Acworth’s Liberty Hill Cemetery, located on Cemetery Road off North Main Street near the city’s downtown, is vital for holding on to the city’s past.
That’s what Abbie Parks of Acworth Historic Preservation had to say at a talk at Kennesaw’s historic depot Tuesday.
Liberty Hill Baptist Church, founded in 1840, was the original caretaker of the cemetery. Gen. William Sherman’s troops burned the church during his March to the Sea, and care of the grounds was given to the city.
The cemetery’s oldest birthdate is 1799, and its oldest burial was in 1822.
Take a stroll there, and you’re sure to see familiar names now attached to Acworth landmarks.
“I did a survey in the ’90s, and we have 11 ministers, six doctors and over 120 children under the age of 10,” Parks said. “And we have Confederate soldiers, and of course, Henry Logan rings a bell with the Logan Farm and the Logan Farmhouse.”
Parks started her talk with the original residents of the historic home she now inhabits, the McMillans.
Acworth pioneer James McMillan built the home in 1879 for his bride, Emma Alice Lemon.
“Mr. McMillan was a bit of a lech,” Parks said with a laugh. “They’re both founding members of the Acworth Presbyterian Church. She was 18, he was 29, she got to have 10 children and she was dead at 53 from ‘female trouble.’”
After Emma’s death, one of her daughters, Lillian Wayne McMillan Davenport, gave up her job teaching school and moved back home to keep house.
Parks read from a letter written to Lillian McMillan from a great-uncle during that time.
“I approve of your caution in not hastening your marrying,” the uncle wrote. “Indeed, I do not see the necessity of your marrying at all. You already have a home where you are useful. You have a dog to growl for you. A little trained parrot could be taught to cuss, and any cat can stay out all night. Thus, you have all the traits found in most husbands without the cost of a husband.”
Parks moved on to the founder of Acworth’s oldest commercial structure, the Old Mill, built by John Cowan around 1870.
In the 1850s, Cowan left Acworth and went west to seek his fortune in Montana’s Black Hills. He would go on to play a role in the histories of both Acworth and Helena, Montana.
“It was after Indian raids and much traveling, but at their last chance, he said, ‘We’re going home if we don’t find gold,’” Parks said. “And sure enough, they did, and that is the founding of Helena, Montana. And the Main Street in Helena, Montana is called Last Chance Gulch.”
Parks said Cowan came back to Acworth a wealthy man, though she said he made more money from starting stores to sell supplies to prospectors than from digging up gold.
He built the old mill around 1870 with a friend named Tarlton Moore, whose historic home can still be seen in Acworth. The mill originally made a fine type of flour called lynette.
Another prominent resident buried in Liberty Hill is Acworth’s first female mayor, Mary McCall. She was first elected in 1955.
McCall Primary School in Acworth is named for Mary McCall and her husband Moses McCall, one of the founding doctors of Kennestone Hospital.
“She was responsible for getting a lot of African American members of Acworth society to register for voting in 1955, which was unusual,” Parks said. “She was reelected for three additional terms. … She’s also credited with many of the improvements in our community, the roads, the public services like sewer and water, so she served her community well.”
Parks was not the only historian to speak at the depot Saturday. Thirteen-year-old Andrew Bramlett of Kennesaw gave his own talk on Kennesaw’s city cemetery, adapted from his 30-minute walking tour.
The eighth grader is already an accomplished historian: he is vice president of the Kennesaw Historical Society and an honorary member of Kennesaw’s Cemetery Preservation Commission. Last year, he won an award from the Georgia Historical Records Advisory Council on Local History Advocacy.
Bramlett’s talk started with the cemetery’s first burial, a 1-year-old named Lucius Summers, and included prominent historical figures such as the Rev. William McCollum, who served on the City Council in the 1890s and J.W. Ellis, who for 50 years was Kennesaw’s only doctor.
Bramlett said he gets his love of history from his dad, Lewis Bramlett.
“My dad did a lot of work for the museum in Stanley County, North Carolina, where he grew up, and it was just kind of seeing him giving presentations on his local history, I got interested in mine,” he said.