Friday, May 13, 2011

Bonaventure Cemetery, Savannah GA, Part II of V, "Heavenly Guidance" a poem

These statues grace the entrance of Bonaventure Cemetery, Savannah GA.   They are well over 100 years old.  The cemetery was created in 1846 on the grounds of an 18th century plantation owned by John Tattnall & his son-in-law, Josiah Mullryne.  They settled adjoining land along the St. Augustine Creek between 1760 and 1765.  In 1775, they pledged their allegiance to King George III.  During the Revolutionary War, the Royal Governor, James Wright, escaped rebels by fleeing Savannah and boarding a ship from Bonaventure to the safety of England.  The Tattnall's and Mullryne's soon followed.  They were accused of treason and their land confiscated in 1782.  Mullryne died in the Bahamas in 1786, but his Tattnall's son returned saying he did not share his father's loyalist views.  He bought back the lands and introduced a new strain of sea island cotton.  He became Georgia's Governor in 1801.

Josiah Tattnall II married and had three children live to adulthood.   His wife died in 1802 and was buried with her other children in the Bonaventure family graveyard.  The following year, Josiah died in the Bahamas.  His body was brought back and buried next to his family.  His three children, Edward, Harriet and Josiah III were sent to London to be raised by their Grandfather.  In 1817 the children reclaimed Bonaventure.  Joisiah III joined the U.S. Navy in 1812 and is said to have coined the phrase "Blood is thicker than water".  He died in Savannah in 1871 and buried on the family plot.  He had sold 600 acres to Peter Wiltberger, excluding the family graveyard, but Wiltberger agreed to maintain it.  Wiltberger had plans to turn 70 acres into a public cemetery.  His son, William Wiltberger, a confederate soldier and operator of the Pulaski House, finally fulfilled his father's desire of a public cemetery at Bonaventure and in June of 1868 he formed the Evergreen Cemetery Company.   After his death, the cemetery was soon bought by the city of Savannah.

That is the "shortened" historical account of how one of America's most beautiful public resting places came about.

These are not the original entrance gates, but these stone pillars replaced very rustic looking gates early on in the cemetery's history.

It is said that many of the grand old oak trees that this cemetery is famous for were planted in the shape of the letters "M" and "T" to honor the marriage between the two families (Mullryne & Tattnall).   Bonaventure was established during the Victorian-era.  As such, it reflected the romanticized version of death that time had.  Cemeteries became more beautifully lush and became "cities of the dead" where people wanted to travel, have an afternoon stroll and picnic.

A story I love to close my eyes and imagine is that one evening while either Mullryne or his son-in-law were hosting a dinner party, a fire started in the roof and by the time it was noticed it was too late to save the house.  A servant whispered in his ear what was happening, and rather than disrupt his dinner party, he moved the dining room table outdoors to the garden in order to continue eating as they watched the house burn down.  It is said to this day, as the ghost tours love to tell, that clinking glasses and laughter can still be heard at times in the evening.

The above photo is an arch I think is particularly beautiful.  The statues usually get the majority of the attention, but this scene took my breath away.  I didn't realize it with my first post, but Johnny Mercer's grave site is just in front of this arch.  Click HERE to see a photo (not mine).

An early visitor wrote of Bonaventure:

..."This hallowed burial place is like a natural cathedral, whose columns are majestic trees; whose stained-glass is its gorgeous foliage; whose tapestries are draperies of long gray moss; whose pavement is the flowery turf; whose aisle are avenues of softened light and shade; whose monuments are these elaborate and tasteful marble shafts, which tell in simple lines the names of those who here repose in dreamless sleep."

Today people still come and enjoy the beauty and serenity that is offered here.  They walk along the paths and gaze upon the sculptors and Mother Nature's handiwork just as has been done for over 100 years.  Some sit for a while and enjoy the breeze that comes off the Wilmington River (used to be called the Warsaw River).

This is a long post, and if you enjoyed it, please come back as I have more photos and history to share. 

 The following is a poem that I created for Friday Flash 55 (a fiction story in 55 words or less) hosted by "The G-Man".  Due to the Blogger "boggle" yesterday and today there is no Fiction 55 today at his blog).      

Heavenly Guidance

For my soul
my angel does pray,
whilst from me
seldom received.

Follow, I try, the
"straight and narrow"
surely her divine
heavenly guidance
at work.

Upon my death
deserved rest
I pray
she finally achieves.

the guardian
I glimpsed
in the cemetery,

bearing sorrow
upon brow
and weary wings.

by Margaret Bednar, Art Happens, May 13, 2011


texwisgirl said...

i'm with you - i loved the arch the best.

Carol Blackburn said...

Beautiful statues, Margaret. Great shots!

Bonnie said...

Simply beautiful! The arch is spectacular.

Ginnie said...

I absolutely love that arch, too, Margaret, as well as the opening statues. There's something very inspiring about cemeteries for me, especially ones that are rich in history, like this one. Thanks for sharing.

Nan Johnson said...

Loved the arch too. And I could sit on that bench for hours I think. Love the photos w/history. Thanks for sharing!

Patty Ann said...

Love the pictures and the poem today. As always, you are amazing.

Ginnie said...

The photo of the arch in the woods takes my breath away, Margaret. This cemetery really is amazing. And I am very sure you will rest in peace when your day comes...maybe more than most!

Amy said...

The black and white photos of the angle statue are just gorgeous!

Margaret said...

Patty Ann - Thank you SO much. Really!

Ginnie - Me rest in peace? Sounds like heaven! :)

Amy - They are so old - it was neat standing under them contemplating how many people have admired (and been inspired!) by them over the years!