Visit the Bonaventure Cemetery in Savannah Georgia - It was developed on the historically-significant site of Bonaventure Plantation. The peaceful setting rests on a scenic bluff of the Wilmington River, east of Savannah Georgia. Stay and Play in GA!
The site was purchased for a private cemetery in 1846 and became a public cemetery in 1907. Citizens and others can still purchase interment rights in Bonaventure. This charming historic site has been a world famous tourist destination for more than 150 years due to the old tree-lined roadways, the many notable persons interred, the unique cemetery sculpture and architecture, and the folklore associated with the site and the people. The cemetery is the largest of the municipal cemeteries containing nearly 160 acres. It is open to the public daily from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and there is no admission fee.
Claudia Catell Mullryne and her husband, Colonel John Mullryne, established their residence at Bonaventure in 1762. The 600-acre rural estate was located on the Saint Augustine Creek about 3 ½ miles from the Savannah Georgia Colony. The Mullrynes’ youngest daughter, Mary, and her husband, Josiah Tattnall, had two children born at Bonaventure: John Mullryne Tattnall in 1763 and Josiah Tattnall, Jr. in 1765.
No agricultural crop was cultivated at Bonaventure; however, Colonel John Mullryne established live oak trees every 15 feet on each side of the roadways within the estate.
The first plantation house burned in 1771, but was replaced with a brick mansion considered one of the best buildings in the Province.
Bonaventure Plantation was a significant site during the American Revolution. In 1776 Royal Governor James Wright escaped Revolutionary captors via Bonaventure. The estate on St. Augustine Creek became a landing for French and Haitian troops under Count Charles d’Estaing in October 1779 and the mansion was used as a hospital during the Siege of Savannah Georgia.
Bonaventure estate was confiscated by the Revolutionary government in 1782 and sold at public auction to John Habersham, a friend of the Tattnalls, who sold the property in 1785 to Josiah Tattnall, Jr. Harriett Fenwick, the wife of Josiah Tattnall, Jr. gave birth to nine children from 1786 to 1801, and buried four of them while residing at Bonaventure. She died in 1803, and her husband, then Governor Tattnall died in 1804. The orphaned children were raised by their grandparents in London.
The second house was likely destroyed between 1803 and 1817. Neither Edward Fenwick Tattnall nor Josiah Tattnall, III, two sons of Governor Tattnall, resided at Bonaventure upon returning to Savannah Georgia and inheriting the estate. The ruins of the house and the tree-lined roadways remained on the property when Josiah Tattnall, III sold the property to Peter Wiltberger in 1846 who intended to develop a public cemetery on 70 acres. Josiah Tattnall, III became a Commodore in the Confederate Navy.
Savannah businessman, Peter Wiltberger purchased Bonaventure from Josiah Tattnall, III with the intention to develop a public cemetery on 70 acres, including the Tattnall Family burial ground which had been used for burials since 1794.
The cemetery was designed around the ruins of the Tattnall mansion using the existing live oak tree lined roadways to provide access and separate the major cemetery sections. The Evergreen Cemetery Company of Bonaventure was incorporated by Wiltberger and others in 1847.
Many Savannah Georgia families removed the remains of their deceased loved ones from other cemeteries to the new Evergreen cemetery. The first monument was the Noble Jones monument installed in 1848 for the Jones family removed from South Broad Street (Colonial) Cemetery. The remains had previously been moved from the Jones Cemetery at Wormsloe Plantation to South Broad Street.
The first interment that was not a removal from elsewhere was Susan Green Wiltberger, the wife of Peter Wiltberger, who was buried in 1849. Peter Wiltberger died and was buried in 1853. The Evergreen Cemetery Company at Bonaventure developed Sections A through H of the rural cemetery and purchased adjacent property for expansion.
The corporation made several attempts to sell the cemetery to the City of Savannah Georgia as lots in Laurel Grove North Cemetery were sold out as early 1868. The City did not purchase the cemetery until 1907, but has maintained it ever since.
The Live Oak Trees of Bonaventure
Bonaventure has long been known for the massive live oak trees with arched limbs covered in Spanish moss overhanging her roadways. Historical documentation has proved that many of the live oak trees in Bonaventure today are nearly 250 years old.
When Colonel John Mullryne selected this site for his family’s residence in 1764, he directed the establishment of live oak trees every fifteen feet along both sides of the main corridors of the estate. These trees were well established before the American Revolution.
Live oak has a naturally spiraling wood grain that allows the tough wood to bend rather than break, making the tree the most hurricane-resistant tree in North America.
The most ferocious storm ever to strike Savannah Georgia was the Hurricane of 1804 at the beginning of a century and the second worst was the Great Sea Islands Hurricane at the end of the same century (1893). Other major hurricanes struck in 1824, 1854 and 1884, with intermittent hurricanes of less force and tropical storms too numerous to mention. These were the glory days of the hurricane-resistant live oaks at Bonaventure that survived, and even thrived during repeated poundings by gale force winds.
The trees have been slowly declining since the Great Sea Islands Hurricane of 1893; however, there are two and a half centuries of surveys, photographs, report, and folklore that have documented their life story. In 2004, the live oaks of Bonaventure Cemetery were registered on the Georgia Landmark and Historic Tree Register.