Why historic cemeteries should be included in your next travel itinerary

Smyrna Memorial Cemetery
A view of Smyrna Memorial Cemetery on June 4, 2015. (Photo by Todd DeFeo/The DeFeo Groupe)

SMYRNA, Ga. (defeo.biz) — A couple years ago, my wife and I were walking through a cemetery in Greenville, S.C., looking for a particular grave.

“Are y’all looking for Joe?” the caretaker asked.

Indeed we were looking for Joe. Shoeless Joe Jackson.

The grave of Jackson, located in Woodlawn Memorial Park, has become a shrine of sorts to one of the greatest players to ever play the game.

Cemeteries, while macabre to some, are a great way to learn about a community’s history and the people that helped shape it. Plus, cemeteries often offer incredible architecture in their mausoleums and burial chambers.

Here are a few reasons why historic cemeteries should be included in your next travel itinerary.

People who shaped history

Hamilton may be a popular musical on Broadway, but people can visit the real-life Alexander Hamilton at Trinity Church Cemetery. Plus, there is no line in the cemetery.

Cemeteries are a great way to connect with the men and women who shaped history. The final resting places of presidents, soldiers and everyday citizens who made an impact offer a unique way to learn more about the events that help shape this country into what it is today.

We saw Hamilton and didn’t have to wait!

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Rewriting history

Sometimes, cemeteries add historic intrigue to “established” narratives. Consider John Henry “Doc” Holliday, the legendary gambler as one such example.

Where is he buried? Colorado? Others say his hometown of Griffin, Ga. As the legend goes, after Doc succumbed to tuberculosis, Holliday’s father had his body shipped back to Griffin. Supposedly, Doc and his father were buried side-by-side in unmarked graves. Unmarked until this historical marker was placed atop the site in Oak Hill Cemetery.

 

Cemeteries large and small

Smyrna Memorial Cemetery
A view of Smyrna Memorial Cemetery on June 4, 2015. (Photo by Todd DeFeo/The DeFeo Groupe)

Interesting cemeteries are not limited to larger cities. Cemeteries in smaller towns are just as intriguing.

In fact, cemeteries in suburban towns that today seem like nothing more than an endless row of strip shopping centers are in some ways more intriguing because they reveal a past that is sometimes lost among the modern developments and subdivisions. They offer a window into an era that often hardly seems likely today.

Sometimes they are popular

Sometimes, cemeteries are popular tourist destinations in their own right. Just consider Oakland Cemetery in Atlanta. Dating to 1850, Oakland Cemetery is home to many of the residents who oversaw the transition of Atlanta from a railroad crossroads to a thriving metropolis.

It is a must-see destination on any trip to the city.

Where the more notorious are interred

Sometimes cemeteries are home to some of the more notorious people in history.Take, as one example, Rose Hill Memorial Burial Park in Fort Worth, Texas.

Take, as one example, Rose Hill Memorial Burial Park in Fort Worth, Texas. This seemingly serene cemetery is the final resting place of Lee Harvey Oswald, the man accused of killing President John F. Kennedy in 1963.

This begs at least one question: Do those accused of committing horrible crimes not deserve a place to rest for all eternity?

Todd DeFeo
About Todd DeFeo 72 Articles
Todd DeFeo loves to travel anywhere, anytime, taking pictures and notes. An award-winning reporter, Todd revels in the experience and the fact that every place has a story to tell. He is the owner of The DeFeo Groupe and also edits Express Telegraph and Railfanning.org.

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