Oakland Cemetery’s Early Landscapes: Researching and Re-Landscaping the African American Grounds

As part of Historic Oakland Foundation’s Master Plan, an administrative history timeline was researched, which has provided a written backdrop of clues and inferred explanations to Oakland’s landscape tapestry. A series of short articles will trace changes to some of Oakland’s most important elements that shape our experience of the cemetery today.


by Sara Van Beck

One of the past year’s landscape restoration projects at Oakland has been the southern portion of the African American Grounds. As with all restoration projects, garden history research on the area and its families was conducted to guide the design. Historical observations of Oakland’s trees, shrubs, and flowers were relatively infrequent and then short on the sort of specific detail one would like for landscape restoration. A handful of period photographs provide the basis for the majority of the areas of the cemetery where whites are buried. Unfortunately, photographs of the African American Grounds are not to be had. There are more photographs and newspaper articles addressing Potter’s Field and its indigent burials than records addressing the section where wealthier African Americans paid to be buried. Thus, other historical sources must be used to provide inferences for how families landscaped African American Grounds.

Other historic African American cemeteries provide some general landscape data. Turning to Atlanta’s South-View Cemetery for comparison, exceedingly little appears in the local newspapers. Since its 1886 founding until the early 1900s, South-View appears in only one article in The Constitution. Published in 1895, the newspaper article details a cemetery of strong contrasts. Some areas near South-View’s front gates were well-tended by loving hands; loved ones were commemorated by marble markers, but no mention was made of planted shrubs or flowers. However, according to the article, large areas of the cemetery were quite mournful, suggestive of neglect if not abandonment, ornamented only by weeds and decaying floral arrangements.

Dr. W.E.B. DuBois’ photograph of an unidentified Georgia cemetery.

What the “well cared-for” lots marked by handsome marble may have looked like comes by way of an unidentified Georgia cemetery at the close of the 19th century. W.E.B. Du Bois took the photo for his “American Negro” exhibit at the 1900 Paris Exposition. Through more than 360 photographs, the exhibit showcased the everyday lives of black Georgians at the turn of the century; Oakland resident Thomas Askew was among the photographers whose work was included in “American Negro.”

Dr. DuBois’ photograph reveals a tidy, small cemetery enclosed by a whitewashed wood fence, with understory trees scattered throughout. A few lots are either bordered by low hedges or ornamented by small shrubs, in keeping with the general landscape aesthetic found at smaller cemeteries of the period.

The first guidepost of information for Oakland’s African American families appears in the new Cemetery Commission’s report to the City Council in 1907. Coming at a time when the newly appointed Commission chair was strongly determined to overhaul the cemetery, he was quite pleased to report that the African American “portion of the cemetery was in a most unsightly condition, but it has been greatly improved and now presents a decent appearance to the great gratification of the families, who are taking an interest in the cemetery for the first time, and are expressing a desire to beautify their ground.”

While seemingly late, this coincides with the rise of a financially well-off black middle class in Atlanta. It may simply have taken this long for families to have the wherewithal to spend money on cemetery plants, or for ornamental gardening to become a pastime in the community. The chairman’s statement and this timeframe of the early 1900s then become the starting point for landscape research on how the African American families at Oakland may have landscaped their lots, their aesthetic tastes and plant preferences.

Regarding landscape preferences in Atlanta’s black community in the early 1900s, tidbits peek from the pages of The Constitution, but the real touchstone comes from a study by Atlanta University students led by W.E.B. Du Bois.

A c. 1899 photograph of Bishop Holsey’s house. Courtesy Library of Congress.

As most of Atlanta’s black community was not well-off, vegetable and ornamental gardening was a luxurious pursuit for the few, or at least not on the minds of many. In 1900 it was estimated that 60 percent of Atlanta’s black community resided in structures without a yard. Yet in 1903, an article in The Constitution penned by Oakland resident and physician Henry Rutherford Butler encouraged the community to do just that, garden: “Let us then dig up our gardens and plant them. Plant flowers in our front yards…. I saw Bishop H. M. Turner working in his garden last Wednesday. Bishop L. H. Holsey, on Auburn avenue [sic], has the finest garden in Atlanta, without any exception. He spends much of his time at home in his garden. The example set by these men should inspire many other men who are younger and who have much more time than they.”

