General Information

Although the City of Watkinsville owns the property, the plots within the Watkinsville Cemetery are privately owned and maintained by families.  Although the road is maintained by the City of Watkinsville, it is not the intent of the city to take over the full operation of the cemetery or have the fund pay for all the maintenance and care of the cemetery in view of private ownership and private maintenance of many lots in the cemetery. See also City Code

The city acts as a trustee for funds received from private citizens for the upkeep and maintenance of the cemetery and maintains a trust fund where donations may be conveyed.

For more information, call City Hall at 706-769-5161.

Historical Information

Watkinsville Cemetery
Simonton Bridge Road

83.402 W 33.867 N

The Watkinsville City Cemetery is one of the oldest cemeteries in Oconee County.  A Methodist church originally owned the cemetery property in the early 1800s, but the church burned down in the 1820s and was never rebuilt. The city acquired the cemetery in 1837 and sold plots to families in the area, but in 1979, declared it to be privately owned by everyone who had plots in it, though the city government agreed to clean it up periodically with donations. 

The first mention of the Watkinsville Cemetery occurs in 1837 when Edward Paine, local attorney and trustee of the University of Georgia, donated one acre of land, designated as an addition to the then existing burying ground.1 The gift was made to Edward Lumpkin, William Murray, Richard Dillon and John C. Johnson as Commissioners of the Town of Watkinsville. The earliest dated headstone is that of Maria Gauvain Harden, wife of Dr. Robert Harden, who died in 1829.The next oldest legible gravestones are those of Benj. H. Booth (1836), Caroline Paine (1838), and Edward Paine (1842).3

In 1878, Elizabeth Lee sold, for $5, 2.5 acres adjoining the existing graveyard on three sides, to James C. Wilson, a trustee for the Watkinsville Grave Yard.J. A. Wilson, Lula Price, A. S. Wilson, Muriel Wilson, Emma Wilson and Mrs. Laura Dorsey made another addition to the Councilmen of Watkinsville in 1909, of an unstated quantity.5 A 1940 survey identified the cemetery by the name of “Watkinsville Cemetery.”In 1956, Mrs. Mary Verner sold additional land to the east, contiguous with Simonton Bridge Road, labeled on the survey as “Watkinsville Cemetery Addition”.A deed from William Henry Hodges, I11, dated 1983, documented a recent phase of cemetery expansion, a small triangle of land in the southwest corner fronting Simonton Bridge Road.A quitclaim deed from Mary Thomas in 2003 transferred .136 acre to the City of Watkinsville, primarily to allow the NE curve of the original cemetery road to now be within the cemetery proper.9

There are not, of yet, any discoveries of the records of plot sales or transfers, from the town to individual plot owners. Likewise, any original burial records, produced under the 19th century Cemetery Committee authority, remain missing. They are presumed lost in a city hall fire in 1887.10 A few individual plot sales from the Verner and Hodges families to various individuals, primarily in the 1960s and 70s can be found at the Oconee County office of the Clerk of the Court.11 The most recent plot sale on record is a sale from Augusta Verner to Stephen and Dorothy Cooper Sherling in April 1989.12

Bethel Baptist Church, an African American faith community located in downtown Watkinsville, is actively involved in the maintenance of a large wooded section of the cemetery, located on the western boundary. Their involvement in the maintenance of the graves of their members originates from about 1909, with the grave of “Uncle Hardy”, an emancipated slave of Barton Thrasher.13 Mr. Burnell Brown, a Watkinsville civic leader who died in 2008, was the major source, for many decades, of Bethel’s historic relationship with the cemetery.14

The cemetery is rich in a variety of grave markers, including walled graves15, slab markers16, a box tomb17, on obelisk18, a broken tree stele19, a cast iron grave cover20, military markers from all U. S. conflicts beginning with the War of 181221, African American folk art designs22, as well as Masonic headstones.23 These styles represent the diversity of 184 years of changing funeral traditions. Nineteenth century decorative wrought iron fences surround several plots.24 The Watkinsville Garden Club actively worked to preserve the cemetery during the 1950s and 60s.25 Recent additions include a commemorative marker and flagpole donated by the T. R. R. Cobb Camp, Sons of the Confederacy.26

Of note are several graves of individuals important to state and local history. In the 19th century, Edward Paine, noted above, also served as a Georgia State Representative.27 Basil Overby served as the first sheriff of the then newly formed Oconee County.28 John Calvin Johnson, a local attorney, served as Clerk of the Clarke County Inferior Court and was honored by a Confederate Unit raised in Watkinsville that bore his name.29 E. S. Billups and Richard Richardson were, in turn, proprietors of the nearby Eagle Tavern for several decades, the latter serving in the War of 1812 and as a state representative.30 During the 20th century, notables include Margaret Bradberry Johnson, the first woman elected to the Georgia State Senate (1927)31 following the death of her husband, State Senator Leonard F. Johnson (also editor of the Oconee Enterprise).32 More recently, Phil Campbell, Jr. Georgia State Agriculture Commissioner and US Undersecretary of Agriculture, under Presidents Nixon and Ford, rests here.33

