson married Lorie Ann Jones in 1865.  Motivated by economic opportunities, the couple moved to Atlanta in 1870 and Thompson opened his own blacksmith shop. After the Civil War, Atlanta became a destination for African Americans , as they could find education and employment (although the majority were the lowest-paying jobs in domestic service, personal service, construction, or the railroad). Taking advantage of the newly-enfranchised population of African American voters, Thompson ran for city council from the Third Ward. He lost his bid, but emerged as a local leader in Atlanta’s growing black community.

Around this time, Thompson met James Lowndes from Louisville, Ky. Lowndes was a member of the Order of the Odd Fellows, a fraternal organization. Fraternal organizations had roots in Europe’s guild system, but American orders grew in popularity after the Civil War. Hundreds of orders sprung up after the Civil War and had different social, economic, and cultural requirements. Organizations could be based on political affiliation, religion, profession, or social class. Like the Freemasons and Improved Order of Red Men, the Odd Fellows were just one of several popular organizations.

With the help of Lowndes, Thompson founded the first Odd Fellow lodge for African Americans. The St. James Lodge of African American Odd Fellows had 25 black businessmen and professionals in its first initiation class. Other lodges were later established in Marietta and Dalton. Thompson remained an active member of the lodge through the rest of his life. He died in 1910, just two years before the opening of the iconic Odd Fellows building on Auburn Avenue.

IMG_0908The symbols on Thompson’s headstone reflect his fraternal connections. The three connected rings are a symbol of the Odd Fellows. The anvil atop his grave has a dual meaning, representing Thompson’s occupation as a blacksmith but also symbolizing martyrdom.

You can learn more about Augustus Thompson and fraternal organizations in Atlanta on Sunday’s “Oddfellows, Red Men, Masons, and More: Fraternal Organizations and Oakland” special topic tour.

The tour will leave from Oakland’s Bell Tower Building at 6:30 pm. The tour does not require a reservation and tickets can be purchased at the Visitors Center. This and all of Oakland Cemetery’s weekend guided walking tours are offered for free to Historic Oakland Foundation members.


Oakland Resident Spotlight: Mayor William Arnold Hemphill

by Larry Upthegrove

Mayor William A. Hemphill

Mayor William A. Hemphill

William Arnold Hemphill was born on May 5, 1842 and was raised near the University of Georgia campus in Athens.  He was educated at his hometown university, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in 1861, and just in time to go to war for the Confederacy. Despite being wounded in the head at Gettysburg in July of 1863, he survived the war and was able to achieve the rank of Colonel for his leadership abilities.

At war’s end, William returned to his hometown to become an educator, but the lure of activity in Atlanta attracted him in 1867.  In 1868, he became the business manager for Carey Wentworth Styles and James Anderson, who had just bought out the Atlanta Daily Opinion and re-named it The Constitution.  (Ed. Note: the state was under military government at that time, and one of the goals of the paper was to advocate for constitutional government to return to Georgia.)  Hemphill went to work and was able to get the fledgling newspaper on sound financial footing.

After six months, Styles sold his interest to Anderson, who would become Hemphill’s father-in-law and who installed William as principal owner, a position he held until 1901. In 1876 Evan P. Howell bought an interest in the paper and became its president and editor-in-chief. Howell excelled at production, with Hemphill handling the paper’s business affairs. Together, they soon had the Constitution to a quality level unmatched by any other publication in the south, especially with the staff additions of Henry Grady, Joel Chandler Harris, and Georgia’s poet laureate, Frank L. Stanton.

By 1883, Hemphill had the money and opportunities to expand his business talents in other directions.  He was one of the incorporators of the horse-drawn Fulton County Street Railroad, which was best known for its route from downtown to Ponce De Leon Springs, (present-day location of Ponce City Market). Later, the line was electrified and extended to the Virginia-Highlands area.

William became a City Councilman-at-large in 1887, the same year he began an unsuccessful banking career. The next few years he served as president of the board of education and became an alderman in 1889.  The following year, still leading the Constitution, he won the mayoral election and began duties in January 1891.

Original Grady Hospital building

Original Grady Hospital building

During his tenure as mayor, the first building of what would become Grady Memorial Hospital was built at 36 Butler Street with 14 rooms. Also, during his time, he oversaw construction of the freshwater pumping station on the Chattahoochee River. Part of the 55 acres purchased for the associated reservoir included a street named for him, Hemphill Ave.

