Research and Reflections from FRC

From 2019 to 2021, members of Franklin Residential College participated in service-learning events at Gospel Pilgrim Cemetery in East Athens. Equipped with rakes, loppers, and wheelbarrows, students removed brush and cleared pathways, revealing gravestones in preparation for a February 2021 walking tour of the cemetery. In September 2020, Franklin Residential College students researched decedents and created short biographies of the Black men, women, and children interred in Gospel Pilgrim Cemetery. With these biographies we hope to honor the departed and shed light upon their lives, including challenges they faced and struggles they overcame. The finished biographies can be viewed below or at the FRC webpage.


Rebekah Davis was born in 1832 in Georgia. She was enslaved to Dr. and Mrs. Edward Ware. As a young woman, she married Ned Davis (also enslaved) and the couple had 7 children. Later, at least one of her sons moved to Chicago as a grown man. Three of her sons remained in Athens, and James A. Davis worked as a mail carrier. After the Civil War, she worked as a seamstress. She appears to have learned to read and write in the later years of her life and she was an active member of the First A.M.E. Church. She lived at 179 Strong Street in Athens, Georgia until her death from unknown causes on January 19, 1922. Her obituary, published in the Athens Daily Herald, described her as “one of the oldest citizens of Athens and was the oldest member of the First A. M. E. church.” She was 90 years old. But even after death, the white newspaper remembered her as a ‘faithful slave,’ an element of Lost Cause ideology. “‘Aunt Rebekah’ . . . as a family servant of Dr. and Mrs. Edward Ware, who lived on Hoyt street, during the ante bellum days, and her husband Ned Davis, belonged to Captain John Thomas, and was her personal servant. Ned died many years ago. These darkies were servants in the homes of two of the best known and most aristocratic families of the day, and were well known to many of the white people of the time,” stated the obituary. [Researched and written by Trey Smith]

Sallie Peek was born around 1885. She died from unknown causes in Fulton, Georgia on November 6, 1943. Her death was reported in the Atlanta Constitution, where it mentioned her funeral was to be held at Tabernacle Baptist Church in Atlanta on November 11, 1943, after which her remains would be taken to Athens for interment in Gospel Pilgrim Cemetery. Her obituary stated that she had many friends and family. [Researched and written by Roshni Hariharan]

FRC Student Abby Lauterbach: "I tried to find information on Mr. Stanton through the people who were listed in the newspaper announcement of his funeral, but I was unsuccessful. I couldn’t help but think about how most of the women were simply listed as “Mrs. [Husband’s Name].” Maybe if I could research those women I would have found his sister or daughter, but I couldn’t do that because their name wasn’t even given..”

Mrs. Lula Oglesby was born in Georgia in 1888. She attended school until 7th grade. She married Robert Oglesby and had at least five children: Sandford, Robert, Carrie, Beatrice, and Lenard. She worked as a laundress in both 1930 and 1940. She was widowed prior to 1930, but the exact date of her husband’s death is unknown. She died in 1953 from unknown causes. [Researched and written by Savannah Jane Williams]

Mary E. Sims was born around 1903. She married M.C. Sims Sr. In 1930, she worked as a laundress and lived on Fifth Street with her husband and their son Sam. The 1940 US Census lists her as a widow, employed as a cook and living on Hull Street with her sister, Sara Hill, and two of Hill’s grandchildren. At the time of her death Mary Sims lived at 853 West Weddell Street. At 43 years old, she died from unknown causes on October 18, 1946. [Researched and written by Ainsley Stephens]

John R Stanton was an Athens resident who was born around 1899. He was married and had multiple siblings. He died from unknown causes on October 25, 1948 and was buried in Gospel Pilgrim Cemetery on October 31, 1948. [Researched and written by Abby Lauterbach]

The son of Edward Strickland and Jennie (Wagner or Wagoner) Strickland, Willie Strickland was born in Athens, GA around 1898. He grew up on First Street, and after marrying Bertha Mae Harvey in 1937, the couple moved down the street to another residence on First Street. Throughout his life, Strickland had many different jobs including working in a saw mill according to the 1920 census, a cotton mill according to the 1930 census, and as a maid according to a 1931 Athens directory. During the Second World War, Strickland registered for the draft, but was not drafted into service, most likely because he was already married and 43 years old at the time. He died from unknown causes on April 6, 1974 in Athens, and was buried in Gospel Pilgrim Cemetery. [Researched and written by Casey Serrano]

Annie S. Maxwell Teasley was born in 1917. At 67 years old, she died on November 13, 1984. At the time of her death, resided in Fulton County and, according to her obituary, had three sisters and a daughter. [Researched and written by Nicole Powell]

