ROSE HILL RAMBLES

INTRODUCTION

In 1977, the late John J. McKay, Jr., President Emeritus of the Middle Georgia Historical
Society, and Calder W. Payne, a member, conceived the idea of walking tours through historic Rose
Hill Cemetery. Spring and fall Rambles were conducted that year and have continued to this date,
1985. They began by being offered to the membership of the society but it seemed to appeal to the
general public and now, in addition to the two Rambles, private ones are conducted for garden
clubs and other organizations.

Rose Hill Cemetery was founded in 1840 and is one of the few cemeteries on the national
Register of Historic Places, due largely to the continuing effort of Mr. McKay who was the guiding
light of the society for so many years. This is Macon's third cemetery; the first, across the
Ocmulgee River near fort Hawkins, known as Fort Hill Cemetery. Then when Macon was founded
on this side of the river in 1825 a plot was set aside on Seventh Street, now in an industrial area.
The town grew and the mayor and council decided another burying ground was needed so a com-
mittee was named consisting of Simri Rose, Jerry Cowles, J. Williams, and Isaac Scott. They
selected this spot, approximately sixty-five acres "above the city on the banks of the Ocmulgee",
to quote the history books, and set about planning the carriageways, plots, and planting many
trees and shrubs, some of which were imported. Mr. Simri Rose was most active in this work and
patterned the cemetery after Mount Auburn in Massachusetts, a garden-type cemetery. Some of
his trees are still here and we can assume that he planted the two great Cypress trees down near
the College Street entrance. Because of his great contribution, mayor and council voted to name
the cemetery for him, calling it Rose Hill, and gave him his choice of lots. He selected a spot down
near the river which you will see on more than one of these tours. Bear in mind, the railroad did not
come through for many years after the cemetery was founded. I doubt he would have selected that
spot had he known. The terraces you will see throughout Rose Hill are reminiscent of northern
Italy. There are three governors, two United States Senators and a Congressman and at least
thirty-one city mayors buried here. There is a section devoted to the graves of some six hundred
Confederate soldiers who died in this area; there are six Hebrew burial plots; St. Joseph Catholic
Cemetery is also within the confines of Rose Hill.

The map will show you the different sections and the Rambles can be easily followed on
the map.

Rose Hill sustained tremendous damage in the 1954 tornado and continues to suffer at the
hands of vandals. The Middle Georgia Historical Society, with proceeds from the Rambles and con-
tributions from interested friends, has restored some one hundred monuments, headstones and
other types of memorials but the vandalism continues. In July, 1984 great damage was done to
the John Jones Gresham lot by unknown parties. Mr. Gresham was twice mayor of Macon, a
pioneer in the field of free schools and a highly regarded citizen. Fortunately, we have been able to
put the pieces together and the monument stands again but it will never be the same because of
chipped and cracked areas. It was at this time that the Police Department and the Sheriff's Office
began what they called "Operation Ghostbusters" in Rose Hill and I am happy to say that very
little vandalism has been found in recent months.



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