In the Library of Congress’ collection is a circa 1899 photograph of Bishop Holsey’s house. Dominating the small front yard are two ornamental circular flower beds with tall plants in the centers. Three years earlier, Dr. Butler had encouraged South-View lot owners to keep their relatives’ graves “clean and green.” It is tempting to speculate that Dr. Butler may have indulged in ornamental gardening along with Bishop Holsey.

A 1908 photo of a vine-encased family home, taken from Dr. W.E.B. DuBois’ photo survey.

Another set of clues come from two “human interest” pieces on Carrie Steele, locally renowned for her work with Atlanta’s black orphans. An 1888 article describes her domicile:

“There’s a pretty little cottage on the corner of Wheat and Calhoun streets. There are vines around the porch, and even in this December weather a few violets and some late chrysanthemums still linger in the neat little garden.”

Vines were a favorite way for southerners to provide cooling shade, as shade trees were rarely planted close to the house. A number of photographs documenting Atlanta’s slum row houses – with not a tree to be seen – show one or two domiciles with vine-engulfed porches. Too, chrysanthemums were becoming wildly popular in Atlanta by this time. A number of the town’s wealthiest were erecting greenhouses to grow their favorite flower in abundance, with the first chrysanthemum flower show held at the Capitol rotunda in 1889.

In 1890, with donations from many in town, Mrs. Steele leased a parcel of land from the city and erected an orphanage. A second article in 1897 focused more on the orphans themselves and their lives under Mrs. Steele’s wing. The piece mentions the children working in the vegetable garden, “while the majority climb the cherry trees after the luscious fruit or hid in the grape vines…”

Details on how those in the community gardened can be gleaned from a sociological study of Atlanta’s African Americans, conducted by the students of Atlanta University in 1907-1908. Published in 1908, The Negro American Family included a strong component on the city’s housing conditions for blacks, from Atlanta’s very poorest to its wealthiest members. As part of the study, the students engaged in a representative sampling survey of 32 residences and in-depth surveying of eight residences, even noting the condition of the front yards. Of the eight houses, one had flowers, a second had flower beds divided by cleanly swept walks, and a third had a rose bush and a peach tree. The survey is accompanied by 32 photographs by W.E.B. DuBois, depicting houses around town and illustrating everything from row house slums to simple cottages to the grandest house in town. While a number of Dr. DuBois’ photographs illustrate a few houses with front yard gardens, there’s no information recorded as to what these gardeners grew.

To infer what gardeners may have grown, an interesting book provides some hints. The Negro School and its Relation to the Community, published in 1915 by the Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute, is an amazingly comprehensive reference and guide to building and operating a school where no such community resource exists. Among other topics addressed are how to plant ornamental flower beds, landscape designs for the teacher’s residence, use of spring bulbs to line the school walks, and vines for fences and front porches. Hedges were to divide work and play areas on the school grounds and ornament the teacher’s cottage, although the recommended Chinese privet and Macartney rose are some of the most invasive plants in the south today.

1915 photo of the teacher’s cottage.

The ornamental gardening recommendations were simple. The flower bed was to be circular, set in the front lawn, and composed of two varieties. A tall plant was to dominate the bed for summer flowering, such as cannas or oleanders. A lower flower such as lantana was to edge the bed for contrasting color, as it was noted: “Border planting for flowers is becoming quite popular.” Flower beds could similarly be made of just spring bulbs such as tulips, daffodils, and lilies, while “Vincas are among the best bloomers, and can be used for the entire bed or borders.” Winter flower beds could be planted of pansies, petunias, and creeping phlox. For border beds along fences or open lawn, shasta daisies and bananas were an option. Shrubs were to be planted around the edges of the open lawn or as anchor specimen plants to the teacher’s cottage. Suitable varieties included crepe myrtle, wild crab apple, sweet shrub, azalea, hydrangea, calico bush (a type of mountain laurel), roses, and Grancy Gray Beard. Native trees could be dug from nearby forests such as dogwood and wild plum. Granted, the recommended plants lists are tailored for a warmer climate than Atlanta’s, they nevertheless provide further insight as to how the southern African American community may have been guided in ornamental gardening and what a suitable plant palate would be.

