The Game of Musical Cemeteries

So the year is 1950 and there are plans and excitement to beginning Buford Dam. No doubt there is work, growth and the promise of a bright future with hydroelectric power, economic and recreational opportunities. Like Allatoona Dam and lake, graves and hsitoric sits are the victim like Etowah, Georgia.

Another site states. “The government would buy up over 50,000 acres of prime farmland and pristine wilderness, moving more than 250 families, 15 businesses, and even relocating 20 cemeteries along with their corpses in the process. As the nooks and crannies of the mountain foothills filled with surging water,” Mysteries and Death at Georgia’s Cursed Lake Brent Swancer 



Buford Dam groundbreaking ceremony, March 1, 1950. A huge crowd gathered for the ceremonies on a high, windy bluff overlooking the Chattahoochee River. When completed, the dam would impound the waters of Lake Sidney Lanier.


One such cemetery was the Barry Hutchin’s Burial ground as mentioned in Find A Grave below. “Thomas Burford’s Revolutionary Soldier  grave is not in the New Bethany Baptist Church main cemetery but is located behind the church in a special place with 50 others, These graves were moved by the Corp of Engineers from their original site when Lake Lanier was formed. There is a stone monument inscribed with these words: [IN MEMORIAM SITE G “51 GRAVES MOVED IN 1965 FROM BARRY HUTCHINS BURIAL GROUND WITHIN BURFORD DAM AND RESERVOIR PROJECT.” ERECTED BY CORPS OF ENGINEERS, U. S. ARMY] Note: birth date is not on tombstone. 

Bio by: William Carlton Wade”


So many of these graves were moved. My personal experience was with a cemetery located off Buford Hwy between Flowery Branch and Oakwood on Buford Hwy, Many years ago i remember the cemetery nestled between many trees a large oak tree, a rock wall and a marker like the one below. However the memory I had was drastically changed by a builder, I had no memory of the cemetery looking like this.


“This is the relocated Thompson Cemetery that was moved when Lake Lanier was built in 1957. All the markers were moved by Edgar Brown Dunlap Jr. to his property on Dunlap Drive, off Thompson Bridge Rd. No bodies were moved, only the markers. In 2013 the traditional surrounding fence was removed, and the markers were moved and laid flat into a large circle level with the ground. All markers have been photographed and uploaded to FindAGrave. The cemetery is a small lot in a residential area.″

From 2013 we fast forward the development to this story in the Gainesville times.


The developer wants to move the already moved cemetery another 40 feet. So these families have moved from Lake Lanier. Their graves or their markers were moved again in 2013 and will be moved again in 2019. It seems to me our dead get around a lot better than we think, They get junk mail for many years after they die. Many still receive Social Security with the help from their siblings. They vote regularly showing up on many absentee ballots. It then should not be surprising that they would travel from time to time.


I attended the council meeting along with a Wes Hulsey, a South Carolina Resident and descendant. Along with several family members blindsided by what was going on. They wanted to move the graves 40 feet to deal with a development already 80 percent complete.

The two dozen graves include members of the Thompson family, one of Hall County’s founding families, WSB-TV reported . Hulsey says the bodies of two slaves from the early 19th century also are buried there. The known dates of death for the people buried there are from 1854 to 1916.

Their original resting place was in the basin of what is now Lake Lanier. The bodies were moved to the lakefront property in 1957, according to a report by Southeastern Archeological Services Inc. They are among at least 769 graves from 25 cemeteries that were moved from what’s now the lake basin when the giant man-made reservoir was being created, the report states.

Ok so here is the problems in a nutshell.

  1. Is moving the graves necessary? The builders argued the graves were already vandalized as in the Find A grave comment above.

2. How did we get to this point? Do we do inspections and review plots do determine if your encroaching on a cemetery? Why was Hall County not aware?

 3. How can you build close to a cemetery, claim you have ancestors buried there and not be concerned about the cemetery? Well of course you own the house.

4. If you move the cemetery 40 feet will in be in the public right of way endangered to be encroached on again? 

The last meeting I attended was November 18, 2019. The families and the developer reached an agreement. While that was great the problem still remains. Many cities and counties do not have a cemetery or historical preservation plan. I told the Hall County Planning Committee they needed one. As you may see with some counties they simply don’t care. So its up to you and I to respond when we see a problem and someone getting too close to a histrionic cemetery or site. We live in a disposable world. History is more of an inconvenience than a teacher.

Odessadale, Georgia


I would like to include a picture of Odessa if I find one.

