JOHNS CREEK, Ga. – The graves of some of Johns Creek’s oldest founding individuals are largely forgotten except as targets for vagrants and vandals, but a small group of residents want to change all that.
The Macedonia African Methodist Church has left little if any records behind except for the graves of its members. Fulton County tore down the abandoned church building and tended the 2-acre property on Medlock Bridge Road for a few years until Johns Creek attained cityhood.
Today, all that remains of the church is the cemetery, and vandals have knocked over most of the gravestones. But it was obviously attended with care in its day.
The cemetery gained some attention in the late 1990s, when developers came knocking to the Fulton County Board of Commissioners. Residents in the neighborhood fighting more retail development brought it to the commissioners’ attention that the old cemetery was still there.
That ended the rezoning attempts, and Fulton County placed the property under an easement, then cleaned up the property to some extent.
Kirk Sirkisian was one of those residents fighting the rezoning back then. He said Fulton County retained stewardship of the property until Johns Creek became a city, but since then, it has suffered from neglect.
“Twenty years ago, the cemetery was very different,” he said. “Now most of the headstones have been knocked down and some simply stolen. It has really been neglected.”
John Bradberry and Joan Compton are two people who want to change that. Bradberry has formed a new group called Preserve Johns Creek and Compton is attempting to organize a Johns Creek Historical Society.
Bradberry, Compton, Sirkisian and Autrey Mill Nature Preserve and Heritage Center founding board member Judy Webb met at the cemetery to begin organizing efforts to clean up the cemetery and find an entity that would be willing to take on the job keeping it up.
Just last week, Johns Creek Community Development Director Sharon Ebert approached Autrey Mill Nature Preserve’s board about taking on oversight of the cemetery. But the Autrey Mill board told the city oversight of its own 46 acres was about all it could handle.
Bradberry said he had been thinking about a Preserve Johns Creek organization for some time to foment more interest in the vanishing landmarks of the city. Likewise, Compton wants people to take an interest in the history of the area and the people who settled here.
Bradberry became interested in the cemetery doing research on a property he bought on Waters Road. There he heard about one April Waters, a freed slave who was buried there and who had figured in a historical legal case in the 1850s.
Because she was an historical figure and her tombstone was in the graveyard, it provides the provenance to put the cemetery on the National Registry of Historical Places, Bradberry said.
“But there needs to be a lot of work done,” he said.
Webb, whose own roots grow deep in Johns Creek, says she can help find old records that might help. Compton is adding her own historical research.
Sirkisian showed up to say he knows where the April Waters headstone has been placed for “safekeeping.”
“It is the Rosetta Stone for getting the cemetery on the registry,” Sirkisian said.
And that is as far as the story has gotten. A new generation of residents aided by long-time residents are beginning a journey. The dead can wait. It is for the living to act.