Rose Hill Ramble showcases Macon’s history

hgoodridge@macon.comApril 7, 2013 

More than 100 people turned out Sunday for a tour and history lesson at Macon’s Rose Hill Cemetery.

The semiannual Rose Hill Ramble offers glimpses into the lives and deaths of people whose names now not only mark gravestones in the cemetery, but also many Macon streets, structures, and neighborhoods.

Tourist got to learn about Mary Clare de Graffenried, a former Wesleyan College student who was born in 1849 and died in 1921.

Referred to by many as a firebrand and free-thinker, she graduated in 1865 from Wesleyan as valedictorian. After submitting her address to faculty, she decided to abandon the speech and talk from her heart. Like her father, de Graffenried was a “true Confederate” and during her address at the school, she chose to speak about the depredation of Macon by Union troops who were occupying the area during that time, tour guide Jim Barfield said. “De Graffenried was also particularly disturbed by the federal troops using the water near Rose Hill to bathe while widows and other women were nearby.

After speaking out against the Union troops, a general threatened to shut Wesleyan down and put armed guards there, which never happened.

De Graffenried became a heroine and taught at Wesleyan until 1876. She moved to Washington, D.C., and was one of the first employees at the newly formed Department of Labor where she championed rights for women and child workers, Barfield said.

Those in the women’s suffrage movement thought de Graffenried was an ideal person to champion the cause and they tried to recruit her, but to no avail. She didn’t believe women should have the right to vote.

George Scoville attended the Ramble for the sixth time Sunday. “I love history,” he said. “There’s so much to learn. So much people don’t know.”

Scoville’s great-grandfather, Edward Scoville, is buried at Rose Hill. “He drove the first locomotive into the new (at the time) Macon Train Station,” he said.

Sunday’s tour ended at the grave site of a Maconite making national news as of late.

LeRoy Wiley Gresham, an invalid boy who wrote his personal observations nearly every day from June 1860 until he died June 18, 1865, chronicled life in Macon during the early months of the Civil War and when Union troops steam rolled their way through Georgia.

The boy’s diary, noted for being neat and intelligent, has been the focus of a Civil War display at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.

From the family’s home, which is now 1842 Inn, the child could see battles in the distance. As a 15-year-old, he only weighed about 68 pounds and had to be carried around by his mother, or wheeled through town by a servant, Barfield said.

Jeff Pyles lived in Macon his whole life and is glad he finally came out to the Rose Hill Ramble. “It was very informative,” he said. “The last time I was here (Rose Hill Cemetery) I was in high school,” the 54-year-old said.

To contact writer Harold Goodridge, call 744-4382.

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