Monday, December 22, 2008

The Fish Family Crypt in Memory Hill Cemetery-Myth Debunked

There is a legend about Mr. J.A. Fish, whose family has a crypt in the Memory Hill Cemetery in Milledgeville, Georgia. The legend goes that Mr. Fish's daughter and wife died of typhus sometime around 1872. Mr. Fish was so heartbroken by the deaths of his beloved wife and daughter that he had a rocking chair dragged in to the crypt and bricked himself up inside. According to the legend, he died inside, and when visitors come to the crypt and knock on the outside of it, they can hear a faint knocking on the inside.

I asked my friend and favorite local historian, Hugh Harrington, about the legend. He and his wife, Susan, have worked on rehabilitation, preservation, and history compilation for the cemetery for years now. According to Harrington, the Friends of Baldwin County Cemeteries raised almost $17,000 to help repair the Fish crypt, as it had fallen in to disrepair. When the organization and preservationists opened the crypt, they found a metal casket and the remains of five other people. Included among their team were an archaeologist and an anthropologist. Harrington and the others did quite a bit of research on the crypt and the family. Harrington reported that since Mr. Fish died first, the legend could not be farther from the truth. There was no rocking chair, and the legend is FALSE.

I want to end this post by saying that I absolutely love Memory Hill Cemetery. The Harringtons should be commended for the work that they and others have done there. There are a number of Georgia notables buried in the cemetery, including former Georgia Congressman Carl Vinson, author Flannery O'Connor, former UGA chemistry professor and first ever UGA head football coach Charles Holmes Herty, former members of the Georgia General Assembly, former presidents of Georgia College and State University, and numerous Civil War soldiers. I highly recommend a tour of the cemetery. Although the Fish legend is not true, it is still worth a trip by the old crypt to see the restoration work done by the Friends of Baldwin Cemeteries.

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