Thursday, March 16, 2017

Macon, Georgia History Comes “Alive” with a visit to Rose Hill Cemetery & Antebellum Homes

We visited Macon, Georgia a couple of years ago.  We so enjoyed our driving “tour” last time that we were looking forward to coming again to visit. 
This year we had the added treat of getting to visit George’s cousin, Mike Kirk.  They had not seen each other for almost 28 years, so we knew there would be more catching up to do than our time allowed.  We met Mike at a local pub for a delicious lunch.  We shared stories of the journeys of our lives.  His life journey has taken him to several states across the country.  He is a now a hair dresser in Macon.  I am sure this will be a relationship that we will continue to maintain, as we all really enjoyed our time.
After lunch Mike jumped in the backseat of our Jeep and took us on a driving tour of Macon.
Mike first took us through a Historic Cemetery, Rose Hill Cemetery.  We knew from the large Arch at the entrance, this is no ordinary cemetery; it is special from the first view. 

Rose Hill Cemetery was designed to be a paradise-like garden; a place that one could spend an eternity in a beauty.  In general being buried in this cemetery was saved for the “rich and famous” of the day.  Design for Rose Hill began in 1839.  It was designed around the elegance and romance of a Victorian age.

Rose Hill is located near the Ocmulgee River.  Being located on the river provides a beautiful tranquil place to bury a loved family member.  However, being located on a river presents water, flooding problems. 

I cannot say it any better than the account that was published in the Macon Telegraph & Messenger newspaper on October 7, 1881 and provides a vivid description of the Cemetery at its peak:
“Probably the most naturally beautiful of all spots in Georgia, is Rose Hill Cemetery, situated on the west bank of the Ocmulgee River, in the city of Macon. This celebrated burial place was laid out in 1840, … The land hilly, rolling and densely wooded, broken up into beautiful valleys and slopes, and covered in many places by a heavy carpeting of ivy. Art has assisted nature greatly in beautifying the place, the numerous springs have been walled in, and the little branches ornamented with rustic bridges. Costly monuments and the well-kept yards are prolific of flowers and choice shrubbery. No stranger has ever visited this spot without receiving impressions of its loveliness that lingers long after the solemnity of the surroundings has faded from his mind.”

The uniqueness, beauty and tranquility of Rose Hill provided a place for people to share a picnic or enjoy a leisurely walk.  
This description is as true today as it was in 1881.  Today the history is a significant part of what make Rose Hill a special/unique place.  There were large family Mausoleum and Crypts throughout the cemetery.  I am sure this was a huge status symbol of the day.  We saw several that had birthdate's in the 17 and 1800's.

The roads are VERY narrow and winding.  They were built originally for carriages and not meant for motorized vehicles.  Our Jeep did fine, but anything more than that would have been a challenge.
The winding roads led us through steep green hills.  

The hills were peppered with old and new graves.  Giant trees and flowering bushes accessorize the landscape.  There were family sections that were set apart with ornate black iron fencing. 

This cemetery has made it through tornadoes, floods, a railroad rerouting, vagrants and vandals.  All of these things changed the landscape and feel of Rose Hill.  Although it is still a cherished Historic cemetery, it is no longer place for weekly gathering.  People just do not share lunch at the local cemetery any more… go figure. 

I am sure a major impact on the peacefulness of Rose Hill is the addition Railroad and then finally of Interstate 75 and Instate 16.  Although, we were enjoying the beauty; it was periodically interrupted by frantic sounds of traffic.

We left the cemetery and drove around looking at several Antebellum Homes of days gone by.  These homes help me imagine the grand lifestyles of some of the wealthy people from historic Macon. 

These homes stand majestically as an example of the opulence of some.  I love to imagine men in top hats and women in flowing hoop skirts.  Horse carriages would carry people to and from social events of the day.  And then… it happens… I am snapped out of my perfect dream world to remember… with horse drawn carriages come horses… and their ----. 
These plantation-style homes have an elegance that represents a lost time—a slower time.  The houses greet visitors with large columns, shutters framing the windows along with porches that allowed afternoon tea and lemonade with friends and neighbors.   Each house is different with distinct architectural features.
My imagination goes crazy here.  The truth is: very few were wealthy enough to own these homes and these homes may have been maintained because of servants and slaves, the women wore corsets and the men wore wool year round.   They lived without air conditioning and TV and imagine… no Internet or phones.  However, a lady can dream. J

We drove away from Macon, having had a perfect day.  The weather was nice, reconnecting with family was so fun and our private tour around Macon was so special.

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