St James Episcopal Church Cemetery was founded in 1849, as a "grave land" that was laid out on the furthest corner of the 20-acre church property, at the corner of Winn Street and what is now Polk Street. Burials began in 1850 and continue to this day.
Well-known Marietta names like Root, Schillings, Whitlock, Brumby, Freyer, McNeal, Northcutt and Little are found in the cemetery of St. James Episcopal Church. A tranquil sanctuary, the cemetery preserves history dating back to the mid-1800s.
“If you think about a street name in Marietta, there’s a good chance that the person that street was named for is buried in the cemetery,” said Marietta resident Chris Brown, Treasurer and Trustee of St. James Cemetery Trust Board. He is married to Cathy and they have two grown sons and two granddaughters. Brown is retired from the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta.
The cemetery is located off the church campus, at the corner of Winn and Polk Streets. Winnwood Retirement Community is located on the south side of the cemetery, First United Methodist Church Park on the east side and Marietta Middle School on the west side.
The cemetery is the final resting place for significant historical people such as ten mayors of Marietta, one Governor of Georgia, numerous founding fathers of Marietta and St. James, as well as other notable persons. “It’s a resting place for people who founded and shaped Marietta in many ways,” Brown said.
St. James was established in 1842. In 1844, the Vestry purchased twenty acres of land that ran from the railroad tracks behind the church, located at 161 Church Street (near the Marietta Square), to Winn Street. Over the years, St. James sold off parts of the original tract.
In 1849, the cemetery was laid out in its first version. “The church attracted a group of parishioners and the vestry saw the need for a cemetery to meet the church’s needs,” Brown said.
The cemetery expanded its original footprint in 1945 by the purchase of a half-acre tract. Recently, the church established a few more “in ground” spaces at the walkways, and created a cremation garden and columbarium for people who want to be interred there. “We’re still an active cemetery, not just an historical place,” Brown said.
However, history is an important part because of the interesting people buried in the cemetery like William Root, one of the earliest settlers of Marietta and founding members of St. James. His home was restored to its c. 1845 appearance, and Cobb Landmarks & Historical Society runs it today as a museum.
Alfred Waud, a well-known Civil War artist, is buried in the cemetery. He died in 1891 while working in Marietta on sketches about battles around the area. “Rather than send his body back to New England where he was from, he was buried in the St. James’ Cemetery,” Brown said.
There are references in historical documents to the burial of slaves in the cemetery but the records are incomplete and no record exists today.
One of the biggest draws to the cemetery is the grave of child murder victim JonBenet Ramsey.
Great care goes in to preserving the cemetery for the community. “We have worked hard to bring the cemetery up to the highest standard. We cleaned every gravestone and inscription in the cemetery. It probably had never been done since it was created. We’re trying to make it park-like and a peaceful, serene place for people to come,” said Kennesaw resident Jim Parks, President of Board of Trustees of St. James Cemetery Trust Board, and man-ager of the day-to-day operations of the cemetery.
Within the last six months, Will Eubanks mapped the entire cemetery and conducted a complete inventory of grave-stones as his Eagle Project for Boy Scouts. A cast aluminum map was made, mounted on a kiosk for the public. Brown worked with Eubanks and created an index to locate specific graves.
“Everybody buried (in the cemetery) is listed on the index,” said Parks, who is married to Diane. They have two grown children. He is a retired business owner who works part-time at Mayes Ward-Dobbins Funeral Home and as a bailiff in Cobb Superior Court.
“I invite and encourage people to visit the cemetery. Part of the reason it’s there is for the public benefit,” Parks said.