Clay Cemetery

Documenting and preserving Clay Cemetery in Atlanta's Kirkwood community


We’d like to welcome members of the Clay Family, residents of the Kirkwood neighborhood of the City of Atlanta, the Kirkwood Neighbors’ Organization (KNO), and all who share our respect for and desire to value and preserve historical cemeteries to this effort to share the Clay Cemetery with everyone. This blog structured website will be a constantly evolving means of sharing our progress in documenting and preserving Kirkwood’s Clay Cemetery, sometimes called the Clay Burial Ground in historical documents, and allow us all to share in that effort. Please feel free to join in with your comments, suggestions, and contact information. Most importantly we hope you will feel comfortable enough to share your knowledge and documentation with us and help us to keep filling in the blanks in our Clay Cemetery history and answer the mysteries that continue to make themselves know as we restore this important historical site.

Introduction to Clay Cemetery


8 thoughts on “Welcome

  1. Great work KNO and Earl. You all have been busy. Looks like all the ivy has been cleared. Love the website. It’s like a mini lesson in early American history and incredibly fascinating. Also, I found a great early Atlanta map online at the historical society website that shows at least 2 Clay families living in the area. Will post you the link when I find it. Will be checking back regularly.

  2. Many Thanks! for the kind words Dr Fishel ! Some updated images reflecting current work will be posted soon.
    Clay Cemetery and it’s Caregivers wish EVERYONE a Happy Thanksgiving !

  3. Earl, great job by you and KNO on the web site and in preserving the history of Kirkwood and its founders. I really appreciate all your hard work and dedication. I’ll check in regularly and hope to visit the cemetery soon.

  4. Is it possible to visit/tour this cemetery? I have a genealogical link to the Clay family.

  5. I actually visited the cemetery this past Saturday and just to see the old head stones was just a wonderful and interesting feeling

  6. To Everyone –

    We wanted to get the group’s input on tree issues relative to old growth hardwoods in Clay Cemetery. As many are aware, this is one of the most challenging issues in the care and feeding of historic cemeteries. Whether to preserve as part of the overall installation or proactively remove in order to protect graves and avoid their disruption is a question that has no set answer.

    We have been lucky to date and avoided any fallen tree damage, even with high wind situations. At the same time we have had to remove about one old growth hardwood every other year because of significant disease, loss of structural integrity, or increasingly negative impacts on nearby graves. We wait as long as possible for each removal, with structural issues being the last determinant in the process for individual trees.

    Currently the vacant lot adjacent to the cemetery to the north is being developed for a large single family detached residence + garage. Impacted trees are assessed by City of Atlanta relative to root zone intrusion, those over 20% are considered “lost”. Clay Cemetery has agreed to the removal by the developer of 3-4 boundary/fence line trees of 10-11″ diameters. This will facilitate our planned restoration of the c.1938 cemetery fence.

    A 36″ tree very close to the Parker and Orr burials will be impacted but not “lost”, it currently will receive a preservation treatment. Note that the City would not oppose it’s removal. This tree has mild disease and is technically a boundary tree. It is one of the old growth hardwoods we monitor regularly.

    To the rear of it is a 24″ tree the City has marked as “lost”, we are not sure why … it is a healthy tree without visible issues and well within the cemetery from the boundary/fence line. Clay Cemetery is declining removal of this tree, at least until it’s health is professionally evaluated. It is in proximity to Hammond and Orr burials.

    Our question to the group is which of the following options is preferred. Bear in mind:
    – these trees will be much harder to address after development of the adjoining lot
    – the old growth hardwoods are part of the extensive value Clay Cemetery contributes to the community
    – the old growth hardwoods are a significant historical element of the cemetery
    – both trees are VERY close to graves
    – remediation costs at this time will be born by the developer

    Should we:
    a. Remove both the 24″ and 36″ hardwoods
    b. Remove the 24″ tree but not the 36″ tree
    c. Remove 36″ tree but not the 24″ tree
    d. Retain both trees

    Earl Williamson, RN
    Environmental & Clay Cemetery Chair
    Kirkwood Neighbors Organization (KNO)

  7. Every old growth tree that can be saved should be protected. John Muir called our trees cathedrals, comparing them to the stone structures in Europe. they are our heritage. Please put them first in preservation.

  8. My parents are buried next to paternal grandparents in what was a small family cemetery, now enlarged and public. As children we helped keep the family area cleared and helped my mother plant azaleas, dogwoods from our yard within the grounds. They remain today and are so nice. Perhaps planting these flowering shrubs and Japanese/saucer magnolias, rhododendrons and the like might mitigate and enhance the beauty lost where the encroaching trees are taken out.

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