The newest historical marker planted in Bulloch County pays homage to one of Statesboro’s oldest city-owned cemeteries.
Through an ongoing effort to recognize local landmarks, the Bulloch County Historical Society unveiled a new plaque — its 11th to date — last week near the entrance of Eastside Cemetery on Northside Drive.
The marker greets visitors to a burial ground that has been a community staple since the late 1880s.
“Eastside Cemetery was established on this site in 1889 in response to citizens’ requests for a central location for the burial of the dead,” reads the marker. “With the dramatic growth of the City of Statesboro in the 1880s, citizens sought to establish a city cemetery.… A group of citizens met on May 17, 1889, ‘to take steps in locating a place for the burial of the dead.’ They selected this site, which today is the city-owned Eastside Cemetery.”
Before the creation of Eastside, and a select few others, burial grounds were often found in the fields of early Bulloch County family farms, marked only by age-old magnolia, cedar and myrtle trees.
The Statesboro cemetery is notable in Bulloch history for sparking a shift to more central locations for burials, and because of the prominent persons who now lie in it, according to Brent Tharp, the program vice president for the Bulloch County Historical Society.
“Eastside is significant because it is the largest cemetery in Bulloch County, encompassing the burials of so many significant political and social leaders,” he said. “And, when established, it represented, as a city-owned cemetery, a major departure in 1889 from the long tradition of burial in the many churchyards and small family plots that dotted the county.”
Notable persons buried in Eastside Cemetery include the Emma Kelly, three U.S. congressmen and several significant community members of Statesboro’s past, said Virginia Anne Franklin-Waters, the historical society’s project coordinator.
The Bulloch County Historical Society plans dedicate several other markers later this year. The project is funded, primarily, with money from the Jack N. and Addie D. Averitt Foundation.
On Sunday, April 21, the organization will unveil for a plaque honoring Excelsior, located near Register, and an academy that once operated there.
“Excelsior was the cultural seat in Bulloch County for many, many years,” Franklin-Waters said. “We had the first newspaper there, and the first school.”
The ceremony is scheduled for 2 p.m.
For more information, contact the Historical Society at (912) 839-3931 or email@example.com.
Jeff Harrison may be reached at (912) 489-9454.