Oakland Cemetery
Synopsis: This antebellum cemetery, the first Atlanta or City Cemetery, contains the graves of many notable people, known and unknown Confederate soldiers, with sections of African-Americans and people of the Jewish faith. Its central location makes it an easy drive from almost anywhere within the city limits. In 1976 this Atlanta landmark was added to the National Register of Historic Places.

Confederate monument at Oakland CemeteryAtlanta began as a village at the terminus of the Georgia Railroad and the Western and Atlantic Railroad in 1837. This rowdy area of rail hands and prostitutes began to become more civilized in the 1840's (History of Atlanta through 1850). In 1850 the city left its rowdy past. One of the first acts of this newly civilized town was the purchase of a 6-acre plot for the city cemetery. Since that time the famous and not-so-famous people of Atlanta have been buried here.

Over the next 17 years City Cemetery increased to its present 88 acres of the gently rolling plains east of Atlanta. In 1872 the cemetery acquired the name Oakland, for the numerous oak trees on the property. The final plots were sold in the late 1800's; Westview Cemetery was the site for future interments. In 1896 the distinctive entrance was added at the corner of Oakland and Hunter (Hunter St. has since been renamed to honor Dr. Martin Luther King).

Jasper Smith guards the entrance to Oakland
Jasper "Jack" Smith guards the entrance to Oakland Cemetery
The original dirt "roads" through the cemetery have been bricked and paved and the low-cut vegetation has grown, but the land itself is remarkably similar to the way the land looked in the last half of the 1800's. As you enter from Oakland Avenue the original six acres are viewed first. Off to the right the unique mausoleum of Jasper "Jack" Smith, whose likeness atop the entrance to the structure keeps watch on visitors to the cemetery. Buried here are some of influential people of early Atlanta, six Georgia governors (including John B. Gordon and Joseph E. Brown), 24 mayors of the city, and many senators and representatives on the state and national level.

The Lion of AtlantaWest of the original cemetery is the Confederate section, introduced by a obelisk that stands some 65 feet tall known as the "Confederate Memorial (pictured at top of page)." Made of granite from Stone Mountain, when it was erected it was the tallest building in Atlanta. It was fittingly dedicated on Confederate Memorial Day, April 26, 1874. The area includes the stunning "Lion of Atlanta," which honors the unknown Confederate dead buried there. More than 3,000 unknown Rebels and 16 Yanks are interred here. This beautiful memorial is a must-see. It was dedicated on April 26, 1894.

Among the famous Confederates buried here:

  • Alexander Hamilton "Little Aleck" Stephens, who served as vice-president of the Confederacy (he was later disinterred and reinterred at his home in Crawfordville, GA)
  • General Clement Anselm Evans, a Methodist minister who wrote "Confederate Military History"
  • General Alfred Iverson
  • Senator Benjamin Harvey "Ben" Hill
  • Anthony Murphy and William Fuller
Murphy and Fuller were W&ARR employees who pursued Yankee spies after they stole "The General" from the depot at Big Shanty in what became known as "The Great Locomotive Chase".

Among the noted Atlantans buried here are Margeret Mitchell, whose grave has a view of the tall towers of the city she made famous in Gone With The Wind and golfing great Robert T. "Bobby" Jones.

Included in the cemetery is a "Potter's Field," where indigent people or unclaimed bodies were buried by Atlanta. This plot now contains more than 17,000 interments with a single monument. Once the cemetery was completely filled some wealthier people were interred here.

Prior to the War Between the States slaves were buried in what is today referred to as "The Black Section." These slaves were identified by their name and the name of their owner. After the Civil War African-Americans continued to be buried here. Among the notables in this section is Wesley John Gaines, a bishop in the African Methodist Episcopal Church who played an important role in the development of Morris Brown College, real estate investment broker Antoine Graves. Carrie Steele (Logan), whose legacy continues today with the Carrie Steele-Pitts Home, and free Black dentist Roderick Badger.

Although only a small number of Jewish families lived in the city after the Civil War the cemetery has a Jewish section. In addition to Morris Rich, founder of Rich's Department Stores, this section also contains the grave of Dr. Joe Jacobs, whose pharmacy is well-known to Atlantans. It is the spot where Coca-Cola was invented.

Oakland Cemetery
248 Oakland Av.,
Atlanta, GA, 30312

Location: Memorial Drive and Boulevard
Directions: From Atlanta, take I-20 east to Boulevard. Turn left (north) on Boulevard and travel 1.1 miles. Turn left on Memorial, then right on Oakland Avenue. The entrance is on the right.
Additional information:
Phone: 404.658.6019
Date added: November 16, 2003
Last update: December 6, 2003

Other Attractions in Atlanta
Tour of Turner Field
Coca-Cola bottle at Turner Field
Margaret Mitchell House
The Cyclorama
Zoo Atlanta
Harry's Farmers Market
Atlanta Braves Hall of Fame Museum
World of Coca Cola
Carter Library and Museum
Ray's On The River
Phillips Arena

Cemetery Listing
Marietta National Cemetery
Alta Vista (Altavista) Cemetery
Marietta Confederate Cemetery
Jonesboro Confederate Cemetery
Cassville Cemetery
Dalton Cemetery (West Hill)
Resaca Cemetery
Myrtle Hill
Bonaventure Cemetery
Christ Church (Christ Episcopal Church)
Midway Cemetery

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Interesting Places in Georgia (main index)

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