The Thompson family cemetery has a new resting place in Gainesville -- its second one since being displaced from Lake Lanier more than half a century ago.
Descendants are celebrating the new location in the city’s Alta Vista Cemetery off Jesse Jewell Parkway, in a move that was completed in May.
“It’s a wonderful change from where they were,” said Tom Shope of Blairsville, visiting the Alta Vista site on Monday, June 22. “It’ll be protected, people can have access to it and it's no longer lost over in the woods somewhere.”
The 19th century cemetery, containing graves of one of Hall County’s founding families, was moved 6.3 miles 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.
The property owners, Tim and Susan Carey, building a house overlooking the lake, originally wanted to move the cemetery out of their front yard to the side of their lot. The proposal drew opposition as it went before Hall County officials, with some descendants wanting the graves to be left alone.
Both sides kept talking, and an agreement was reached to move the cemetery to Alta Vista, which has several notable graves, including Confederate Lt. Gen. James Longstreet.
“The city went to bat for us,” said Julius Hulsey, a Gainesville lawyer heavily involved in the issue. “Had it not been for that, we would have been in trouble on this thing.”
The move was approved Jan. 9 by the Hall County Board of Commissioners.
Southeastern Archeological Services of Athens oversaw the digging up and moving of graves, which have been arranged in neat rows at Alta Vista. A marker describing the move is also at the family plot.
“They wanted (the new site) just like it was when the Corps moved it where it was before,” said Hulsey, himself a descendant. “We had a Corps map and pictures, so the archaeologist had everything to go by.”
Plans are underway to have a formal ceremony dedicating the ceremony, but that date is uncertain because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We want to do it when we can get a lot of the descendants here,” Hulsey said.