I am sharing a lot from Facebook and this story comes from Vanishing West Georgia

Odessadale, GA. (Between Mountville and Greenville, GA), on Hwy. 109, take Harman Rd. The town was named for a well known resident, Odessa Jane Thompson. It was once a thriving town with a bustling business center, all due to the railroad that came thru that town. The Macon and Birmingham Railroad was built nearby in 1890 and shortly thereafter, Odessadale began to boom. The most important local business was the granite quarry. The railroad built a spur track to the quarry and granite was shipped to cities all over the SE United States. Elm St. was the main business section of Odessadale and it had a drug store, post office, a cotton warehouse, a blacksmith shop, a cotton gin and seed house, a jail and a doctor had an office there. Tragedy struck in 1908, when lightning struck a building and killed the town’s only doctor, Dr. Charles Evans Stipe. Tragedy had struck once earlier in Odessadale in 1893 when a tornado destroyed their school.
Schools and churches were built. The Odessadale Methodist Church was built in 1897 and the original building still stands today, with services twice a month.
All looked promising for Odessadale until the Macon & Birmingham railroad closed in 1927. Businesses started closing and the business center on Elm St. had vacant buildings and others were torn down for the lumber. One building, the J.A. Glanton general store, was built on Elm Street and opened in 1891, but later moved by Claude Harman’s grandfather and great uncle nearby to Cedar Hill farm of the Harman family and it remained open until the 1950s, mostly serving the employees of the Harman family who worked on their large farm. That J.A. Glanton general store building that was moved to Cedar Hill is the only remaining commercial building left from the main business district in Odessadale.
Information from the Brooks of Honey & Butter by William Davidson and the Historical Account of Meriwether County by Regina Pinkston.


Odessadale & Greenville, GA. By popular demand, I am reprinting this post from 2017.
Around 8:30 PM on the evening of March 3, 1893, a lightning storm came up in the Greenville area and the lightning was almost continuous, according to one resident. The lightning was scary, but what happened next was much worse. The tornado that had first hit Mountville in Troup County, continued eastward hitting Odessadale and destroying their school, had finally reached Greenville.
This tornado had such strength that it practically devastated Greenville, according to historical accounts. The 1832 brick courthouse in the town square and the jail were damaged beyond repair. The courthouse roof was gone and the western side collapsed, leaving only a pile of bricks. 170 out of the 175 homes in Greenville were damaged, some heavily damaged and beyond repair, according to other accounts of the storm. Amazingly, only one person was killed in Greenville, but many were injured. Six members of the Wright family survived the collapse of their home and crawled out of the wreckage. Tom Keener gave an account that he fled to the jail, thinking the stone walls would offer shelter from the storm, but the door was locked and he could not enter. Having no other options and with the storm upon him, Tom held on to the jail door knob and even though the storm lifted him off the ground several times, he was able to hang on and survived being blown away. Greenville Town Marshall Ab Fuller reported he pulled up an iron manhole cover and survived by being below ground level. The Greenville Post Office was completely blown away. On the north side of Court Square, it was reported that all buildings were completely flattened. The tornado continued on eastward and heavily damaged Molena, GA.
The devastation the following morning was everywhere to be seen. To make matters worse, after the storm, the temperature fell sharply overnight and survivors awoke the next morning to a landscape covered with icy frost and then snow began to fall. It was reported that many residents only had the night gowns they were dressed in the following morning, all their possessions were blown away or under a pile of debris. The offices of the Meriwether Vindicator newspaper were totally destroyed, but the Columbus Ledger Enquirer offered to print editions for them until they could get re-established. The Greenville Baptist and Presbyterian Churches were heavily damaged, but the Methodist Church suffered less damage and was usable and offered use of their church in the interim to the Baptists and Presbyterians.
Due to the timing of the storm, many farmers could not plant crops in the spring of 1893 due to the disruption caused by the tornado, and since this was primarily an agricultural area, this had serious financial consequences for Greenville. No Greenville family was left untouched by this natural disaster.
Local churches appealed to their state or regional offices, Greenville desperately needed help. Appeals went out to nearby towns and the state capitol in Atlanta and a special center was set up in Greenville to receive supplies and food as it streamed in from surrounding areas by railroad and wagon. Out of town carpenters and contractors came to help with the rebuilding. Insurance agents streamed in to assess the damage for claims. The Meriwether County Commissioners began discussions about a new courthouse and jail. The long process of rebuilding Greenville and the surrounding area had begun. The school was rebuilt first in 1893, then the new jail was completed 3 years later in 1896. The new courthouse was the last to be built and it was completed in 1903.
This terrible tornado is the reason many structures in Greenville date to after 1893. A fire had ravaged many older wooden buildings around the square in 1891, so many of those replacement buildings were badly damaged by the 1893 tornado. Within 10 years the town of Greenville was virtually rebuilt from the ground up. Greenville, GA, is the town a terribly destructive tornado could not destroy.
Historical accounts in this article are from of the Historical Account of Meriwether County by Regina Pinkston and Brooks of Honey and Butter by William Davidson.



Reference Facebook Vanishing West Georgia