Before Sonny Seiler’s white English Bulldogs, known as the Ugas, came to prominence as the most recognizable collegiate mascots in the nation in 1956, there was Mr. Angel.
Mr. Angel was the first English bulldog to serve as the mascot for the University of Georgia. The brindle-and-white bulldog was owned by Dr. Warren A. Coleman of Eastman and served the school from 1944-1946, while Coleman’s daughter, Marie Coleman Wilson, was enrolled at the University.
Dr. Coleman’s home was located on the site of the present-day Magnolia State Bank in downtown Eastman, and upon his death, Mr. Angel was buried in the yard, hence the location of this monument at the site. The marker notes of Mr. Angel: His beautiful appearance and captivating personality inspired the athletes of the University of Georgia to insist English bulldogs remain as the school’s representative…
Mascot Trivia: Before Mr. Angel, the first known mascot to serve the University of Georgia was “The Goat”, who made appearances at two football games during the 1892 season. The first dog to serve as mascot was a Bull Terrier named Trilby, in 1894. After Mr. Angel, and before the Ugas, three other brindle bulldogs served: Butch, Tuffy, and Mike.
Oakview and the adjacent Riverside Cemetery make up the largest historic burial ground in Albany. I’m presenting just a few of the monuments which I found aesthetically appealing, in no particular order. One could spend a whole day here exploring the wide array of Victorian monuments.
“Pattie’s Grave” is perhaps the best-loved monument in Oak Hill. My taphophile friend, Cynthia Jennings, told me that it was a must-see and it didn’t disappoint. Pattie was the nickname of Martha Dillon Wright Jones. The monument features an angel of white Italian marble housed in a Gothic steeple enclosure. Little is known of Pattie, but the monument notes that she married Columbia County native Edwin Thomas Jones (22 May 1831-1 September 1867) at Appling, Georgia, on 4 April 1850. Jones would later serve as Lieutenant of Company E, 4th Georgia Infantry. It further notes that Pattie “died at the plantation of her husband…in Dougherty County”. The monument is an indication that he was deeply saddened by her early death.
Edward Vason Jones, scion of a prominent Albany family, was one of the most noted Georgia architects of his time and a member of the Georgia School of Classicism led by J. Neel Reid. Originally schooled in dentistry, he abandoned it in favor of architecture in 1936, and soon joined the Atlanta firm of Hentz, Reid, and Adler. He briefly designed ships for the Navy in World War II at Savannah. After the war he opened his own firm in Albany. His renovations of the Diplomatc Reception Rooms of the U. S. State Department between 1965-1980 were well-received and one of those rooms is now known as the Edward Vason Jones Memorial Hall. He also oversaw renovations in the White House during the Nixon, Ford, and Carter administrations. Other significant work include Gillionville Plantation, the Mississippi Governor’s Mansion, and numerous residential commissions throughout the South.
This Classical monument adorns the grave of Edward Vason Jones’s beloved daughter Nella. It is said to have been modeled after one of similar design in Savannah’s Bonaventure Cemetery, which was destroyed by a storm in recent years.
This is one of six nearly identical markers, made of local stone, in an eight-grave lot surrounded by coping of the same construction.
The figurative monuments of the Bell sisters, daughters of William S. and Texas Sheffield Bell, are typical of the Victorian era, when child mortality rates were nearly 33% higher than they are today.
The monuments honoring two of the children of Dr. Palaemon L Hilsman and Ella G. Rust Hilsman are more examples of Victorian child mortality. Even in a family of doctors, the Hilsman children weren’t immune from early deaths.
The Greek Revival mausoleum of the Samuel Bernard Brown family [founder of the Exchange National Bank], in the Jewish section, is one of the finest in Oakview.
Tomlinson Fort was Regents Professor and Chair of the Mathematics Department at the University of Georgia for many years. His son followed his footsteps to academia and chaired the Chemical Engineering departments of Carnegie Mellon and Vanderbilt universities. The Forts were descendants of Warrenton-born Tomlinson Fort (1787-1859; buried at Memory Hill in Milledgeville), an early Georgia medical doctor who helped establish the Medical College of Georgia and the State Lunatic Asylum. He was also a member of the Georgia legislature and the United States Houses of Representatives.
