Bonaventure Cemetery, Savannah

I believe a city's history can be found within its cemeteries. Edwidge Danticat said about them, “I have always enjoyed cemeteries. Altars for the living as well as resting places for the dead, they are entryways, I think, to any town or city, the best places to become acquainted with the tastes of the inhabitants, both present and gone.” We certainly became acquainted with the people of Savannah during our time at Bonaventure.

Though not Savannah’s oldest cemetery, Bonaventure is certainly its most famous and hauntingly beautiful. Quintessentially Southern Gothic, it has captured the imaginations of writers, poets, naturalists, photographers and filmmakers for more than 150 years. Part natural cathedral, part sculptural garden, Bonaventure transcends time.
The cemetery became famous when it was featured in the 1994 novel Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt.
We found a variety of tributes to those who have gone before us. This was the first 'likeness' of the deceased we had found. Robert H. Anderson (1835–1888) was an infantry officer in the United States Army then a cavalry and artillery officer in the Confederate States Army during the American Civil War. After the war he served as the Chief of the Police for the city of Savannah for 23 years, and played an important role with reunification activities at his alma mater, the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York.
In 1867, John Muir while on his Thousand-Mile Walk to the Gulf sojourned for six days and nights in this cemetery, sleeping upon graves overnight, this being the safest and cheapest accommodation that he could find while he waited for money to be expressed from home. He found the cemetery breathtakingly beautiful and inspiring and wrote a lengthy chapter about it titled "Camping in the Tombs."
In 1889, six year old Gracie Watson passed away from pneumonia. As a tribute to his beautiful only child, Gracie's father had sculpture John Walz carve a monument to his little girl. It is said to be life size and a picture perfect representation of her. This hauntingly beautiful monument to Little Gracie has captivated visitors for over 100 years.

We enjoyed meeting Johnny Mercer (1909 –1976), an American lyricist, songwriter, singer and founder of Capitol Records. He wrote the lyrics to more than fifteen hundred songs, including compositions for movies and Broadway shows (many that we were surprised we knew). He received nineteen Academy Award nominations, and won four Best Original Song Oscars. The quote on the bench, near his grave reads, "Buddy I'm kind of a poet and I've gotta lotta things to say."

One grave marker that we really enjoyed was that of Conrad Potter Aiken (1889–1973), an American writer, whose work includes poetry, short stories, novels, a play, and an autobiography. According to local legend, Aiken wished to have his tombstone fashioned in the shape of a bench as an invitation to visitors to stop and enjoy a martini at his grave. Its inscriptions read "Give my love to the world," and "Cosmos Mariner—Destination Unknown."

History and beauty were found as we strolled. And to quote Christopher Wren, "My walk through the cemetery was an acquaintance with local history."

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Nick and Deb's Excellent Adventure said...

It is an amazing city for sure, so glad you went to see it! We are taking my brother in law and sister in law there when they are here!

Cyndy Brown said...

Bonaventure Cemetery is one of my favorite spots on earth. So much history and the headstone/sculptures are really amazing. So glad you got to visit!

Ken said...

Visited Savannah on the week of Labor Day 2016. We missed Johnny Mercer's grave. but we did get to see Gracie and Conrad Aiken. On a sad coincidental note, the very next day after we visited Bonaventure, The Lady Chablis passed away.

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