One of the last pieces of evidence to be researched was the 1949 aerial photograph series of the City of Atlanta. Digitized by Georgia State University, this high-resolution image captured a number of trees and shrubs in Oakland’s African American Grounds, and hints at other landscape elements. The lack of large tree cover in the southern portion was particularly fortuitous for not obscuring smaller ornamental plantings. Combined with a bulb survey of Oakland conducted in 2003, which found numerous lots with surviving daffodils delineating lot lines and gracing headstones, an informed rough picture of the family-planted landscape as it appeared in 1949 was reached.

Yet time stands still for no gardener. Additional burials have been added since 1949; some trees grew mightily, casting shade; a few died; and many of the bulbs surviving in 2003 continued to dwindle. Armed with newspaper articles, period photographs, reference books, and surviving family plants, an inspired re-envisioning of the southern area of the African American Ground’s landscape has been embarked upon. While the landscape restoration plan draws upon the available direct evidence and inferred guideposts, long-term maintenance needs and current landscape conditions have tempered the plant variety selections.

Carrie Steele Logan’s grave marker today.

Where possible, original hedge lines shown in the 1949 aerial have been re-created. The design motifs suggested in the Tuskegee Institute’s guide have been incorporated along with some of the suggested plants. Other plants used follow from the surviving plants on the African American Grounds (such as daffodils and glossy abelia shrubs), from other areas of the cemetery (such as boxwood and curly ligustrum for hedges), and  from plants described in newspaper articles.

Thus, Carrie Steele’s old-fashioned yard chrysanthemums are scattered about, either as cradle plantings or as borders. Large circles of daffodils are intermixed with daylilies for spring and summer interest, while annuals such as pansies provide spots of winter color. A nearby weeping cherry keeps Ms. Steele company, daffodils fringe walkways and lots, and hydrangeas flank headstones. Vinca minor, often called “cemetery myrtle,” has been introduced in shaded spots to help control erosion as well as enliven what was once open dirt. Thanks to the numerous volunteers and donors who have contributed their financial resources and hard sweat equity, a new, inspired garden spot is being created for Oakland and its African American families. With continued support to expand restoration efforts, the African American Grounds will bloom for years to come.


Sara Van Beck is a member of Historic Oakland Foundation’s gardens team. She is a leading daffodil authority and author of Daffodils in American Gardens: 1733-1940.

As HOF begins hardscape and landscape restoration in the African American Grounds, 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.

Learn more about the African American Grounds and much more at Oakland’s guided overview tour, “Sights, Symbols, and Stories of Oakland,” offered every Saturday and Sunday at 2 p.m. Throughout February HOF offers free guided tours of the African American Grounds, click here for details.

Oakland Tours in Focus: Happy Birthday, Atlanta!

by Marcy Breffle, Education Coordinator

Atlanta’s Zero-Mile Post marker

On December 29, 1847, Georgia governor George W. Towns approved legislation that reincorporated the town of Atlanta as the city of Atlanta. In 2017 Atlanta’s celebrates is 170th birthday!

In 1837 a marker was placed near present-day Underground Atlanta to mark the Southeastern terminus of the Western and Atlanta Railroad. A settlement sprang up around this end point and was known as Terminus, literally meaning “end of the line.”

As Terminus continued to develop, locals began to contemplate a new name for the settlement. The name Lumpkin was put forth in honor of Wilson Lumpkin, a former Georgia governor and the disbursing agent for the Western and Atlanta Railroad. Lumpkin declined the honor, so instead the residents chose to rename the settlement after his 16-year-old daughter Martha. On December 23, 1843 the settlement was incorporated as the town of Marthasville.

Lucky for us (can you imagine cheering “Go Marthasville Falcons!” at Mercedes-Benz Stadium?), the name Marthasville did not stick. Deemed too provincial, Marthasville was changed in favor of Atlanta. The name was first used by John Edgar Thomson, the chief engineer of the Georgia Railroad, to designate his railroad’s local depot. Some say Atlanta was the shortened version of “Atlantica-Pacifica,” while others argue that the name was yet another tribute to Martha Lumpkin, whose middle name was allegedly Atalanta. The General Assembly officially changed the name on December 26, 1845.