John Porter Fort was the son of Congressman Tomlinson Fort. He dug the first artesian well in South Georgia and was an early booster of the apple industry in North Georgia. An early agricultural scientist, he was awarded a “Doctor of Science” by the University of Georgia.
Nelson Tift, a native of Groton, Connecticut, was the founder of Albany.
As part of an initiative to place more public art in downtown Albany, this sculpture of Nelson Tift was commissioned by the city and placed in 2013. Gayla Catrett is the artist responsible for the work.
The accompanying marble column notes: Nelson Tift settled the area as a commercial venture in 1836 in the hopes of establishing a cotton trade using the [Flint] river to transport the crop to market. He named it Albany, in honor of Albany, New York, which was also the head of the navigation on the river.
According to the New Georgia Encyclopedia, Tift was a man of his time, committed wholly to slave society, Tift worked tirelessly to protect both the party and the “peculiar institution.” Starting in 1841 he translated his economic leadership into political office, serving three terms in the Georgia legislature. He supported the reopening of the international slave trade as a means to extend ownership of enslaved laborers to all white Georgians and chastised whiteartisans for opposing the use of enslaved craftsmen. Although not an advocate of immediate secession he accepted the final decision and lent his services to the new nation. During the Civil War (1861-65), Tift built gunboats for the Confederate navy and supplied the Rebel army with beef and hardtack produced by his factories at Albany and at nearby Palmyra in Lee County.
Three historic cemeteries (and two non-historic) are associated with the property around Central State Hospital, but without the efforts of employees who felt the lives of those who lived and died on these grounds deserved a dignified resting place, they would have most likely been lost to neglect. This post will focus on Cedar Lane Cemetery, which was historically known as the Asylum Cemetery. Within its 18+ acres are marble grave markers dating back as far as 1854. The exact date the cemetery was begun is unknown, but it was likely the late 1840s or early 1850s. The earliest burials of institutionalized people of the State Lunatic Asylum (as Central State Hospital was known at the time) were in Memory Hill Cemetery.
Thanks to the efforts of Bud Merritt and numerous volunteers, these metal “headboard markers” have been righted after many were buried over the years by bad management practices. I have talked extensively with Mr. Merritt about the process of “recovering” the cemetery and though he seeks no publicity for this enormous task, his insight and subsequent work on having the Central State Cemeteries added to the National Register of Historic Places, was crucial to their survival. Some of the markers are in their correct places, while others are not. All the markers feature a number that corresponded to a patient or prisoner’s name. It is a somber display, but makes one think of the conditions of those souls who spent large parts of their lives here.
At this time, I believe Cedar Lane is the only accessible of the Central State cemeteries. Typical of the time, African-American residents of Central State were segregated, even in death, and were buried in a cemetery of similar appearance.
As part of the process of reclaiming this sacred ground, a statue was commissioned and stands at the end of the lane of cedar trees which give the cemetery its modern name.
It was created by a prominent sculptor who did commissions for U. S. presidents and other important figures. [I will update with a name soon].
Central State Cemeteries, National Register of Historic Places
Sculptor Abbott Pattison designed the 2-ton, 12-foot Pegasus Without Wings in 1954. The work was first sited at Reed Hall, but was immediately unpopular with students, who attempted to melt it by burning tires beneath it. The protest was so unwieldy that the fire department had to turn their hoses on the estimated 700 students to gain control of the situation. As a result of the controversy, the sculpture was removed, stored for a time in a warehouse, and in 1959 transported by night to a field owned by UGA horticulture professor L. C. Curtis near the Oconee-Greene County line. The “Iron Horse” stands here today, and visiting it has become a rite of passage for many UGA students . I met two, who extolled the benefits of visiting the countryside and their love of the sculpture, while I was photographing.
The sculpture has become perhaps the biggest tourist attraction in Oconee County and curious visitors from all over stop by to pay homage these days. The sculpture can be hard to spot when the surrounding fields are full of corn or sunflowers, but a crude parking lot off the side of Georgia Highway 15 across from a UGA sign identifying the location as the ‘Iron Horse Plant Sciences Farm’ lets you know you’re in the right place. Recently, the fate of the sculpture has become unclear, as the family who owns it wishes to transfer ownership back to the university, while keeping it on the farm. The university doesn’t want ownership unless they can return it to the campus. I think nearly everyone who loves the Iron Horse would agree that it should stay just where it is. Hopefully, they can figure it out.
