CAO’s Association Outreach and Organization Manager, Anna Mehrer, visited Spartanburg, South Carolina in April and was naturally compelled to get a taste of the local culture – especially, cemetery culture. Oakwood Cemetery and Greenwood Cemetery were at the top of the list. Accompanied by a professor from Wofford College, they made their way through these historic gems.
Oakwood Cemetery is a large, grassy knoll and home to over 5,000 burials. While the cemetery was chartered in 1885, it was most likely originally a family cemetery, with its first burials between 1828 and 1872. Many historically significant members of the community are buried at Oakwood: Confederate Col. Joseph Walker, Simpson Bobo (responsible for signing the secession ordinance prior to the Civil War), Converse College founder, Dexter Converse, local politicians, and wealthy textile mill owners (Spartanburg had a burgeoning textile industry in the 1800s), among others. It is the first cemetery in the region to have a Jewish section. Several gravesites are decorated with iron crosses indicating service in the Civil War (pictured). Marked “CSA” with the Confederate flag, these are an unusual sight for those accustomed to seeing memorials in the Northwest. In 1914, some graves were moved to Oakwood Cemetery from Magnolia Cemetery to make room for a railroad.
Magnolia is a much smaller cemetery, situated across from what is now the coroner’s office. The earliest death dates in the cemetery are from 1810, with perhaps the most notable resident being William “Singin’ Billy” Walker (1809-1875), who composed the tunebook, “The Southern Harmony, and Musical Companion”. As you can see from the photos, Magnolia’s gravesites have many different styles. One mausoleum has a unique appearance reminiscent of an indigenous hut, but the view from the front presents a more traditional aesthetic. Other graves are arranged piles of brick.
As with most cemeteries, Magnolia and Oakwood have had a history of popular places to party among the locals, often incurring vandalism and extensive, expensive damage. Magnolia appears to have received some level of love in years past, but there is evidence that finding resources for upkeep may be a challenge. Through the preservation of history in these beautiful resting places, there is hope for a legacy of learning and discovery for future generations.
We hope you enjoy a pictorial tour of these cemeteries.