An October 1845 article in the Charleston Courier agrees that Atlanta is a far “more poetic name” than Marthasville.

Acts of the State of Georgia, 1847

Full Title: AN ACT to amend an act entitled an act to incorporate the town of Marthasville, in the county of DeKalb, passed on the twenty-third day of December, eighteen hundred and forty-three; and also to enlarge the boundary of said town, and to incorporate the same under the name of the city of Atlanta; and to change the name of the town of Rome to that of the city of Rome; to provide for the election of a Mayor and City Councilmen and other officers of said cities, and to confer upon them specified powers; and for other purposes herein mentioned.

Section 1. Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the State of Georgia in General Assembly met, and it is hereby enacted by the authority of the same, That from and after the passage of this act, the town of Atlanta shall be known and called the city of Atlanta, and the authority and jurisdiction of said city shall extend one mile from the State Depot in every direction.

Photo: Governor George W. Towns, Acts of Georgia 1847

Put on your party hats and celebrate Atlanta’s birthday with a visit to Historic Oakland Cemetery! Our general overview tour, “Sights, Symbols, and Stories of Oakland” is offered every Saturday and Sunday at 2:00 p.m. No reservations are required!

Oakland Remembers WWI: Captain Alonzo C. Lampkin

Beginning in April 2017 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.”

In the fifth installment of our blog series, “Oakland Remembers World War I,” HOF recognizes Captain Alonzo C. Lampkin (1894-1958).


Alonzo Lampkin was a member of Georgia Tech’s Class of 1915.

Alonzo Church Lampkin, Jr. was born in Atlanta on March 3, 1894, to Alonzo and Minnie Lampkin. Alonzo Sr. was a prominent figure in business and civic life in Atlanta. He was listed as a grocer in the 1900 census, and later worked as a real estate agent. Minnie Wiley Lampkin descended from a family of Atlanta pioneers. Alonzo and his siblings, Ruth and Susie, grew up on Hunnicutt Street in the Sixth Ward before moving to 630 West Peachtree Street.

Alonzo Lampkin was accepted into Georgia Tech in 1911. He joined the Gamma Alpha chapter of Sigma Nu, one of Tech’s oldest fraternities. Two months before Alonzo’s 22nd birthday, his father died following a brief illness brought on by an attack of apoplexy. Alonzo Sr.’s illness was widely reported by the Atlanta Constitution, which also published his obituary. Alonzo continued to support his family following his father’s passing.

In the months following the U.S entry into WWI, Lampkin enlisted in the U.S. Army and was assigned to the 82nd division. Nicknamed the “All American Division,” the men of the 82nd hailed from Georgia, Alabama, and Tennessee. In September 1917 Lampkin and thousands of other Atlanta recruits were ordered to report for training. Departing soldiers were treated to a barbeque on Hemphill Avenue. The menu included everything from “Brunswick stew to cued lamb, pig, beef plats, and many other edibles.” Following the meal, the troops were transported by Southern Railroad trains to Camp Gordon in Chamblee. Camp Gordon was one of 16 National Army Training Camps established in preparation of the U.S. entry into war. The camp covered 2,400 acres and could hold up to 47,000 troops. The camp was abandoned in 1920, and later became the site of the Peachtree-DeKalb Airport.

WWI-era Motor Transport Corps poster.

Lampkin served in the Motor Transport Corps, which was tasked with supervising all motor vehicles for the military. He quickly moved up the ranks. Lampkin became a lieutenant in April 1918 and was later promoted to captain in October 1918. The 82nd Division began sending troops overseas in April 1918. Prior to his departure, Lampkin married Martha Brown Edmondson, a southern debutante from Anniston, Alabama.

Lampkin’s division joined the St. Mihiel Offensive in mid-September and participated in the Meuse-Argonne Offensive in October. Captain Lampkin was stationed in France when the war ended on November 11, 1918. He returned to the states in May 1919 and was honorably discharged on October 13, 1919.

At some point following his return, Captain Lampkin and Martha divorced. In 1925 he remarried Elizabeth Smith in Petersburg, Virginia. The 1940 census shows the couple and three daughters (Barbara, Elizabeth, and Patricia) living in Marietta. Captain Lampkin listed his profession as a traveling furniture salesman. Alonzo C. Lampkin died on March 31, 1958. He was laid to rest in Oakland Cemetery in the Wiley family lot, next to his parents.

