BONAVENTURE: A Visit to Savannah's Famous Cemetery
Updated: Mar 9, 2022
The term "hauntingly, beautiful" is what I would use to describe Bonaventure Cemetery. One of the most well-known and visited cemeteries in not only Savannah, Georgia, or the South, but all of the United States.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
A PLACE FOR THE DEAD & LIVING
MONUMENTS & TOMBS I ADMIRE NOTABLE GRAVES
RESPECTFUL ETIQUETTE WHILE AT BONAVENTURE
Driving through the narrow stone and iron gate, you're instantly drawn into a serene scene. Canopied by large live oaks, dripping with Spanish moss, lining the drives through the cemetery. Some of the trees are aged well over two hundred years. Ornate grave markers, tombs, monuments, and mausoleums spread out over the 160 acres.
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Escape the crowds of River Street and head 20-minutes outside of Savannah’s historic district to the peaceful Bonaventure Cemetery. Overlooking the tranquil waters of the Wilmington River on a scenic bluff, at Bonaventure, the who's-who of Savannah and Georgia history are buried here.
The cemetery is comprised of several distinct sections. The historic section with more notable graves is towards the back. Running between Noble Jones Dr to the graves near the bank of the river. Other prominent sections include the American Legion adjoining the historic section and the Jewish section is towards the front on the south side. You also notice a Jewish chapel.
Bonaventure is operated by Savannah’s Department of Cemeteries. The Bonaventure Historical Society manages the visitor center and provides tours monthly. They also oversee the cemetery's social media accounts (Facebook and Instagram).
FROM PLANTATION TO CEMETERY
Now the final resting spot for hundreds of souls, originally this land was part of the 600 acre Bonaventure Plantation. Built when Georgia was still a colony, Colonel John Mullryneby and his family lived at Bonaventure until it was repossessed from his son-in-law, Josiah Tattnall by the Georgia colony. Why you might ask? During the Revolutionary War, both Mullryneby and Tattnall were loyalists. Pledging their allegiance to England and King George. Which in turn led to their banishment from the colony.
In 1782, all loyalist property in Georgia was auctioned off, including Bonaventure Plantation. Eventually, the Tattnalls would possess the plantation again. Until March 10, 1846, when Commodore Josiah Tattnall III sold the plantation and its family cemetery to Peter Wiltberger. The Wiltberger family established Evergreen Cemetery here in 1868. They sold the land to the City of Savannah in 1907. Making the cemetery public and changing the name to Bonaventure Cemetery.
Did You Know? Bonaventure derives from the Italian “buona fortuna” meaning Good Fortune.
To learn more about the history of Bonaventure, watch this video presented by the Bonaventure Historical Society.
A PLACE FOR THE DEAD & LIVING
From the mid to late 1800s, the Victorians began the rural cemetery movement. Opting to bury their loved ones in picturesque landscapes with numerous trees, pathways, and elaborate grave markers. Bonaventure is a premier example of this movement.
Victorian cemeteries, sometimes