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Gaining fame from the book Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, Bonaventure Cemetery is one of the United Sates most beautiful and inspiring burial grounds. The photos are from a 2012 visit.
Written by Kyle T. Cobb, Jr.
Nos tibi credere.
In the early 1770s, John Mullryne and his son-in-law Josiah Tattnall owned approximately 9,900 acres in Georgia. Three miles from the city of Savannah at that time, 600 acres of that land was next to St. Augustine Creek. Mullryne, the builder of the third lighthouse on Tybee Island, built the family plantation along the creek and named the plantation "Bona Venture," the French words for "good fortune."
The first of two reported fires took place in the plantation in 1771. This fire is only significant in the fact that a fictionalized version of the fire occurs in the book Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.
From 16 September 1779 until 18 October 1779, the second Battle of Savannah was an attempt to liberate occupied Savannah from the British forces that occupied the city in 1778. During the battle, Bonaventure served as the landing site, primary base of operation and field hospital for the joint French and Haitian forces spearheading the attack. It is speculated that while serving as a hospital, Bonaventure may have also served as a makeshift cemetery for an unknown number of soldiers.
As loyalist to the crown, both Mullryne and Tattnall, fled Georgia during the revolutionary War. In 1782, the state nationalized all loyalist holdings in Georgia and sold them at public auction. John Habersham purchased the land and owned it for the next six years.
In 1788, Josiah Tattnall, Jr. returned to Savannah and purchased Bonaventure back from Habersham.
In 1800, the second first occurred in the plantation house. As mentioned above, a key element in the book Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil revolves around the plantation house catching fire.
In 1802, Harriet Fenwick Tattnall became the first known person to be buried on Bonaventure when she was laid to rest in the family plot. In 1803, John Mullryne was buried in the family plot. His wife and six children also were buried there.
At age 38, Josiah Tattnall Jr.'s died and the supervision of the plantation was assigned to Ebenezer Jackson. Jackson was married to Charlotte Fenwick, who was the sister of Tattnall 's late wife Harriet. Charlotte's daughter, married Josiah Tattnall III.
By 1817 Edward Fenwick Tattnall, eldest son of Josiah Tattnall III, had returned to manage the plantation.
In 1846, Peter Wiltberger purchased Bonaventure from Tattnall for $5000 and the agreement that he would continue to maintain the family plot. Wilberger had made his fortune as the dominant hotel owner in Savannah and eventually own such hotels as the City Hotel and the Mansion House.
In 1847, 70 acres in the northeast corner of the plantation was converted into a public cemetery and opened as the Evergreen Cemetery. In 1849 Wiltberger's wife Susan Green was intered there and Wiltberger followed in 1853.
Wiltberger's son Peter incorporated the Evergreen Cemetery in 1869. Peter Wiltberger is credited with hiring a permanent superintendent and building the main gate.
One of the cemetery's most famous residents is Gracie Watson. Born in 1883, as the child of the manager of the Pulaski House, Gracie was said to win the heart of those around her. In . At the age of 6, Gracie died of pneumonia in April 1889. The next year, sculptor John Walz carved the life-sized statue from a photograph that was placed on her grave. The statue has become a favorite of visitors to the cemetery and Gracie often has small toys or money left for her.
In 1907, the city of Savannah purchased the cemetery and renamed it Bonaventure.
In 1994, the John Berendt book Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, brought national attention to Bonaventure Cemetery. The book centers around the murder of a male prostitute by an antiquities dealer and features many historically notable Savannah residents. As a side effect of the books 216 weeks on the best seller list, the Bird Girl statue featured on the cover became a pilgrimage icon. Sculpted by Sylvia Shaw Judson in 1936, as the fourth of 4 copies, the 50 inch tall bronze statue is the image of a girl with a sad expression holding two bowls by her side. Lorraine Greenman Ganz was the eight-year-old that modeled for the statue.
In 1993, Jack Leigh was hired by Random House to create a cover image for the forthcoming book and he "discovered" the statue as part of the Trosdal family plot. Because of the statues fame, it was donated and moved to the Telfair Museum of Art in Savannah in 1997.
The Georgia State Lunatic Asylum opened on 15 December 1842
Amazing detail and sadness on this angel…
Statue of Gracie Watson
The Sylvia Shaw Judson Bird Girl statue
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