Andy Johnston for the AJC – 18 January 2016
Q: No one seems to know who owns the burial plots in the cemetery in downtown Alpharetta. I want to know if I can buy one. Who has the plot list of owners and are there any plots available for sale?
—Steve Beecham, Milton
A: There appears to be room for additional graves in Alpharetta’s historic Rest Haven Cemetery, but no plots are for sale.
Simply put, city officials and historians don’t know where all of the bodies are buried.
The cemetery dates to the 1860s, the Alpharetta Historical Society’s Connie Mashburn said, and many records have been lost or destroyed through the years.
Other graves are unmarked, which means any digging could disturb someone’s final resting place.
“Plots are not available for purchase for a number of reasons, most important of which, being that we cannot say for certain that our burial records are exhaustive and we would not want to re-sell an occupied plot,” city clerk Coty Thigpen said.
Prominent citizen Arthur Camp originally donated land for the cemetery more than 150 years ago. The city was incorporated in 1858 in what was then-Milton County.
Through the years, other land owners contributed property to the Rest Haven, which increased its size, Mashburn said.
The city, which owns and maintains Rest Haven, knows of at least 1,400 people who are buried there, but he said there’s a part of the cemetery where “there are no grave markers.”
Rest Haven, which is sometimes spelled Resthaven (“I’ve used it both ways,” Mashburn said.) takes a starring role in the city’s annual “Restless in Resthaven” tours, a guided event every fall.
Former citizens played by costumed actors stroll downtown and “rise from their gravesites” to talk about Alpharetta’s history.
Those buried in Rest Haven include: Teasley Upshaw, a former mayor; B-17 pilot Isham Oliver Teasley, who was killed over Italy in World War II; Civil War veteran James M. Dodd, who owned the Dodd Hotel (which was about a block from the cemetery); Mary Camp Manning, who along with her brother sold the land that became Alpharetta; Dr. Oliver P. Skelton, who helped save Milton County records during the Civil War by carrying them to Elberton; Nannie Hayes Teasley, Alpharetta’s first postmistress; and businessman Quilley Wills, who sold the land to Fulton County that became Wills Park.
“The cemetery is a who’s who of early Alpharetta,” Mashburn said. “It’s a history lesson just to walk through it.”