Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Sunbury Cemetery In Georgia

© Denise Moormeier 2013

This is a wonderful cemetery because it is basically all that is left of the once prosperous port town of Sunbury, Georgia.  Sunbury is now a famous ghost town, but it rivaled its neighbor city of Savannah at one time.  Sunbury was structured very similarly to Savannah with the town being arranged around squares, in this case there were three squares: Church, King's and Meeting.  The town was founded in 1758 and rose to prominence up until the American Revolution when it was occupied by the British and used as a place to imprison prisoners of war, one of whom was George Walton, a signer of the Declaration of Independence.  Sunbury went into decline and suffered a last blow in the Civil War as General Sherman brought his March To The Sea into town and burned down the Baptist Church.

The historical marker for Sunbury Cemetery reads, "In this Cemetery are buried men and women whose lives contributed much to the early history of Georgia.  Among these were the Rev. Wm. McWhir, D. D. and his wife. The Rev. Mr. McWhir was for 30 years Principal of the famous Sunbury Academy. Born in Ireland, September 9, 1759, he was graduated from Belfast College and was licensed to preach by the presbytery of the City. He died in Georgia, January 30, 1851.  Some burials were made in this plot in Colonial and Revolutionary Days, but most of the markers had been destroyed before 1870's."

© Denise Moormeier 2013
As one can surmise from the marker, Ireland native Rev. Dr. William McWhir is the most famous person buried here.  The Sunbury Academy became a well known higher learning center in the area under Rev. McWhir who replaced Rev. Reuben Hitchcock as headmaster.  He was an exceptional Greek and Latin scholar and well traveled throughout Europe.  Before settling in Sunbury, Rev. McWhir headed an academy in Alexandria, Virginia that boasted George Washington as a trustee.  He traveled to Florida as well to preach and helped establish Presbyterian churches in St. Augustine and Mandarin there.  He died in 1851 at 92 years of age.





© Denise Moormeier 2013
© Denise Moormeier
Only 34 grave markers remain in Sunbury Cemetery with the oldest one dating back to 1788.  The most recent is marked with the year 1911.


There are depressions throughout the grounds indicating that many more people are buried here than markers indicate.  Two families, the Dunham and Fleming-Law families, have plots encircled by iron fences. 

Lt. Charles H. Law is buried here with his grave marked by a stone donated by the United Daughters of the Confederacy.

© Denise Moormeier 2013
Georgia pioneers Rev. Samuel S. Law, who died here in 1837, and G. Law, who died in 1817, are buried here.  Rebecca was Rev. Law's first wife and passed away at only 35 years of age.
Rebecca
 
© Denise Moormeier 2013





Rev. Jacob H. Dunham preached to the poor without recompense and is considered a pioneer as well.  A smaller tombstone stands before his marker.  I'm not sure if this is for a child or a foot stone designating the end of Rev. Dunham's grave. 
© Denise Moormeier 2013
Ann H. Dunham passed away early in life at the age of  39.  I find it interesting that headstones like Ann's indicate months and days as part of the age as though every day on the earth was considered important.  In a time when life spans were not long, I can understand the desire to commemorate every day.
© Denise Moormeier 2013
The tombstone of Eliza Ann Richardson is decorated with a willow tree and an urn and she only lived until the age of eleven.  The symbol of the willow and urn came into popularity during the late 1700s and early 1800s.  The weeping willow is a symbol of grief and mourning while the urn symbolizes immortality.
© Denise Moormeier 2013
Sunbury Cemetery stands as a symbol that people once lived here and then died here and that is what reminds us that this is where history lies.
© Denise Moormeier 2013

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