Cemetery History

Salute to Our Freedom

Entering Alta Vista Cemetery from Jesse Jewell Parkway you will see an area immediately on your right known as the American Legion Section of the Cemetery. This section was dedicated to the American Legion by The Mayor and Council in 1922, and served as our Veterans Section until it filled up. Workers at Alta Vista often refer to this as the "flag pole section." The first flag pole was placed at this site during July of 1930. I think this might have been a Fourth of July celebration, but I do not have concrete proof to the fact. The original steel flag pole was given to the City of Gainesville by the Chicopee Legionnaires.

This steel flag pole actually rusted through at the bottom and fell in 1999 after 69 years of service. Shortly after it fell, a gentleman who was living in Jefferson, Georgia stopped by my office and asked why the old flag pole was not in its proper place. He explained that when he was a young boy in 1930 he was riding his bicycle down what was then Broad Street when he noticed the ceremonies just inside the gate. He wheeled his bike into Alta Vista and joined the celebration. Much to his surprise, free hot dogs were being served. He remembered it well.

I told him of the demise of the old flag pole and that a new pole would be dedicated in early in 2000. I agreed to call him when the actual date of the dedication was set.

Much to my surprise he indeed showed up for the dedication of the new flag pole. I was honored to be able to introduce him to the crowd of officials on hand for the dedication.

New flagpole dedicated to Alta Vista Cemetery
By Little Davenport Funeral Home and
Dedicated by the Mayor and Council
To the Gainesville American Legion Post Number 7
March 27, 2000

As far as I know, only two flag poles have stood at the front gate of Alta Vista Cemetery. Dedications of these poles were 70 years apart. One man attended both of these dedications which made the event extra special for me.

I was at the second dedication in 2000 and hope to be there for the third one in, or around, 2070. I hope you are there also!

Chicopee Legionnaires:

E. L. Elrod L. W O'Shields

V. R. Humphreys Raul Ray

Robt. Mauney A. B. Sailors

C. R. Moore John Watson

Charles Motes Loyd Wilson

"Long may it wave, O'er the land of the free and, The home of the brave."

Woodmen of the World Monuments

Woodmen of the World was founded by Joseph C. Root on June 6, 1890. The Woodmen Society is an insurance organization in which one of Root's objectives was "to provide a decent burial for all members". Anyone with a Woodmen death benefit policy would be provided with a gravestone at no cost. Sometime after the date of 1890 furnishing a gravestone required a $100 rider to the original policy.

During the mid 1920's this policy of providing a gravestone stopped and anyone who had purchased the $100 rider was provided with extra insurance coverage as compensation. This became necessary because of the increasing cost of monuments and because many cemeteries had begun prohibiting above ground markers because of maintenance issues.

Woodmen monuments vary greatly in size and appearance but originally the design was to be uniform. Specifications were distributed to local stone cutters, but often the stones ended up reflecting family tastes or the stone cutter's interpretation of the design. Some monuments resemble a tree stump, some a stack of logs, and some just incorporate the emblem into the individual monument.

The idea for the Woodmen emblem came about when Joseph Root heard a sermon about "pioneer woodsmen clearing away the forest to provide for their families". Incorporated in the emblem might be a maul and a wedge; an axe; a dove of peace often with an olive branch, or any combination of these. Interesting, as Woodmen of the World "do not lie" the common inscription on monuments is "Here rests a Woodmen of the World".

The beginnings of the Woodmen order in Atlanta are marked by articles in The Atlanta Constitution in March 26 and April 9 of 1893. News of a monument unveiling was covered in an Atlanta Constitution article dated August 30, 1894.

It was over the grave of Mr. John Dootson.

Interesting how large things grow out of small ideas. Today Woodmen of the World services over 800,000 members in the United States with insurance and financial planning.

Eternal Love

True love is eternal. That is the way it was intended to be.

There is no greater example of this in Alta Vista than the monument memorializing Lizzie Blalock Estes. This is truly a beautiful monument and if there is a monument to represent Alta Vista Cemetery maybe it should be this one.

Claud Estes, Lizzie's husband, left behind this lasting tribute to the love and admiration he had for his wife. I would be afraid to guess how much this monument would cost today, though I do not think $20,000 would touch it.

I have always been told this monument was hand carved in Italy. I can certainly attest to the fact this is not of Georgia Marble. At the lower right hand corner of the Monument is the inscription "J. S Clark and Co. Lou. Ky." J. S Clark was a somewhat noted monument designer of the late 1800's. He had businesses in Louisville, Kentucky and Birmingham, Alabama. His most famous monument, that I know of, is "Heroes of the Alamo" in Austin, Texas. It is a gigantic monument on columns. A person can actually walk under it and gaze up at the dome.