Alonzo’s final resting place at Oakland Cemetery.

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!

 

PRO Team Field Notes: Restoring the McKinley Lot

By Dr. DL Henderson and Ashley Shares

Jacob McKinley’s monument, which is leaning significantly.

The headstone belonging to Jacob McKinley is located in Phase 1 of the African American Grounds restoration project. It is a pedestal-style monument, composed of multiple units of marble “freely” stacked, one on top of another, without any pins or dowels holding them in place.

This monument was leaning at a significant angle and its stabilization with a high priority. The Preservation, Restoration, and Operations (PRO) Team hand-removed the urn and other small elements. We set up scaffolding to dismantle the larger pieces, which were lifted with a trolley and chain hoist attached to an aluminum I-beam. Each piece was braced with a nylon strap and carefully moved several feet away.

The sub-base supports a monument below ground and isn’t intended for viewing. Mr. McKinley’s monument sub-base is composed of brick, slate, and other stones; small marble slabs; and general rubble held together with a soft mortar. Because the monument had been so un-level, we decided to remove the sub-base and create a completely new one. This new sub-base was made from reinforced concrete.

After repair, the monument is properly aligned.

After giving the sub-base 24 hours of dry-time, we poured a soft mortar mix on top and each of the marble blocks were re-stacked. Pieces of angled lead were placed between layers to help space them evenly, and to allow for a “joint” that could later be filled with a soft mortar grout. The purpose of such grout is to prevent water penetration that may lead to stone deterioration.

Jacob McKinley was a formerly enslaved carpenter who amassed a small fortune after his emancipation. He owned several businesses and became one of the wealthiest African American men in Atlanta by the 1890s. When the Atlanta Constitution reported McKinley’s death in January 1896, the obituary described his wealth and philanthropy and lamented the loss of a good citizen.

Born into slavery in Newnan, Georgia circa 1830, McKinley had prospered in post-Civil War Atlanta and gained a reputation among local businessmen for industry and integrity. By his own reckoning, McKinley apparently had a rough upbringing, but at age 16 while still enslaved, he was apprenticed as a carpenter. No doubt because of his outstanding carpentry skills, in 1853, McKinley was sold for $1,550. However, as a freedman his personal worth would quickly eclipse his monetary value as a slave.

After gaining his freedom, McKinley demonstrated that his skills were not limited to manual labor. Over the years, he developed several successful businesses and at times employed over 150 laborers—white and African American. He became a prosperous merchant, real estate owner, and a dealer in wood and coal; he owned a brickyard, a grocery store, and a large amount of real estate. He donated a piece of land to start a Baptist church named in his honor, “McKinley’s Chapel.”

McKinley’s death is noted in the January 24, 1896 Atlanta Constitution

Jacob McKinley extended his investments beyond real estate in 1886 when he joined other African Americans in securing a charter to establish the South-View Cemetery Association. South-View provided an alternative burial ground for African Americans who did not want to be buried in the segregated grounds at Oakland or Westview cemeteries. In 1890 McKinley and Oakland residents Henry Rucker, Thomas Goosby, C. C. Cater, and Nicodemus Holmes, along with other African American investors, established the Georgia Real Estate Loan and Trust Company. The new business offered yet another opportunity for economic advancement for McKinley and the other investors, while providing much needed business financing for their African American customers.

According to scholar Rev. E. R. Carter, in 1888 McKinley paid taxes on $40,000. McKinley owned 12 shares of stock in South-View Cemetery, valued at $900. It may seem ironic to some that McKinley is not buried at South-View, but he had purchased his family lot at Oakland in 1879 to bury 6-month-old Joseph McKinley. The McKinley family apparently was unwilling to disinter the infant and two other previously interred family members to move them to South-View. Like many African American families in Atlanta, the McKinleys continued to use their family lot and buried multiple generations of family members together at Oakland.

Jacob McKinley listed among the founders on a monument at South-View Cemetery.

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.

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

Ashley Shares is Preservation Manager at Historic Oakland Foundation.

