The History of Laurel Grove South

This post meshes together information from the City of Savannah, as well as LGS’s historic marker. It also speaks to the effort by W.W. Law to preserve the cemetery to have LGS placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

An Overview

Laurel Grove South Cemetery is located on the west side of Savannah on a portion of the former Springfield Plantation. Named after the native laurel oak trees, which once inhabited the site, the cemetery was developed in 1850 as the Old Cemetery (Colonial Park Cemetery), the Old Jewish Cemetery, Potter’s Field, and the Old Negro Cemetery approached capacity. Although there are dozens of African American cemeteries in Chatham County, Laurel Grove South is the most significant final resting place for African Americans who died in the 19th and 20th Centuries. While slavery was still legal, there were more free African Americans interred in Laurel Grove South than any other cemetery in the Southeast. The cemetery serves as a culturally and historically significant site for African American religion, education, civil rights, and business. Consisting of 90 acres, the cemetery is a public park-like open space with massive cypress trees towering from its wetlands. It is open to the public daily from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

– City of Savannah website

The Marker

In 1853 Savannah reserved 4 acres in the new Laurel Grove Cemetery for Savannah’s African-American Community. This new burial ground replaced an older Black cemetery located near Whitefield Square. Pastors Andrew Bryan (First Colored Baptist Church) and Henry Cunningham (Second Baptist Church) were among those whose bodies were moved to the new location. Here are buried many of Savannah’s prominent Black leaders– educators, civic/community leaders, Masons, politicians, entrepreneurs, and religious leaders. Later increased in acreage by the city, it continues in use today.

– Erected by the Georgia Historical Society and Friends of Laurel Grove South Cemetery

W.W. Law’s Contribution

from city of Savannah’s website

W.W. Law had a passion for historic preservation, and he set his sights on Laurel Grove South, which had fallen into disrepair over time. He is the major reason that we are still enjoying the cemetery today. In 1973 he was presented with an award for his work on the Andrew Bryan grave site, seen in the photo above.

from city of Savannah website

The National Register of Historic Places

In 1978 Savannah applied to have LGS put on the National Register of Historic Places, which was approved. You can view the entire application at: https://npgallery.nps.gov/GetAsset/6ad19133-617d-44c6-8d59-e5884e210324

This is an excerpt from the application:

Laurel Grove-South is a very important landmark of Black history in the Savannah area. The records preserved on its stones provide in many cases the only the only remaining public documentation of the lives of many of Savannah’s most important Black citizens.

This is the reason for documenting those interred at LGS on this site. Many of the headstones are faded and broken due to time and rough weather. We want the people interred to be remember and their accomplishments celebrated.

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