On the back of Lizzie's monument Claud had inscribed, "Her last word was 'Darling'". Also inscribed are the words, "She is not dead but gone before".

I know it will probably not be this way, but I can almost picture Claud and Lizzie skipping hand in hand along the streets of gold in Heaven. No aches, no pains, no problems, just each other for eternity. That thought should give us all hope.

Lizzie died July 24, 1883 and here we are 129 years later still talking about this monument. Lizzie, I know you are proud of Claud for the lasting memorial he has left to the love he had for you. I know at your passing his heart was truly broken.

Thanks Claud for reminding us that some things are truly meant to last forever.

Wagon City?

Shortly after the Civil War, until the 1950's, some of the finest wagons, buggies, surries, and carriages ever produced came from Gainesville, Georgia. John Daniel Bagwell started Bagwell Manufacturing, a wagon company that employed over 75 people in its hey day. Bagwell was located at the old City Ice site where it turned out 2000-3000 wagons a year.

Bagwell's sons, Berry and Bob, continued the business until the final wagon was built in 1952 for K. H. Graham. Bagwell's wagons were sold nationwide and in one brochure they said their wagons were available in "one grade only, the best." The Bagwell's are buried in Alta Vista Cemetery.

Who Is Cooper B. Scott?

One of Alta Vista's most famous residents is Cooper B. Scott. Legend has it Scott fired the first cannon to start the American Civil War. Scott was born in Anderson, South Carolina in 1843. He enlisted in the Confederate Army in Pendleton, South Carolina on March 1, 1861.

Scott's granddaughter tells the story of the firing of the first cannon. "When Cooper fired the cannon, he did so because he saw 'movement' at Fort Sumter. He was immediately thrown into the brig for opening fire without an order. He was released the next morning when the Union soldiers surrendered."

Cooper's obit from the Gainesville News of April 12, 1905

"Fired First Cannon of Civil War"

"Mr. Cooper B. Scott, aged 65, died at Chattahoochee Park last Friday morning. He was dead when found by Mr. John Lawson...Mr. Scott moved to Gainesville from Charleston, SC. 22 years ago. He is said to have fired the first cannon at Fort Sumter at the beginning of the Civil War. He was buried in a coffin with a confederate emblem on it. The pallbearers were all confederate soldiers. He leaves a wife, Mrs. Tildy Scott, and eight children."

From The Constitution Atlanta, GA, April 9, 1905

"Cooper B. Scott, Noted Confederate Soldier, Is Dead"

Cooper B. Scott, aged 65, was buried here this afternoon, having dropped dead from heart failure. He moved to Gainesville 22 years ago from Charleston, SC. It is alleged by confederate veterans that Scott was the man who fired the first cannon at Fort Sumter at the outbreak of the Civil War. He was given a fitting burial by his late comrades in arms."


The long history of Alta Vista Cemetery began in 1872 when the City Government purchased 9.25 acres from soon to be Georgia Governor Allen D. Candler. Alta Vista is the final resting place of two former Georgia Governors, Lt. Gen James Longstreet, three Revolutionary War Solders, a NA.S.A. Astronaut, two U.S. Congressmen, two men Georgia Counties were named after, two song writers, Poultry Pioneer Jesse Jewell, a circus performer, a bridge builder, 158 Civil War Veterans, an inventor, and numerous other interesting people. Alta Vista is arguably the most historic place within the City of Gainesville. It is a classroom for Georgia history, funerary art, and cemetery design.

The oldest original grave in Alta Vista dates from 1872, but because graves from other cemeteries were moved to Alta Vista when it first opened the Cemetery has grave markers with burial dates as early as 1828.

Alta Vista has an inventory of available graves spaces and a Chapel Mausoleum building which was built in 2004. The Cemetery consist of the original 9.25 acres, a private cemetery that was added in the 1960's, a family cemetery moved here in 1928, two older "free ground" areas, and numerous expansions that have been made over the years. Alta Vista consists of approximately 80 acres today.

Ground spaces at Alta Vista range in price from $1000 to $1500 depending on various factors. Mausoleum crypts range from $3910 to $12,420 and Mausoleum niches range in price from $700 to $1450. Alta Vista offers a full range of burial options.

The Cemetery Office is located at 521 Jones Street. We invite everyone out to obtain a copy of our "Walking Tour Guide" and to spend time rambling through the stones that reflect the history of Gainesville and Hall County, Georgia. We are always interested in the family history of those buried in Alta Vista. If you have old pictures of the Cemetery or pictures of those buried here we will be glad to scan the information in our computer records for future generations to view.

Entrance to the Cemetery can be accessed from Jesse Jewell Parkway or Alta Vista Road. The Cemetery is open during daylight hours.