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Crypt of Jasper
Mausoleum of Jasper Smith features its occupant in granite, sitting in a chair above the entrance.

Strange Graves of Oakland Cemetery

Field review by the editors.

Atlanta, Georgia

Oakland Cemetery is Atlanta's oldest and largest boneyard, containing the graves of many special people, including Maggie Chapman, who died in 1880 when her winged angel costume caught fire during an Atlanta opera performance.

The unhappy Lion of the Confederacy monument was removed in August 2021.
The unhappy Lion of the Confederacy monument was removed in August 2021.

But its most peculiar appearing grave belongs to Jasper "Jack" Newton Smith.

Known as in his lifetime as "Atlanta's quaintest character," Smith's fortune came from bricks -- made by hundreds of mostly enslaved black convicts -- which were sold to Atlanta as the city rebuilt itself after the Civil War. He lived until 1918, and long before that he had his mausoleum built in Oakland Cemetery out of rejected granite street paving blocks. Over its entrance he placed a life-size granite statue of himself: bald with a bushy mustache, sitting in a rumpled suit in an armchair, holding his top hat, staring at the cemetery gates only a few yards away. Smith was a frequent visitor to his tomb, and one time he climbed its roof to rip away a vine that had grown around his granite neck (Smith never wore a necktie).

Our Confederate Dead obelisk.
Our Confederate Dead obelisk was the tallest thing in Atlanta when it was dedicated in 1874.

The cemetery's other well-known monument is the 65-foot-tall "Our Confederate Dead" obelisk, the tallest thing in Atlanta when it was dedicated in 1874.

The cemetery also had a massive "Lion of the Confederacy" sculpture, carved in the 1890s from the then-largest block of marble quarried in America -- until it was removed in August 2021. The dying lion, copied from a nearly identical monument in Switzerland, clutched a Rebel flag in its paws, and rested atop the mass grave of 3,000 unidentified Confederate soldiers. They're still buried in Oakland Cemetery -- having lost the Battle of Atlanta in 1864 -- even though their sad lion is gone.

Strange Graves of Oakland Cemetery

Oakland Cemetery

248 Oakland Ave. SE, Atlanta, GA
Cemetery entrance is at the intersection of MLK Jr Drive SE and Oakland Ave. SE. Jack Smith's statue-topped mausoleum is a hundred yards inside the entrance, on the right. The Confederate obelisk and Lion are further in; turn left to reach the next cemetery road, then turn right.
Gates open daily dawn-dusk. (Call to verify) Local health policies may affect hours and access.
RA Rates:
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