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Should family cemetery be moved — again? At least one descendant says no
Property owner set to ask permission to relocate graves of one of Hall's oldest families
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A small cemetery located on Dunlap Drive in Gainesville sits in front of new home construction Monday, Oct. 14, 2019. The 24 graves were relocated to the site in 1957 as Lake Lanier was being prepared. - photo by Scott Rogers

The 19th-century cemetery of one of Hall County’s founding families was moved once — in 1957, when Lake Lanier was created.

And now the owners of the North Hall property where the Thompson family — as in the bridge — are buried want to move the cemetery again, to the disdain of at least one descendant.

“In my opinion, the remains of my ancestors should rest in peace,” said Wes Hulsey, who lives in South Carolina.

Hulsey said he plans to attend the Hall County Planning Commission meeting Monday, Oct. 21, when Richard Padgham of Richard Padgham Fine Custom Homes is set to ask for the cemetery relocation.

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A small stone marker tells of the 24 graves moved to a site along Dunlap Drive in 1957 during the building of Lake Lanier. Today, a builder is hoping to have the cemetery moved again as it is at a construction site along Dunlap Drive. - photo by Scott Rogers

Property owners Timothy and Susan Carey are building a house at the 1-acre lot off Dunlap Drive, a posh neighborhood off Thompson Bridge Road.

Padgham is helping them with architectural and landscape design of the house, according to a report filed by Athens-based Southeastern Archeological Services.

“Because the cemetery is located well within the sloping lot and to assist in restoring the original layout of the graves, the present owners wish to relocate the cemetery about 40 feet to the south on the same lot,” the report says.

Neither Padgham nor the property owners could be reached for comment.

A trip to the property shows the two-story house well under construction and the 24-grave cemetery, cordoned off by yellow tape, between the house and Dunlap Drive.

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Andrew and Cynthia Reid Thompson , first settler of Hall County, Owner of Trading Post with Cherokee Nation and builder of Thompson Bridge are both interred at the Thompson Family Cemetery.

Southeastern’s report shows a multistep process of moving the graves.

“The archaeologists, working with hand tools (and a backhoe), will fully expose and excavate the shallowly buried hard objects that are believed to be other gravestones, probably bases to the formerly upright tombstones,” the report states.

Workers may also “expose (but not excavate) the metal coffin of 11-year-old Andrew Thompson.”

Andrew was the grandson of Andrew and Cynthia Reid Thompson, also buried in the cemetery. The grandparents died in the mid-1800s, before the grandson’s death in 1868, according to a family tree that’s part of the report.

“There are other family members purported to be buried there, as well as two documented slaves from the early 19th century,” said Hulsey, who visits the cemetery with family members every two to three years.

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A builder is hoping to have a small cemetery plot moved from a construction site along Dunlap Drive. The plot includes 24 graves that were relocated to the site in 1957 as Lake Lanier was being prepared. - photo by Scott Rogers

The original Thompson cemetery held 72 graves, with the other 48 graves moved in 1957 “to other cemeteries beyond the flood pool,” the report says.

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.

“At the end of the disinterment phase, we will know how many graves have remains that will be reburied.”

The report continues: “The remains and inscribed gravestones will be laid out in a pattern closely matching that of the 1957 reburial map.”

The entire process is expected to cost up to $25,000, with the new owner maintaining the gravesite.

For his part, Hulsey prefers none of it happens.

“I was raised with a firm belief that burial places are sacred, and for thousands of years this is a universal moral belief held by mankind,” he said.

The planning board can only recommend approval or denial. The issue is set to go before the Hall County Board of Commissioners for final consideration on Nov. 14.

Hall County Planning Commission

What: Proposed relocation of family cemetery dating to the 1800s

When: 5:15 p.m. Monday, Oct. 21

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

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Violet Brown Reid, left, born in Ireland in the mid 1700s and wife of Revolutionary War Veteran William Reid with daughter Cynthia Reid Thompson are both interred at Thompson Family Cemetery.
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