By Thomas W. Krause
Macon Telegraph Staff Writer
A group of historians and concerned residents has taken a few more steps toward securing the preservation of Macon’s Rose Hill Cemetery.
Monday, a group of about two dozen voted for an official name, adopted a mission statement and decided to partner with The Community Foundation of Central Georgia for tax-exempt status.
Jim Barfield, the chairman of the newly named Historic Rose Hill Cemetery Foundation, said organizers need to place $10,000 into a Community Foundation account. At that point, they will be able to use the Community Foundation’s tax-exempt status to drum up membership, with annual dues starting at $15. Dues will be tax deductible.
Eventually, Barfield said, the cemetery foundation will become its own tax exempt organization.
Already, Barfield said, a Macon woman has pledged to donate a large sum of money for the restoration of the cemetery gate house. She has tentatively agreed to deposit that money with the Community Foundation so the Historic Rose Hill Cemetery Foundation can get its start.
Barfield declined to name the woman until the deal is completed.
Rose Hill Cemetery, off Riverside Drive, is the heart of historic Macon. Among those buried there are three governors, two U.S. senators, one congressman, 31 mayors and more than 1,000 Confederate soldiers. Also buried there are Duane Allman and Berry Oakley, the slide guitar player and bassist for the 1970s Southern rock juggernaut The Allman Brothers Band.
During the past several decades, much of the cemetery has fallen into disrepair.
“Gravestones and fences are either toppled by age or toppled by vandalism,” said Rob Apsley, who heads the landscape and restoration committee for the cemetery foundation. “It’s almost like an archeological dig working at this site. And there are countless stories out there.”
Jack Thomas, who heads the cemetery foundation’s historical committee, said he and other volunteers have done much work in the past month or so. After surveying about half the cemetery, as many as 500 unrecorded graves were found, Thomas said.
“These are graves that were marked,” he said. “But there are a world of graves that are not marked.”
Thomas said volunteers must look over old obituaries to find the names of people buried in Rose Hill graves that are not currently marked.
Included in the group of volunteers is Candace Oakley, the sister of the late Allman Brothers’ bassist. Oakley has been a longstanding critic of vandalism at Rose Hill Cemetery. She has often been at odds with groups that publicize the cemetery as the burial site of Allman and her brother.
“It’s the marketing of the graves without protection” that Oakley said she opposes. “This group is doing something very special.”