Updated: May 1, 2021
Bonaventure Cemetery is located just miles outside downtown historic Savannah, Georgia near the Wilmington River. It is famous for its feature in the novel Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, by John Berendt, and in the movie directed by Clint Eastwood. The cover of the book features a plaster cast statue “sad girl”. This statue was one of the original four statues made. It was bought by a Savannah, Georgia family and was renamed “Little Wendy” and placed on a family plot at the cemetery. It has since been relocated to Telfair Museum. But this cemetery is so much more than that.
There is so much history in this cemetery. Bonaventure was ordinally part of a private 600-acre plantation owned by Colonel John Mullryne. This plot of land was owned by various people including Commodore Josiah Tattnall III as well as Peter Willberger. It then later became the property of the City of Savannah.
I am intrigued by the history of life and death. Often when I visit a cemetery, I begin with praying for the souls inside, the families they left behind and for peace. I ask them for permission to visit and to learn. I do this as a sign of respect. I do not ever want a family or friend to think I am dishonoring someone.
In this cemetery, there are an array of soldiers from the civil war. You can easily spot these by a metal Southern Cross of Honor which is displayed with their headstone. There are several solders of various ranks from various wars. There is also a section K that is dedicated to the veterans who were killed in the Spanish-American war. These soldiers were from Worth Bagley Camp #10. There is a section dedicated to railroad conductors as well as a Jewish section. Located inside the Jewish section is a stone that reads “Here Lieth ta third of the ashes of 344 cremated sacred souls, victims of the Nazis.” Other burial plots throughout the cemetery are those of an actress, actor, couple of authors, a governor, song writer, a sculptor, and a Little Gracie Watson (who’s gravesite became famous by a statue her father had designed and built by John Walz (who is also buried in this cemetery) along with individuals that led somewhat of a simple life.
I have come to learn that we all enter life the same and we all die the same, it’s how we lived in between that makes us who we are.
I chose Bonaventure because of the history. When you enter the gates of the cemetery, the history seems to come to life. The people buried here are that of so many lifestyles and different time periods. Many of the plots are from the 1800’s to current. But as you make your way toward the back of the cemetery, you enter what looks to be a town of burial plots. Each section is bordered by little dirt roads. Some monuments are big and glorious, while some are as simple as a wooden cross. As I walked the dirt roads and read the headstones, I pondered on what type of life that individual lived. What battles of life did they have to fight through? What was their family like? Oh, the history these souls could tell if we would only listen.
Although, I am not a historian and there is way more history about this cemetery than I will ever learn, I find it a very engrossing place to visit while living in or visiting Savannah, Georgia.