Note: Jacob McKinley’s biographical information is excerpted from Dr. Henderson’s forthcoming book, South-View: An African American City of the Dead. It will be published in January 2018.

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.”

PRO Team Field Notes: Stone Benders

By Ashley Shares, Preservation Manager

Headstone before the PRO Team’s work.

When you think of stone, what words come to mind? Strong? Solid? Inflexible? Well, a walk through Oakland Cemetery will show you that these adjectives aren’t always true of headstones. Thin, upright marble tombstones are especially fragile. They are prone to breaking, whether it be from a fallen tree branch, being knocked over by vandalism, or the slow effects of gravity. Sometimes, however, instead of cracking, marble does something incredible: it bends.

Yes, believe it or not, if exposed to the right conditions over a very long period of time, marble can slowly bow. This usually occurs when the stone is in a horizontal position. Examples include a tombstone that has fallen, or a box tomb with a marble ledger stone. In the case of a tombstone, if the ground beneath it is not level, gravity will exert more force on less supported areas, pushing them down, while supported areas will remain in one position. This usually breaks the stone eventually, but in rare instances like one stone the PRO Team just worked on, it bends it instead.

John Butler died in 1882 and is buried in Lot 1, Block 302 in the East Hill area at Oakland. His is not the only burial on the lot, but it is the only one marked. The restoration of Block 302 is part of the PRO Team’s critical restoration efforts this year, due to its extremely deteriorated overall conditions which include entirely tumbled-down walls as well as Butler’s bowed headstone.

In order to re-set the tombstone, it had to be stabilized. When a piece of marble bends in this way, the stone loses its strength in the curved area. If the stone were to stand upright, gravity would put press heavily on the curve, possibly causing a break. Leaving the stone horizontal and building a concrete pad for it to rest on was another option we explored. We ultimately abandoned this option because it would allow water accumulation on the headstone’s face, causing more rapid deterioration of the already-faded carvings. Since an upright position was the best bet for saving stone’s historic elements, what we needed to do was prevent pressure from building on the high point of the curve once the stone was back up.

Lightweight bracing on the headstone.

What we did was design a lightweight brace of stainless steel and aluminum that hugs the monument tightly on the sides, both above and below the high point of the curve. Padding supports the curves and prevents the steel from damaging the monument. First, we dug a nearly 3 foot hole and embedded a hollow squared aluminum pole in a concrete anchor. This part acts as the brace’s “spine”. When the concrete was dry, the pieces of the brace were attached to the frame (“ribs”).  The headstone was carefully lowered into the hole directly in front of the spine and the pieces of the brackets were clamped on the sides above and below the curve. All bolts were tightened and we backfilled the hole with soil. Every few years, the foam will need to be replaced but the brace should last many decades because all materials used are non-rusting.

Oakland Tours in Focus: Ivan Allen: Making a Modern Metropolis

by Andrew Fowler, Education Program Intern

On Sunday, November 5, Historic Oakland Foundation hosts a program celebrating several Atlanta mayors and Oakland residents who had a hand in transforming the city from a rural railroad town into one of the nation’s leading cities. Join us for “From Moses to Maynard: Oakland’s Legacy of Atlanta Mayors”


With the Atlanta Falcons’ season kicking off, the Braves’ season winding down, and the Hawks’ season right around the corner, it is important to remember that our home teams have not always been a part of the city. A look back at the history of sports in Atlanta inevitably leads to Mayor Ivan Allen Jr. (1911-2003), a two-term mayor and Oakland Cemetery resident. Mayor Allen played a pivotal role in bringing these sport teams to Atlanta, but his impact reached beyond the playing field. Mayor Ivan Allen Jr. guided the city through the turbulent 1960s, and his political leadership helped to transform Atlanta into a progressive metropolis and international city.

Allen grew up in a prestigious Atlanta family and entered into the business world after graduating cum laude from Georgia Tech in 1933. As one of Atlanta’s business leaders and a president of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, Allen recognized the negative impact that segregation had on Georgia’s economy. He ran on a segregationist platform during gubernatorial bids in 1954 and 1958, but soon changed his political philosophy on segregation. Allen defeated Lester Maddox, a restaurant owner and segregationist, in the 1961 mayoral election. Much of his support came from Atlanta’s African American community.

