Today, the city of Macon maintains the grounds. When I visited in May of last year, the grass was pretty and green and not too tall. That didn't hide the fact that the tombstones left in the cemetery were in poor shape and most of the brick walls surrounding family lots were crumbled. I did see several plaques stating restorations were done, many from the 1960's. All in all, the cemetery is a shell of what I imagine it once was.
The Old City Cemetery was neglected for many, many years. In fact, old newspaper articles I have read on the subject say as much. A 1919 "Just 'Twixt Us" column by Bridges Smith of the Macon Telegraph states, "We now speak in sorrow of the neglected condition of the old cemetery at the foot of Poplar street, of the sunken graves, the tumbled down monuments, of the weeds and briars growing over the graves, and of the dastardly deeds of the sacrilegious..."
The best and most thorough article I have seen was written by John T. Boifeuillet. It was published in the same newspaper in 1907 for his column "Caught on the Wing." I posted this article on this blog more than a year ago. Instead of pointing you to it, I am going to reprint it here so it is combined with the photos from the cemetery.
The Macon Daily Telegraph, Georgia
27 March 1907
(Viewable online at GenealogyBank.)
"Caught on the Wing
By JOHN T. BOIFEUILLET
The remains of the daughter of a former Governor of Georgia, the dust of a president of the first bank in Macon, and the ashes of other persons once well known in this city repose in the old cemetery situated near the foot of Cherry street. This is the burial ground which Alderman Bowdre, with commendable spirit, desires to have reclaimed by the Mayor and Council from many long years of neglect. Broken tombstones, bearing inscriptions to the memories of members of families formerly prominent in Macon, lie on the ground, under leaves and dirt, the walls of the graves in a crumbled state. Some of the tombstones still stand erect, and the lettering on them is easily read, but in the majority of cases the marble memorials are badly broken and the inscriptions almost obliterated by the corroding effects of time. In numerous instances there is scarcely any sign of a grave, and in many places no trace of one exists. The lot of a name still prominent in this city is surrounded by a well preserved brick wall, with an iron gate locked and which bears evidence that it has not been unfastened in considerably more than a half of a century. The marble slabs over the graves of the husband and wife tell of their deaths in 1838 and 1839, respectively.
This cemetery was the first buri[a]l ground in Macon. In 1826 the Legislature reserved the land for this purpose. It consisted originally of four acres between Cherry and Poplar and Sixth and Seventh streets, but perhaps some of it has been encroached upon for building purposes. The first interment in this cemetery was John Clark, a painter. He died on November 24, 1824, being the first death among the citizens of the town of Macon. Prior to the reservation of this ground by the Legislature for a cemetery, the town commissioners in the early part of 1824 had set aside the four acres for sites for religious meeting houses, with burial ground attached. Afterwards the Legislature gave other locations for the churches and reserved the four acres for a cemetery exclusively, and according to my information it was abandoned as a burial ground some years before the Civil War. A number of bodies were removed from there and reinterred in Rose Hill Cemetery. One of these was that of Rev. John Howard, the first presiding elder of the Methodist church in this city, and a man who took a leading part in establishing Wesleyan Female College. He died August 22, 1836, and was buried in the Cherry street cemetery, and a monument was erected to his memory by the Methodist church. The inscription thereon was written by Rev. Ignatius A. Few, who, in 1829, as pastor of the Mulberry Street Methodist church, established the Sunday school of that church. The monument referred to can be seen over Rev. Mr. Howard's g[r]ave in Rose Hill. It is said that this was the first monument ever built in Macon.
Curiosity carried me yesterday to the old cemetery, abandoned and neglected, overgrown with trees, weeds and briars, the browsing place of cattle, the home of reptiles, cut up with footpaths signs of descration everywhere. In this scene of neglect I read with almost a tear, the inscription "Remember me," on a tombstone hidden among the briars, and in order to decipher the words I had to brush away the mold and fungi of many decades. "Remember me." How like a mockery this seemed! -- there buried in the tangled bush through which the sunlight could scarcely bleam.
While wandering about I saw upon the ground the broken monument which had been "erected by the kindness of the Presbyterian church" to the memory of the wife of Rev. Samuel J. Cassels. She died in Macon on May 24, 1838. Her husband was the second regular pastor of the First Presbyterian church of this city. His pastorate commenced in 1835 and ended in April, 1841. During his ministry the house of worship which was being constructed by the Presbyterians on Fourth street between Mulberry and Walnut streets, was completed and occupied.
This church was afterwards bought by the Catholics, and they still own the ground upon which it stood. While Rev. Mr. Cassels was pastor the late Eugenius A. Nisbet, who was a distinguished Congressman and an eminent justice of the Supreme Court of Georgia became an elder in the First Presbyterian Church. In memory of the faithful services of Rev. Samuel Cassels it seems to me that it would be appropriate and proper for the First Presbyterian Church to remove the remains and monument of Mrs. Cassels to a more suitable burial place. On a part of the monument upon the ground I read an inscription to the beautiful Christian character of the deceased. Her last word were also quoted, to-wit: "Christ is my only salvation."
Then I cam across a marble slab under which repose the dust of a former distinguished college professor, Elisha Hammond. The inscription told that he was born in Massachusetts in 1764, and died in Macon, July 9, 1829. He was a graduate of Darmouth College, N.H. He emigrated to South Carolina, and first became a professor in the South Carolina College, and then a professor at Mt. Bethel Academy. The tribute upon the slab says that he was a man of great learing and was noted as an instructor.
A monument to the memory of Charles W. Washington tells the sad story of his drowning in Walnut Creek, March 1, 1833.
John E. Carter was a native of Boston, Mass., and died in Macon, October 24, 1837, aged 20 years. And though he passed away "a stranger in a strange land," as his epitaph recites, a nice tombstone was erected to his memory, upon which is inscribed, among other things, the following:
"Thus died the stranger in a foreign clime,
Lovely and young in all manhood's prime;
Away from friends and parents to whom he was most dear,
And brother and sister too, who drop affection's tear."
The earliest trace of a burial that I saw was that of Mrs. Rebecca A. Pace, consort of Thomas Pace. She died December 30, 1828. Over her grave rests a marble slab. What attracted my attention was the statement in the inscription that she was the daughter of Jared Irwin. Here then was the sacred dust of the cherished child of a man who was Governor of Georgia several times, and held other positions of public honor and responsibility. He first occupied the office of Governor from January 17, 1796, to January 11, 1798. He had the distinction while Governor, in 1796, of signing the act rescinding the Yazoo law. In 1806 he was president of the State Senate and became Acting Governor on the election of Gov. John Milledge as United States Senator. He continued Acting Governor from September 23, 1806, to November 7, 1808, when he was elected Governor, and filled the office from November 7, 1806, to November 9, 1809. He served as Governor under two constitutions. He was the president of the constitutional convention of 1789. Mr. Irwin was president of the Senate at various times, both before and after being Governor, commencing in 1790. He was holding the presidency of this body at the time of his death, which occurred at Union Hill, Washington County, March 1, 1818, to which place he had moved from Burke County. Gov. Irwin was 68 years old when he died. This prominent man was born in North Carolina, and removed to Burke County, Georgia, before the revolution, in which conflict he took a gallant part, and afterwards served in campaigns against the Indians. He was made a brigadier-general because of his splendid military services. At the close of the Revolutionary War he was a member of the first Legislature held in Georgia under the new form of Government. In Sandersville stands a monument that was erected to his memory by the State of Georgia. Irwin County was named in his honor."