Oconee Hill Cemetery

To alleviate overcrowding at the Old Athens Cemetery, a local committee purchased a seventeen acre tract of land, located between the North Oconee River and the University of Georgia’s campus. A year later, in 1856, Oconee Hill Cemetery officially opened. Divided along racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic lines, the cemetery has separate sections for whites, African Americans, “The Children of Israel,” and “paupers.” Nestled among the rolling hills and expansive drives of the cemetery’s main section, ornate tombstones and marble obelisks mark the final resting places of some of Athens’s wealthiest white families, many of whom were known across the South as Confederate leaders and avowed white supremacists. Typically of its era, it is a 'rural' or 'garden cemetery.' “This is one of the most beautiful of spots, adorned by nature with forest trees, with vines covering hillsides, clinging to rocks and climbing the somber pines, while at the foot of the hills the Oconee murmurs between banks redolent with honeysuckle and jessamine,” mused an Athens resident in 1901. The African American section, meanwhile, now appears as an almost empty lot, with almost nothing, aside from two tombstones, to indicate the presence of buried bodies -- many of those enslaved or formerly enslaved individuals. In 1898, cemetery trustees acquired an additional 81.8 acres on the west side of the North Oconee River. A bridge connects the old and the new sections. Today, white (and less frequently Black) Athenians are still buried within the cemetery’s boundaries.

The History of Oconee Hill Cemetery traces the evolution of the cemetery from its inception in 1856 to the modern day. Likewise, this article considers the cemetery's future as a place of historic meaning and public recreation.

Address: 297 Cemetery St, Athens, GA 30605

NEXT: Old Athens Cemetery

Get in touch

  • Department of History
    220 LeConte Hall, Baldwin Street
    University of Georgia
    Athens, GA 30602-1602
  • 706-542-2053
  • 706-542-2455
  • history@uga.edu

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