On his first day in office in 1962, Mayor Allen ordered the removal of all “White” and “Colored” signs on City Hall property, which would mark a theme of integration and social equality that would define his term as mayor. Allen would go on to desegregate many city departments, including the Atlanta Fire Department, and further worked to have many Atlanta hotels, restaurants, and public places integrated before the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The landmark legislation of 1964 moreover pushed the city towards full integration, with Allen playing a pivotal role in its passage. In 1963 President John F. Kennedy asked Allen to testify before Congress in favor of what would become the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Allen was the only Southern politician to do so and received death threats in the process. Allen recognized the benefits of a unified city, and his efforts led to a wave of economic growth throughout the city.

Front page of the Atlanta Constitution after the Orly Airport crash. Mayor Allen, shown in the top right, leaves for his grim task in France in 1962.

Mayor Allen served as a leader for the city, but he also had to serve as a healer during moments of extreme tragedy. Just a few months after taking office, momentous misfortune struck the heart of Atlanta’s cultural and artistic community. On June 3, 1962 over 100 Atlanta citizens were killed when Air France flight 007 crashed departing the Orly Airport in Paris. The Atlanta victims were art patrons and cultural leaders who had been touring Europe’s galleries and museums. The Orly crash was considered the deadliest aviation disaster at the time. Allen undertook the solemn task of flying to France to identify and bring the remains home. Allen later reflected on the experience, remarking:

“I was nothing but the Mayor of Atlanta and a friend and neighbor of 106 people who had been killed at this same airport only the day before…These were my lifelong friends. This was my generation. This was also the backbone of Atlanta’s cultural society, the city’s leading patrons of the arts. There was no precedent for this kind of agony.”

The devastating tragedy was a catalyst for Atlanta’s arts community and led to the founding the Woodruff Arts Center. Tragedy once again loomed over Atlanta after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968. Allen participated in marches in the days following, as well as speaking with and comforting Dr. King’s widow, Coretta Scott King.

Mayor Allen walking with Coretta Scott King as they lead a march through Atlanta after her husband’s assassination in 1968.

In addition to his Civil Rights advocacy, one of Ivan Allen’s most notable and lasting legacies of is imbedded in Atlanta’s three major professional sports teams. In what seemed to be a politically and financially risky move, Allen campaigned during his 1961 mayoral run on building a large stadium to attract a Major League Baseball team to Atlanta. In early 1963 as plans were underway to build a stadium in what was the Washington-Rawson neighborhood south of downtown, Mayor Allen announced that negotiations were underway to bring the Kansas City Athletics to Atlanta. The deal seemed to be going perfectly until July 1963, when the American League denied the team’s relocation. Mayor Allen was now stranded with a partially-built $18 million stadium and an empty promise of a baseball team. But in October 1964 the Milwaukee Braves announced that they would relocate to Atlanta for the 1966 season. Atlanta finally had a Major League Baseball team.

Ivan Allen at the plate taking a pitch from Georgia Governor Carl Sanders at the opening night of Atlanta Stadium in 1965.

With the new baseball stadium completed in April 1965, interest in obtaining a professional football team for Atlanta grew. Prospective owners from both the American Football League and the rival National Football League vied for rights for the new stadium. As a potential AFL owner started negotiations with Allen, NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle flew down to Atlanta to obtain rights to the stadium. Commissioner Rozelle, Mayor Allen, and Rankin Smith (who became the owner of the Falcons) were able to negotiate a deal that same day. The new Atlanta Stadium, later renamed Atlanta-Futon County Stadium, served as the home of the Braves and Falcons. The stadium also hosted the city’s professional soccer team, the Atlanta Chiefs, and the Beatles played a concert there in August 1965. While not directly responsible for their move, it was under Allen’s mayoral term that the St. Louis Hawks viewed Atlanta as a viable professional sports city and relocated the basketball franchise there in 1968.

Under Ivan Allen’s two terms, Atlanta saw immense commercial and population growth. While other Deep South cities floundered, Allen’s desegregation efforts and Civil Rights advocacy cemented Atlanta’s position as the capital of the New South. With the founding of cultural institutions like the Woodruff Arts Center and the addition of the Atlanta Braves, Falcons, and Hawks, Atlanta was transformed into a modern metropolis.