Cuthbert might be the last place one would expect to find an exquisite copy of Michelangelo’s Night, but it’s an unmistakable presence just inside the entrance to historic Rosedale Cemetery. It’s one of the finest examples of anonymous public art to be found in Georgia.
It marks the graves of Aaron Lane Ford (1903-1983) and his wife Gertrude Castellow Ford (1913-1996). Ford was a lifelong Mississippian and represented that state in Congress from 1935-1943. Mrs. Ford was the daughter of Congressman Bryant Thomas Castellow, who represented Georgia in Washington from 1932-1937. Though they spent their married life in Mississippi, I presume Mrs. Ford’s local connections are the reason they were interred here.
The allegorical sculpture was originally created for the tomb of Giuliano de’Medici in Florence and is considered one of Michelangelo’s most important commissions.
Cuthbert Historic District, National Register of Historic Places
One of the oldest municipal projects in downtown Waycross, the Memorial Fountain in Plant Park was installed circa 1879 and cast by the Robinson Iron Works of Alexander City, Alabama. The bird on the top was apparently replaced at some point.
Waycross Historic District, National Register of Historic Places
John Abbot was one of the most important naturalists and artists working in early America, but because he generally eschewed publication and most of his work was only available to wealthy patrons and collectors, he has not been as appreciated as other notables of his era, including Alexander Wilson and John James Audubon. Credit is due the Georgia Historical Society for commissioning a delightful memorial marking Abbot’s burial place*, installed at the old McElveen Family Cemetery in Bulloch County. Publication of a collection of his ornithological paintings, John Abbot’s Birds of Georgia, by the Beehive Press in 1997, has done much to advance his reputation.
*-[detail, above]. Mary Stuart. Bronze Relief, after the circa 1804 self-portrait “John Abbot of Savannah, Georgia, America”. 1956. It is the only known image of the naturalist.
Born in London in 1751 to James and Ann Abbot, John was influenced from an early age by the impressive art collection of his lawyer father. Though the elder Abbot expected his son to read law, he also encouraged his interest in art and natural history, hiring the noted engraver Jacob Bonneau to instruct him. In his late teens, John Abbot clerked for his father’s law office but was far too distracted by his passion for natural history and art to give it serious consideration as a career.
He set out for Virginia aboard the Royal Exchange in 1773 and upon arrival resided briefly with Parke & Mary Goodall. By 1775 rising unrest in the colony prompted Abbot to leave, settling with Parke Goodall’s cousin William and his family in St. George Parish, Georgia (present-day Burke County). Sometime during the Revolutionary period he married a young woman named Sarah (maiden name unknown) and their son John, Jr., was born around 1779. During this time Abbot was actively collecting and illustrating Georgia’s insects and a large number were acquired by Sir James Edward Smith, founder of London’s Linnaean Society. Smith commissioned hand-colored engravings of the original Georgia watercolors and published them in 1797 as the Natural History of the Rarer Lepidopterous Insects of Georgia Collected from Observations by John Abbot. It is considered the first major publication devoted to American entomology.
Spicebush Swallowtail on Sassafras, John Abbot, from the Natural History…,1797. Public Domain Image.
The Abbots remained in Burke County, where John likely taught at Waynesboro’s Burke County Academy, until moving to Savannah in 1806. He was often in transit throughout the central Savannah River area in pursuit of specimens and new material. Sarah’s death in 1817 sent Abbot into a deep state of grief and poor health consumed him for at least two years, during which he was inactive. He finally settled in Bulloch County in 1818 and resumed collecting and drawing for patrons. He lived out his last years on the property of his friend William E. McElveen. His exact date of death is unknown, but thought to be 1839 or 1840.
In what has to be some of the most inspring language on any memorial in the state, the Georgia Historical Society notes of John Abbot: Talented artist and searching naturalist of birds and insects. – As a tribute to him and his work may you who stand here find pleasure in protecting the natural beauty of Georgia. – John Abbot lies buried in this woodland cemetery because of his love of nature and his long friendship with the McElveen family.
This exceptional monument, located in the Blockhouse Baptist Church Cemetery, was commissioned by Dr. Geiger Augustus Burch upon the death of his wife, Della Smith Burch (30 April 1878-20 January 1914). Blockhouse Baptist was organized in 1877 and built on the site of the blockhouse built by General David Blackshear during the War of 1812.