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New Thompson family cemetery dedicated at Alta Vista after graves moved — twice
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Julie Hawk prepares to place a wreath at the Thompson family plot at Alta Vista Cemetery Wednesday, Nov. 10, 2021, during the Thompson Family Reinterment Celebration. - photo by Scott Rogers

One by one, Thompson family descendants gave their name, with some sharing more about their ties to one of Hall County’s founding families.

It was a solemn roll call of what is believed to be a fraction of descendants taking part in a dedication of the 19th century family cemetery Wednesday, Nov. 10, at Alta Vista Cemetery off Jesse Jewell Parkway. The family plot is off 9th Street at the rear of Alta Vista.

Helen Martin of Gainesville said she was a descendant of several area families, including the Thompsons, “and they all intermarried,” drawing laughter from the crowd of about 50 gathered for the ceremony.

“It’s quite a gratifying feeling to see that, due to the efforts of a lot of people, this historical monument and sacred place will be preserved,” said Julius Hulsey, a Gainesville lawyer who helped lead efforts to secure a final resting place for the cemetery.

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A Thompson Family Reinterment Celebration is held Wednesday, Nov. 10, 2021, at Alta Vista Cemetery in Gainesville. - photo by Scott Rogers
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The Thompson Family Reinterment Celebration is held Wednesday, Nov. 10, 2021, at Alta Vista Cemetery in Gainesville. - photo by Scott Rogers

In what was its second relocation, the cemetery was moved 6.3 miles in the spring of 2020 from private property off Dunlap Drive in North Hall. The cemetery had been at that location for more than 60 years.

The cemetery originally was where Lake Lanier is now, moved in 1957 by the Army Corps of Engineers to higher ground when the lake was created.

An inscription on a marker at the Alta Vista family plot says 24 graves were moved to the spot in May 2020. Another marker tells of its Lake Lanier past, and a monument bears the Thompson name.

The Thompsons were pioneer settlers of Hall County, with their name prominent today in such spots as Thompson Bridge, Thompson Bridge Road and the Thompson Mill Road off U.S. 129 north of Gainesville.

Setting the final move in motion was a request in 2019 from Dunlap Drive property owners Tim and Susan Carey to move the cemetery out of their front yard to the side of their lot.

The proposal initially drew opposition as it went before Hall County officials, with some descendants wanting the graves to be left alone.

“When you start talking about moving a cemetery, it obviously becomes a very emotional matter for descendants, and rightly so,” Hulsey said. “I was very apprehensive getting involved in this.”

He praised the efforts of John Shope, a late Thompson descendant who was instrumental in resolving conflicts among descendants.

“All the descendants started working and pulling together,” Hulsey said.

An agreement was reached to move the cemetery to Alta Vista, which has several notable graves, including Confederate Lt. Gen. James Longstreet.

The move was approved Jan. 9, 2020, by the Hall County Board of Commissioners.

In an interview last summer, Hulsey said plans were underway to dedicate the ceremony but the date was uncertain because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

After the ceremony, direct descendant Dr. Howard Walpole reflected on the relocation efforts.

“It's nice to get this in a place where there is perpetual care, so I think it was the right thing to do,” he said.