Mayor Allen died on July 2, 2003 at 92 years old. He was laid to rest at Oakland Cemetery in a family plot next to his wife Louise, who passed in 2008 and his son Beaumont. Beaumont “Beau” Allen was a longtime champion of HOF; he served as HOF board chairman from 2004 to 2005 and was also on the organization’s board of directors and board of advisors for more than 10 years. He is the namesake of Oakland’s Beaumont Allen Greenhouse.

The Allen family lot at Oakland Cemetery.

PRO Team Field Notes: Rubbed the Wrong Way – The Negative Effects of Gravestone Rubbing

By Ashley Shares, Preservation Manager

When I was a child my grandmother and parents used to take me to cemeteries. Not just where my grandfather was buried, but also to burial grounds with no connection to my family. As a little girl the epitaphs, iconography, and different text styles delighted me. I calculated how long people lived, imagined the historic events they experienced, and drew conclusions about familial connections. Imagine my frustration when some stones were too faint to read! The culprit: gravestone rubbing.

Headstone rubbing is banned in many historic cemeteries, including Oakland Cemetery. Image courtesy Peterson AFB

Armed with thin tracing paper and a red crayon, I set out to discover the mysteries that the oldest headstones in Chicago’s Resurrection Cemetery held. This cemetery was one of my favorites growing up, thanks in part to the legend of “Resurrection Mary,” a hitchhiking ghost said to haunt the cemetery and nearby Willowbrook Ballroom. After an afternoon of earnest and hard rubbing, none of my attempts yielded particularly legible words or pictures and I grew quickly bored, as most children would.

Resurrection Cemetery opened in 1904, so there were no stones of considerable ago or fragility. If there had been, my rough work may have resulted in disaster. See, this seemingly innocuous activity beloved by so many children and adults alike can damage headstones. That’s why it is banned at many cemeteries, including Historic Oakland Cemetery.

For example, according to New Hampshire state law:

No person shall make gravestone rubbings in any municipal cemetery or burial ground without first obtaining the written permission of the town selectmen or the mayor of a city or designee. Before granting such permission, the selectmen or mayor will ascertain to the best of their ability that the person making the request knows the proper precautions to be taken and the proper materials to be used for this activity. The town selectmen or city mayor or their designee shall notify the cemetery trustees of the request and its disposition. Any person who violates the provisions of this section shall be guilty of a misdemeanor.

What makes rubbing dangerous to gravestones? Depending on the material, gravestones deteriorate in different ways. Slate divides in thin sheets, while marble “sugars” or disintegrates. Applying mechanical pressure in the way that rubbing does can exacerbate these issues and result in a loss of historic material. Furthermore, if a stone is unstable, even a small amount of pressure can knock it over and possibly break it.

Slates in various states of delamination. Photo courtesy National Center for Preservation Technology and Training.

Another potential pitfall with rubbing is damage from the writing utensil. If the utensil goes through the paper it can at worst scratch the surface and at least discolor it. Crayon wax especially can cause staining that is difficult to remove.

So, is there a safe way to do a rubbing? If care is taken to choose a stone that is sound and only gentle rubbing with a blunt implement is employed, rubbing is harmless. However, often it can be difficult for cemetery visitors to properly judge what “sound” stones look like. Therefore, as a whole, rubbing is not allowed at Oakland.

How can someone read an illegible headstone without doing a rubbing?

Raking Light: Gravestone letters are most easily read on a clear and bright day, when the sun is nearly above the stone. The light is coming from and oblique angle, making shadows deepen. This can be recreated using a mirror if the sun is lower or the stone is turned away from the sun. A flashlight can also be used on cloudy days.

Proper headstone cleaning can help legibility.

Cleaning: Properly cleaning a headstone makes it easier to read by removing growth and staining that obscure the writing. Of course, care must be taken to ensure the stone is a safe candidate for cleaning and that proper cleaner and brushes are used.

Computational Photography: A new field of technology is in development so previously illegible artifacts can be read and deciphered by using different lighting, multiple angles, and “corrected color imagery” photography. To read more about these new techniques, check out Cultural Heritage Imaging.

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