The Old Samuel Cook Cemetery

A page at the Jones County, Georgia website contains a draft of a 1998 newspaper article on the subject of an abandoned cemetery which seems to be that of Samuel Cook and his family.  The Cook plantation was eventually abandoned, the house being torn down after it burned in 1864.   The land lapsed into woods.  A few years ago, some developers planning to build a shopping center on the property discovered a cemetery.  Excerpts of this page:

…This old cemetery is located on the shoulder of a little knoll behind the Tastee Freeze (a photo of this location can be taken from in front of the bank on the opposite side of Hwy 129). Although the cemetery contains no headstones, it is marked by a massive hand-quarried granite enclosure wall. When the developers became aware that this enclosure might be an old cemetery rather than a building foundation, they contracted with Southern Research, Historic Preservation Consultants, Inc. of Ellerslie Georgia to investigate.

Rusty Weisman, an archeologist from Southern Research, examined the enclosure in May. Through comparison with other similar features in the Old Clinton cemetery, he concluded that the enclosure behind the Tastee Freeze was most probably an historic cemetery. Archaeological investigations resulted in the identification of six unmarked graves associated with the enclosure. By examining similar constructions in Jones county, the archeologists have learned that these heavy stone cemetery enclosures were built around family plots during the first half of the 19th Century (ca. 1810-1855). At that time livestock were allowed to range freely, and these sturdy enclosures were probably designed to keep animals from disturbing the cemeteries…

Research in the State Archives and County Courthouse shows that the cemetery is located on land owned between 1818 and 1828 by Samuel Cook, a wealthy planter. From an obituary in the Macon newspaper the researchers learned that Samuel Cook died at his home in 1828. Because that was the time when these enclosures were in common use, the researchers think it is likely that Cook and other members of his family are buried in the unmarked graves in the cemetery…

As specified in the father’s will, the property was sold in 1845 when the boys came of age. At that time the elder brother Samuel T. Cook purchased his younger brothers share. Samuel T. Cook then sold the house and the surrounding 200 acre property on September 7, 1848 to Willie Patterson for the sum of $1,200 (Book R – page 231). In 1860 the house was occupied by Eliza Cox1 who conveyed the property to R. J. Turner. Turner demolished the old Cook house following the Civil War, although he salvaged some parts for use in a new home he was building on a different site. For many years after the house was gone, stately Lombardy Poplar trees continued to mark the former location of the old Cook house. Today those trees are also gone, and little remains to identify the site…

I contacted Russ Weisman, the archaeologist mentioned above, who mailed me a lengthy and very interesting report on the excavation and analysis of the cemetery.  The analysis included a fair degree of tracing of the Cook family in Jones County in order to determine who might be buried in the cemetery.  This part of the report included information new to me and spurred me to spend several additional hours at the library to add to the Cook research (and to correct a handful of important errors and omissions).

The cemetery was constructed of large granite blocks, averaging ten feet long, laid dry to form walls.  The enclosed area was about 20 x 32.5 feet.  There were actually four adult graves and five children’s graves inside the cemetery walls.

Samuel Cook lost his wife, son John W. Cook, and three daughters all in a three-and-a-half year period from 1824 to 1827.  I would guess he built the cemetery around 1824 and that six of the graves are himself, his wife Elizabeth, and those four children.  I’d guess the infant who died at birth in 1817 was buried elsewhere, but may have been moved into this cemetery – there was a very small coffin buried in one corner of the cemetery.   The eighth grave is uncertain.

There were two additional graves outside the walls.

  1. The plantation was ultimately purchased by Thomas and Eliza Cox.  Thomas Cox was the son of Asa Cox and Maria Rountree of South Carolina.  She was the aunt of Seaborn Rountree, whose daughter arried Andrew B. Cook, Samuel Cook’s grandson, in Titus County, Texas. Several years later.  Just a coincidence. []