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Agreement approved to move family graves from home site to cemetery
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A home is being constructed Dec. 13, 2019, on Lake Lanier. In the front yard is a family graveyard the home owners want moved. - photo by Jeff Gill

A historic family cemetery’s proposed move can now be put to rest.

An agreement by property owners and descendants to move the graves from a North Hall lakefront home, where they’ve been for 60 years, to Alta Vista Cemetery in Gainesville got the approval Thursday night from the Hall County Board of Commissioners.

“I want to thank everybody that was involved in this,” Commissioner Billy Powell said after the Jan. 9 vote. “This could have been one of most difficult decisions that we could have made as a commission, when you talk about history, descendants and progress.

“I know it’s a huge relief to this board up here to have both sides come to the meeting and say ‘We’re all in agreement and we’re happy about the decision.’”

Update: Alta Vista Cemetery in Gainesville could be the final resting place for a historic family cemetery that has been on private property in North Hall for nearly 60 years.

The property owners and descendants of those buried in the plot off Dunlap Drive, overlooking Lake Lanier, have agreed on moving the graves from the property to Alta Vista.

The relocation got the blessing of the Hall County Planning Commission Monday, Dec. 16. The board’s recommendation now goes to the Hall County Board of Commissioners for final action Jan. 9.

The 19th-century cemetery, containing the graves of the Thompson family, early settlers of Hall County, has been moved before. Originally, it was where Lake Lanier is now, moved by the Army Corps of Engineers when the lake was created.

The new Alta Vista location would be below Confederate Lt. Gen. James Longstreet’s grave, said Julius Hulsey, a Gainesville lawyer related to direct descendants, to the board.

“It’s a beautiful location,” he said. “If this is approved, it will be a win-win situation for everybody. The city has been really been good to not only allow us to do this but to pick out a very suitable location and beautiful spot. I’m all excited about it.”

An agreement over a proposed cemetery relocation that has divided descendants may become public Monday.

Opposing sides have said they hope to reach a compromise in a builder’s push to move the 19th-century Thompson family cemetery out of the front yard of a North Hall lakefront house under construction to another side of the property.

The issue is set to resurface Dec. 16 before the Hall County Planning Commission. The commission voted Nov. 18 to put off the vote to give opposing sides more time to reach an agreement. The issue initially went before the commission in October.

“The parties have met, and we think we’re coming up with a good resolution in this matter,” Julius Hulsey, one of the descendants, told the board at the time.

Neither he nor the builder, Richard Padgham, could be reached for comment last week.

Hall County Planning Commission

What: Proposed relocation of family cemetery

When: 5:15 p.m. Monday, Dec. 16

Where: Hall County Government Center, 2875 Browns Bridge Road, Gainesville

The issue at hand is that the cemetery has already been moved once — in 1957, when Lake Lanier was created. The cemetery is now on a 1-acre lot off Dunlap Drive, a posh neighborhood off Thompson Bridge Road, where property owners Timothy and Susan Carey are building a two-story house.

“The cemetery is slightly right of the dead center of the lot, and it’s hard sloping lot and the house sits lower than the cemetery,” Padgham told the planning board in October. “It’s really in the way.”

At that meeting, Hulsey took issue with the house being built before permission to move the graves was sought.

“They wanted to show you this castle of a house … before they come to you and say, ‘Forget the historical significance. (The cemetery) is interfering with our house,” Hulsey said.

“When we set off down this road, we had a site plan that left the cemetery like it is,” Padgham told the commission in response. “That’s why I’m here late in the game.”

Another descendant, Wes Hulsey, has said, “In my opinion, the remains of my ancestors should rest in peace.”

The original cemetery held 72 graves, with the other 48 graves moved in 1957 “to other cemeteries beyond the flood pool,” says a report from Athens-based Southeastern Archeological Services, which was filed as part of the application.

In 2013, the previous owner of the Dunlap Drive property hired a crew to rearrange tombstones and markers “to consolidate them into a circular pattern within the former bounds of the 1957 cemetery.”

“He also removed retaining walls and a concrete apron around the grave markers and landscaped the cemetery area, but did not move the grave contents.”

Still, “there is much uncertainty about how the graves survived the two rounds of reconstruction and rearranging,” the report says.

The planning board’s recommendation will be forwarded to the Hall County Board of Commissioners for final action at a public hearing Jan. 9.

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