by Sara Logue, Research and Public Service Archivist, MARBL
Early on in Atlanta’s history, it was determined that the growing town was going to need a space to bury its citizens. In 1850, six acres of land were purchased and set aside for the purpose of a public cemetery. By 1867, however, the cemetery grew to 48 acres due to the high number of Civil War casualties in and around Atlanta. Oakland Cemetery was designed as a rural garden cemetery allowing for citizens of the city to take advantage of a beautiful outdoor space while visiting with their late friends and relatives. Today the space is frequented for both tours of Atlanta history, and as a way to visit some of the city’s more famous inhabitants.
Interestingly, the cemetery was originally purchased on land that was considered to be in the country at the time. As Atlanta has grown, the cemetery now finds itself directly in the middle of the city. The cemetery fell into disrepair in the early 20th Century, but 1976 brought about both a placement on the National Register of Historic Places, as well as the establishment of the Historic Oakland Foundation. While we don’t have much info specifically on the cemetery, you will find buried in Oakland many important citizens whose papers are part of MARBL‘s collections.
Oakland cemetery has come to be the final resting place for a number of Atlanta’s prominent officials from mayors to businessmen. As mentioned, a large number of Civil War soldiers, both Confederate and Union, have found their way there after falling on the battlefield. While a number of graves are marked for these soldiers, a great many more are unknown.
Notable persons buried in Oakland Cemetery whose manuscript collections are at MARBL include:
A walk through Oakland Cemetery will give you a good sense of who inhabited Atlanta from its earliest days, and how a cemetery takes shape in a rapidly expanding city which has to take into consideration not just the housing of its living citizens, but also of its dead.
For more information on the Oakland Cemetery, its history and inhabitants, visit: The Historic Oakland Foundation website.