In 2010, the Reverend John Andrew Chapter, National Society Daughters of the American Revolution, received a grant from the Watson-Brown Foundation to engage in a project to identify graves in the unmarked rear portion of the cemetery. A ground penetrating radar search identified about 96 unmarked graves, presumed to be the pauper section of the graveyard.34 The City of Watkinsville, the property owner, has now closed the unmarked section to future burials in order to preserve its integrity.35 In 2020, the chapter presented this historical information and the following to the City of Watkinsville:

© 2020

National Society Daughters of the American Revolution

No portion of the material may be copied in any form, electronically, photographically, 

digitally, or otherwise, without the express written permission of 

National Society Daughters of the American Revolution,

1776 D. Street, N. W.,

Washington, DC 20006-5303


Clarke County, GA Deed Book S

Photo of grave of Maria Gauvain Harden, Obituary from The Athenian, Athens, 

  GA 31 March 1829 p. 4

Photo of graves of Benj. H. Booth [Green 71], Caroline Paine [Green 103], & 

  Edward Paine [Green 102] (obituary from Southern Banner, Athens GA 9 Dec 


Oconee County, GA Deed Book A (1878), pp. 342-345.

Oconee County, GA Deed Book I (1909) p. 25

Oconee County, GA Deed Book W (1940) p. 11

Oconee County, GA Plat Book #1 (1956) p. 163

Oconee County, GA Deed Book 56, p. 573, Plat Book #1, p. 320, Plat Book #7 

  (1952), p. 154

Oconee County, GA Deed Book 948 p. 34. & Attached plat.

10 Sommers, Peggy. Oconee Heritage Book, 1984, p. 11, information derived from 

   The Weekly Banner-Watchman, January 11, 1887.

11 Oconee County, GA Deed Book PP (1965), p. 250; Deed Book 54 (1974), p. 145

12 Oconee County, GA Deed Book 109 (1989) p.570; see also Footnote 7 (above)

13 Photo of grave of “Uncle Henry” [Light Blue 38], Clarke-Oconee Genealogical 

   Society, Cemetery inscriptions of Oconee County, GA 1980, p. 49

14 Obituary for Burnell Brown, Athens Banner Herald, Athens GA Dec. 16, 2008. 

   See also footnote 24 (below).

15 Photo of walled grave [near Pink 91]

16 Photo of grave of Caroline Paine [Green 103]

17 Photo of grave of Mary Jones [Green 88]

18 Photo of grave of Edgar Richardson [Red 10]

19 Photo of grave of Green Avera [Yellow 44]

20 Grave of Janie Fleming [Pink 52]

21 Photos of graves of Richard Richardson [Green 49] (War of 1812), James 

   Claiborne Wilson [White 62] (Creek Wars of 1836), James G. Jordan [Blue 27] 

   (Civil War), Joe McCarver Veale [Blue 30] (Spanish American War), Howard 

   Smith [Light Blue 1] (WWI), Eberhard B. Crawford [Blue 46] (WWII), 

   Alexander W. Ashford [Pink 26] (Korea), and Lawrence Stalnaker [Purple 51] 


22 Photo of graves of Edward Evans [Lt Green 13] & Mr. Moreland [Orange 23]

23 Photo of graves of Robert & Thomas Booth [Pink 27 & 28]

24 Photo of fences of Butler family plot [Green 80-85]

25 Sommers, Peggy. Oconee Heritage Book, 1984. p. 116.

26 Oconee Patch April 23, 2012 



27 Hynds, Ernest. Antebellum Athens and Clarke County, Georgia p. 161.

28 Sommers, Peggy. Oconee Heritage Book, 1984, p. 303.

29 Knight, Lucian. Georgia’s landmarks, memorials, and legends. Atlanta: Byrd 

   Print Co., 1914, pp. 921-922. Coleman, Kenneth. Confederate Athens, Athens: 

   UGA Press, 1968, p. 43.

30 Photos of the graves of E. S. Billups [Red 16] & Richard Richardson [Green 49]; 

   Georgia Historical Society marker, 

   http://www.georgiahistory.com/markers/2124/; Richardson obituary from the 

   Southern Watchman 5 Jul 1871.

31 Photo of the grave of Margaret Bradbury Johnson [White 45]; Georgia Secretary 

   of State website “Women in the Georgia State Senate” 

   http://sos.georgia.gov/archives/what_do_we_have/wgs.htm; Headline from The 

   Banner Herald, Athens, GA 6 Sept 1927.

32 Photo of grave of Leonard Ferdinand Johnson [White 44]; Georgia Official and 

   Statistical Register. 1927-1928 pp 48-49. Obituary from The Banner Herald,

   Athens, GA 27 Aug 1927.

33 Photo of grave of James Philander Campbell, Jr. [Teal 24]. Obituary from the 

   Athens Banner Herald June 23, 1998.

34 Letter from Watson Brown Foundation to Laurie Traill, Report of Ground 

   Penetrating Radar Systems, Inc, Atlanta, GA. Jeff DeHart, owner.

35 Watkinsville City Commission meeting minutes from July 14, 2010; August 11, 

   2010; November 9, 2012.