Charles Terrell Jr. was born around 1916. His parents, Charles Terrell and Julia Stuts, were both Athens natives. His father, “Chas” Terrell was noted to be a carpenter before his son was born, being listed along with his wife Julia in a 1912 Athens, GA directory living at 347 First Street. In the 1931 directory, however, “Chas” Terrell is said to be a cook, living on 389 Meigs St. On October 6, 1934, Terrell Jr.’s life was cut short after passing away at a tender age of 18 while he was still a schoolboy. The place of death is recorded to be 376 Odd Street. The cause of death was noted to be an acute dilatation of the heart, or nowadays known as dilated cardiomyopathy (disease of the heart muscle), with contributary causes of importance being listed as fever and overexertion. He was buried five days later in Gospel Pilgrim Cemetery on October 11, 1934 with his family in attendance. [Researched and written by Bita Jadali]

The son of Margaret and Hamilton Thomas, Arthur Thomas was born between 1867 and 1870. Around 1906, he married Gertrude Thomas, and the couple had at least one child, Willie Mae Thomas. In 1910, he worked as a brickmason and rented a home at 288 Bridge Street. He died from unknown causes in 1944. At the time of his death, he lived in Atlanta. [Researched and written by Nic Rasool]

FRC Student Bita Jadali: "It was very sobering to research about someone who died very young. He has his whole life ahead of him, but he had to succumb to this disease. One thing I learned was that dilated cardiomyopathy is known to be a possible hereditary disease.”

Mr. Lonnie Thomas was born on May 6, 1879. He married Ethel Thomas, who worked as a hotel maid. Lonnie and Ethe had at least six children: Edward, Melvin, Hassie (or “Azzie”), Alfonzo, Charlie, and St. Elmore. Census records show that Lonnie owned his house on 160 Water Oak Street in Athens, Georgia. In 1910, Mr. Thomas went to court and won against someone who had wrongfully disposed of his personal property. His draft card for the military in 1918 listed the same address, along with his employer, the Georgia Plow Company, where he worked for many years as a laborer in the factory. He died from unknown causes on January 20, 1963, and was buried in Gospel Pilgrim Cemetery. [Researched and written by McKenna Sanville]

The daughter of Charles and Fannie Walker, Ethel Walker Thomas was born in May of 1884. As a teenager and young adult, she resided in Sandy Creek with her family, where she worked as a laborer on their farm. She did not attend school, but she was able to read and write. In 1910, she married Lonnie Thomas, and the couple had several children: Edward, Melvin, Azzie, Charles, Elmore, and Alfonza. According to the 1920 census, she lived on Oak Street with her husband and children and worked as a washerwoman. In 1930, she resided at the same address with her family and worked as a maid for a private family. She died from unknown causes on February 1, 1945. [Researched and written by Jake Underwood]

Jessie Walker was born in 1890 in Athens, GA. According to the Athens Daily Herald, he was still living in Athens in 1917 and listed among the Clarke County men registered for the First World War draft. He moved to Michigan sometime after this and married Evie Walker with whom he had a daughter named Ora Lee Walker, later Ora Lee Gardner. According to the 1930 US Census, Walker lived with his family and two men who rented rooms in their home at 518 Beaver St. in Lansing, MI. His obituary of September 10, 1955, placed his residence at 131S Case Street in Lansing, and stated that he would be returned to Athens, GA to be buried in Gospel Pilgrim Cemetery. [Researched and written by Avery Scott]

A lifelong Athens resident, Reverend Nathaniel Thomas Walker was born on February 22, 1887. He was drafted for the First World War in 1917, and according to the Athens Daily Herald, he was part of a group of men sent to France. Walker had requested a military exemption, but it was rejected: as the newspaper noted, “two young men who are in the ministry failed to exempt [from military service] – on account of the fact that they did not file proof to their claim in the prescribed manner.” After his return from the war, he married Susie B. Walker, with whom he took care of a stepdaughter, Christine B. Barnette. He worked as a preacher, and between 1931 and 1944 he was the reverend of Union Missionary Baptist Church. He lived at 160 Water Street in 1917, and resided on Finley Street in 1920. In August 1955, he passed away from unknown causes and was buried in Gospel Pilgrim Cemetery. [Researched and written by Abby Lauterbach]

Agnes (Aremita) Heard Warrick was born in Athens, Georgia on October 13, 1897. On March 1, 1927, she married Ronald M. Warrick. At age 72, Warrick died on January 15, 1970 and was interred in Gospel Pilgrim Cemetery in Athens, Georgia. Her last known residence was in Fort Pierce, Saint Lucie, Florida. [Researched and written by Taliesin Utz]

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