After leaving office, Mayor Hemphill suggested that Atlanta could stimulate growth by hosting what would become the Cotton States and International Exposition of 1895.  He served as the head of the Trinity Sunday School and the YMCA.  He died suddenly on August 17, 1902 from injuries sustained in a fall. He now lies under the sweet soil of Historic Oakland Cemetery, across the walkway from Captain William Allen Fuller.

Oakland Resident Spotlight: The Calico House

by Larry Upthegrove

Early 20th century photo of The Calico House (courtesy The Emory Historian blog)

Early 20th century photo of The Calico House (courtesy The Emory Historian blog)

In 1860, Oakland Cemetery resident Marcus Aurelius Bell decided to build an ornate, large house at the present corner of Courtland Street and Auburn Avenue in downtown Atlanta.

He hired for his contractor Tom Crusselle (also an Oakland resident) and the first masonry contractor to build in Atlanta. Mr. Crusselle had come to this country to construct railroad bridges and plied his trade in masonry and construction for many years to come. Mr. Crusselle had the proper quantity of blue granite quarried and delivered to the site by Oakland resident Patrick Lynch, who is buried with the families of three of his four brothers.

Mr. Cruselle installed the stone and constructed the massive house. The stone interior was plastered to smooth walls, and Mr. Cruselle’s 22-year-old brother-in-law Frank Rice was given the responsibility of finishing the interior in a very fancy manner.

Mr. Rice, another Oakland resident, was a talented man.  As a teenager he had worked for another Oakland resident, William Kay who was the first book binder and publisher in Atlanta.  For a nice finishing touch to the newly bound books, it was Mr. Kay’s custom to apply a marbleized finish to the inside covers.  This process was known only to those in the binding trade and required talent to apply the several colors for the proper effect.  Mr. Rice was taught the process and sworn to secrecy.

The paints of the day were available in the same colors as the inks that Mr. Rice knew how to use, so he was able to create a marble effect on the smooth plaster walls.  Heavy oak millwork provided the finishing touches to the house. The house was completed for the anticipated price of $25,000. The completed building sat on four acres, and had approximately 5,500 square feet divided into 12 great rooms.  The marbleizing of the walls was unique to the finishes that people were accustomed to and slightly resembled a pattern of calico that was available at the time, so the grand new house became known as “The Calico House” and was a famous landmark for many years.

By late 1863, the Civil War was in full operation and Atlanta was affected very much by being the South’s premier transportation hub. It became the center for supplying the troops and making the ill and wounded well again.  The Calico House and its owner did their service for the cause.  The house became a packing center, manufacturing facility, and hospital all in one.  Huge crates were built and packed with various commodities in the large rooms of the basement.  The rooms were also used as workrooms by women knitting, sewing, and making supplies for the Confederate medical forces.  The major room on the main level became a hospital.  As valuable as the house was to the South, at the end of Union Army occupation in November 1864, it was somehow spared from the common destruction of most of the city.

Marker for Marcus A. Bell at Oakland Cemetery

Marker for Marcus A. Bell at Oakland Cemetery

Marcus A. Bell continued to own the house and raise his family there (his son Piromus H. Bell lies beside his parents and wife on the family lot at Oakland.) Marcus’ financial situation forced his sale of the property in 1876 to persons outside of the family.  The house continued in use until 1904, still known as the Calico House when it was purchased. Asa Candler bought the house in its poorly maintained condition, and this time the property was only worth $17,500.

Together, Mr. Candler and his famous Methodist brother Warren Candler established the Wesley Memorial Hospital with the Methodists.  Asa Candler provided most of the funding.  They remodeled The Calico House and added a story to it for the hospital conversion.  The newly created facility housed 50 beds with 34 Atlanta doctors attending the populace.

Present-day view of The Calico House location

Present-day view of The Calico House location

By 1922 Emory College had moved its main campus to Atlanta due to the generosity of Asa Candler and had built a grand new facility to house the Wesley Memorial Hospital, which became Emory University Hospital.  In December 1922, the last remaining 25 patients were removed from the Courtland Street location to the new building by utilizing funeral home ambulances. The old Calico House remained vacant for three years and was torn down in 1925.  Currently the site is occupied by the Auburn Avenue Research Library, owned by the City of Atlanta.