Live oak festoon with Spanish moss draped carelessly from a limb. Dirt roads that lead deep into the graveyard that is the final resting place for both the famous and not so famous. A beautiful resting place for many of Georgia's historically important founders and governors, Bonaventure Cemetery makes an excellent stop on any tour of Savannah.
About Bonaventure Cemetery
It means "good fortune" in French, and it was the good fortune of John Mulryne and Josiah Tattnall that created this cemetery. Both were large landholders in Georgia, but they much more in common than owning the land that became the cemetery. Mulryne, who built the third Tybee Lighthouse in 1773, was Tattnell's father-in-law and owner of Bonaventure, his plantation home. It was a family cemetery on the plantation that formed the nucleus of the present-day Bonaventure Cemetery.
During the American Revolution both Mulryne and Tattnell declared themselves as Loyalists (loyal to the king of England). A short time later Royal Governor James Wright spent the night at Mulryne's home while on the way to meet the British fleet at Tybee Roads. He was afraid to stay at his own estate not far from Bonaventure because the Patriots might find him.
In 1777 the state "nationalized" all Torie holdings in Georgia, giving them to Patriots like John Habersham, who received Mulryne's Bonaventure. During the Siege of Savannah the estate was used by the French Admiral Valerie D'estaing as a hospital. Josiah Tattnall Jr., son of Josiah Tattnall returned home and purchased the land from Habersham.
Tattnall continued to use the family burial ground established by Mulryne, And was buried next to his wife when he died at the age of 38. When his son Commander Josiah Tattnall III sold the property in 1848 roughly 70 acres were set aside as a cemetery.
When Naturalist John Muir wrote about Bonaventure Cemetery in his 1867 book A Thousand Mile Walk to the Gulf, it was mostly the family cemetery today known as "Old Bonaventure."
Beginning n 1868 plots in privately-held Evergreen Cemetery were sold. In 1907 the city purchased the cemetery and renamed it Bonaventure, in honor of the former owner's home.
In 1994 interest in the cemetery peaked with the publication of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, a quirky murder mystery partly set in the historic cemetery. The 1997 Clint Eastwood film of the same title featured scenes filmed in the "New Bonaventure Cemetery."
Visiting Bonaventure Cemetery
On a cool winter morning we pulled into Bonaventure, looking for some of the more famous people who are buried here. Johnny Mercer is probably the most famous, at least to the "fifty-something" crowd, and Conrad Aiken to those a few years older. Civil War buffs can find the graves of Claudius Charles Wilson, involved in the early skirmishing along the Chickamauga River that precipatated the battle of Chickamauga. Josiah Tattnall, captain of the Confederate Navy who returned after the war to Savannah, and Henry Rootes Jackson, the lawyer/poet who had a successful military career until his capture at Nashville in 1864.
Founders buried at the cemetery include Noble Wimberly Jones, who was an early radical Patriot in the American Revolution, and Edward Telfair (grave pictured above), an active Patriot who went on to become governor.
Additionally, a small section of the cemetery is designated as a veteran's cemetery.
Location: North of U. S. 80 on east side of Savannah
Directions: Take U. S. 80 east of Savannah. 1.0 miles after Skidaway Avenue turn left on Whatley Road. As Whatley turns right and becomes Fennel St., Bonaventure Road is a slight left. In a mile, the cemetery is on the right.
330 Bonaventure Rd.
Savannah, GA 31404
Date added: January 5, 2004
Last update: January 30, 2004
Other Attractions in Savannah
Historic Squares of Savannah
Old Fort Jackson
Marietta National Cemetery
Alta Vista (Altavista) Cemetery
Marietta Confederate Cemetery
Jonesboro Confederate Cemetery
Dalton Cemetery (West Hill)
Christ Church (Christ Episcopal Church)