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Neglect of a Country Graveyard

A 1929 obituary for Eatonton poet Louise Prudden Hunt (b. 1846) cited a legacy poem “Neglect of a Country Graveyard” published first in The Eatonton Messenger and then elsewhere. Mysteriously, that poem eludes archival recovery.

Formal and informal graves, including tower obelisks, in the Ponder cemetery on Fairplay Road in Rutledge, Ga.

Yet another of her preserved poems, “Musings in the Ruins of Furness Abbey” speaks to the passing of souls and lost community Hunt experienced when she toured an abandoned medieval monastery in Cumbria, England.

Dating from 1123, the defunct abbey’s atmosphere intrigued the Eatonton native and centuries of other artists including British poet William Wordsworth and British painter J.M.W. Turner. Destroyed in 1537 during English Reformation under Henry VIII, the previously wealthy Cistercian Gothic-style monastery is reputed for its haunting architecture and witness of alluring ghosts.

Hunt’s personification of Oblivion at abbey ruins in another nation evokes tingling chills and recalls her concern over abandoned gravesites dotting private land in her rural Georgia homeland.

Such hallowed settings signify previously active homesteads and communities lost in time. While city and church cemeteries typically benefit from sustained custodial care, private gravesites hidden in fields and what became forests can offer the curious observant passerby a serendipitous witness of time gone by, perhaps a forgotten soul, and moment of reflection on the mystery of life.

Trees and brambles camouflage a mystery grave on Doster Road in Morgan County. Photo by Michele Bechtell

By tracking dates and deciphering eroded lettering, Madison resident Patsy Harris assisted Morgan County officials to identify John Northington (1792-1827) as the individual buried beneath an elegant, weathered headstone hidden int he woods of Buckhead, Georgia. Photo from Morgan County Archives.

A chiseled stone wall encloses weathered 19th century graves at the abandoned Little (Stinson) cemetery in the woods on Rock Hawk trail in Putnam County. Photo by Michele Bechtell

A collection of graves hug the edge of a forest along Godfrey Road in Morgan County. Photo by Linda Moore

Of the approximate 100 grave sites at a second Kitchen Little cemetery on Rock Hawk forest trail in Putnam County, simple natural field stones, likely set for slave graves, rest among formal headstones of landowners and residents of the lost community. Photo by Michele Bechtell

Local residents recently discovered Civil War graves on Gum Cemetery Road near Lake Sinclair. Photo by Linda Moore

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Article by Michele Bechtell, published in the Sept/Oct 2021 issue of Lakelife magazine.


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