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Column: Ceremony will mark graves' relocation to Alta Vista Cemetery
Johnny Vardeman

The Thompson family was finally put to rest last year, their cemetery relocated for a second time.

The Thompsons were pioneer settlers of Hall County, and their name remains prominent today on Thompson Bridge, Thompson Bridge Road and the Thompson Mill Road off U.S. Route 129 north of Gainesville.

The original cemetery would have been covered by Lake Lanier but was relocated off Dunlap Drive where the late Ed Dunlap Jr. had his home. Builders of a home on the lot where the cemetery was located wanted to relocate the graves, but Thompson descendants objected.

The two sides finally compromised, and the reinterred graves in Alta Vista Cemetery will be dedicated in a ceremony at 1 p.m. Nov. 10 near the Gen. James Longstreet gravesite. Helen Martin, a descendant of the Thompson family and a member of Colonial Dames, a heritage and historic preservation society, will present a wreath to mark the occasion. Wes Hulsey, a Thompson descendant, will preside. His cousin, Julius Hulsey, helped facilitate the relocation of the graves.

Andrew Thompson settled in what is now Hall County in 1806. His and his wife Cynthia’s graves are among those in the Thompson cemetery. Their sons, Ovid and Guilford, helped their father build the Thompson Bridge that stood until 1946 when it burned. Their remains also are in the cemetery along with their wives. Others include Ovid Brown Thompson and wife Marguerite, Edgar Dunlap, Minnie Thompson Hulsey, Andrew and Cynthia Thompson and two enslaved people.

The original Thompson cemetery contained 72 graves; 48 were removed to other cemeteries.

Thompson Bridge

The illustration of the old Thompson covered bridge that accompanies this article was painted by Donald Cravens when he was color editor of the Miami Herald. He was the uncle of the late John Thompson Shope, a Thompson descendant who assisted in the negotiations for relocation of the family cemetery to Alta Vista.

Painting of old covered Thompson Bridge by Donald Craven. Photo courtesy Julius Hulsey.
‘Gold rush’

Before Lake Lanier began rising in the mid-1950s, there was somewhat of a gold rush on Thompson Bridge Road. An Atlantan, Frank Gleason was trying to harvest gold around a creek just north of Thompson Bridge on the south side of the road. Andrew Thompson and family owned hundreds of acres north of the bridge, which they built. Legend is that the Thompsons bought the land with gold found on the property.

Gen. Powell

Some Hall Countians remember when Gen. Colin Powell had some of his military training at Camp Merrill in Lumpkin County. They say while stationed near Dahlonega, he would make trips to Gainesville to attend services at St. John Baptist Church.

Gen. Powell died Oct. 18.

Johnny Vardeman is retired editor of The Times. He can be reached at 2183 Pine Tree Circle NE, Gainesville, GA 30501; 770-532-2326; or His column publishes weekly.

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