Ted O. Brooke leads a tour of the Cumming Historic Cemetery. Colleen Bell. (click for larger version)
June 11, 2014CUMMING, Ga. — The city of Cumming's landscape is changing. With a new courthouse and jail being built alongside new parking lots, a city hall and county administration buildings, there is a lot going on.
But a few things have remained as a reminder of the city's history.
The Cumming Cemetery is one of them.
My wife Colleen and I stopped by the Cumming Cemetery recently. We've lived in the county for seven years, but never set time aside to stroll the historic grounds located on Resthaven Street and Ga. 9 across from the Dairy Queen on West Maple Street.
We left with more questions than when we arrived, so I contacted Cumming-based researcher Ted O. Brooke, who wrote the book, "Cumming Historic Cemetery."
Brooke agreed to walk the grounds with us, which include many of the county's earliest families — names that many newcomer residents would only recognize as street names.
The cemetery was established in 1834. In 1840, it became the First Baptist Church's cemetery, serving both them and the Presbyterian Church. Both churches were disbanded before the War for Southern Independence, commonly known as The Civil War.
The earliest grave in the cemetery is Matilda Willingham, who died Jan. 8, 1828, but Brooke said this grave was likely moved here as the area of Cumming was not yet settled.
A marker at the entrance of the cemetery notes that Moses Whitsett was the first person buried on the property. Some of Cumming's earliest leaders are William H. Ray, the first clerk of Court of Ordinary (now Probate Court); Almon G. Hutchins, clerk of Inferior Court in Forsyth County and state senator; E.C. McAfee, sheriff and state representative; and Col. Hiram Parks Bell.
Bell, who died in 1907, was probably the most accomplished person to hail from Cumming, Brooke notes.
"He was a Georgia senator in 1861 and 1862 and was a delegate to the Georgia Secession Convention in 1861," Brooke said.
In addition, Bell, whose statue is located at the entrance of Cumming City Hall, was a colonel in the 43rd Regiment of the Georgia Infantry, a Confederate representative, a highly regarded attorney, commander of the United Confederate Veterans Camp in Cumming and the last surviving member of the Confederate Congress.
Genealogist and author John Salter, of Cumming, who wrote "Forsyth County, Georgia, Cemeteries," agrees that Bell is the most notable.
"Many of the city leaders have been buried there," Salter said. "Unfortunately, the jail next door has been an eyesore, but with the new buildings, it will improve the outlook."
During the tour, we noted the 36 documented and marked Confederate soldiers buried there.
Also buried are Charles J. Brannon, who built the historic Brannon Hotel in 1906; John J. Lovelady, whose marker is inscribed with the words "a mute;" and sisters Mrs. Ella N. Beck and Miss Addie E. Bailey.
The sisters' marker is inscribed: "Ella and Addie were murdered at Clayton, Rabun Co., Ga., on the night of Oct. 28, 1884 by Eugene W. Beck, Ella's intemperate husband."
According to an account published in the Gainesville Herald, Addie Bailey was engaged at the time, Brooke said. "They were killed with a pistol by Eugene Beck, husband of Ella, apparently while in a drunken state," Brooke said. "The remorseful Mr. Beck died in Rabun County jail."
Some memorable last words inscribed on markers include, "I am ready, let me go," marked on Geo. Truman Edmondson's grave. And Eugenia Kemp Hughes', "I am so happy."
"Cumming Historic Cemetery" by Ted O. Brooke.
This 59-page book ($6) contains an indexed survey of this cemetery and a diagram for a walking tour. For more information, visit www.tedobrooke.com.
"Forsyth County, Georgia, Cemeteries" by John Salter.
This 663-page book ($60) contains more than 23,000 inscriptions from more than 90 cemeteries in Forsyth County.
Email GAancestors@bellsouth.net with questions or visit www.gaancestors.com to download an order form.
Ted O. Brooke next to the marker for the Cumming Historic Cemetery in downtown.
The Cumming Historic Cemetery has some of the county's earliest settlers.