Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Oakland Cemetery: Atlanta’s City of Angels

Exploring the cemeteries of Atlanta provides some interesting insight into the character of the city. Examining the mausoleums of Oakland Cemetery suggests a city of opulence in the midst of the Gilded Age. The Gilded Age was the time between 1870 and 1900 when great industrialists and great wealth emerged. Outward displays of this wealth were evident in every facet of life, including in death. Other cemetery symbols reveal the sorrow of death and the innocence of life, a child’s life, cut short.

At Oakland Cemetery; the city cemetery for Atlanta, Ga., from 1855 until the mid-1900s, a dominant feature seems to be an abundance of angles as grave markers and memorials. Each of these stone figures reveal a number of symbols, hope sand beliefs for the men and women buried in Atlanta’s silent city.

Some angels are the recorders of lives well lived and directional chaperones to a better after life. Angels holding books, with a quill pen, and possibly pointing heavenward, are common in the streets and paths of Oakland Cemetery. These figures could also serve as memorials to great and influential deeds, again going back to the “life well lived.”

Still other angels are angels of kindness or sympathy. These monuments are the memorials, generally to women, that highlight a life of blessed thoughtfulness and devotion; or “true sainthood.” Such is the case of Mary Glover Thurmond, who regularly would visit the sick and deliver flowers from her own garden. Her nephew arranged her monument, a tribute to a true angel and her compassion

Perhaps the most prominent of angels is Gabriel. He is the angel of glory; holding his horn ready to announce the second coming. At Oakland, he is the focal point of several family plots. The Joseph Brown plot is an outstanding example of Gabriel preparing to blow his horn.

There are an abundance of angels in Oakland Cemetery. Each of these angels, as with every symbol, represents something special for the dead and their families. Each of these silent figures gives a brief statement about the hopes and dreams, beliefs and expectations of the residents, and former residents, of Atlanta.

No comments: