This article appeared in the June 2017 issue of the Georgia's Cities newspaper.
History of Bainbridge’s Oak City Cemetery comes to life with actor reenactments.
Bainbridge history comes to life each spring and fall as the city and the Downtown Development Authority host the Oak City Cemetery Living History Tour. The first tour was organized in the spring of 2012, and the tours have been growing in popularity ever since. The living history tours attract between 200-250 people— hosting family members from near and far. The tours feature local actors portraying some of the city’s most famous residents buried in the cemetery.
Experts from the local historical society volunteer their time to research information about each person being portrayed. The tour is free and open to the public and typically features 8-10 reenactments. Both walking and riding tours are available to visitors.
“Many times family members portray their loved ones, and are able to provide a keen insight into their character, personality and funny stories,” said Amanda Glover, executive director of the Downtown Development Authority of Bainbridge. “We’ve even had a great-granddaughter portray her loved one.”
Prior to the establishment of Bainbridge, the Oak City Cemetery site was home to an Indian Village, and later established as a cemetery in 1852 when William H. Peabody was buried there. His grave is located next to the powder house, where gun powder was stored during the Civil War. In 1878, the west section of the cemetery was deeded to Temple Beth-El and became one of the first Jewish Cemeteries in South Georgia. Other notable people buried in Oak City Cemetery include Georgia’s 72nd Governor Marvin Griffin, who was the first in Georgia’s state history to serve as the adjutant general, lieutenant governor and governor. Miriam Hopkins was a Broadway tele- vision and movie star from the 1920s-1960s; and Former Bainbridge Mayor E.J. Willis, the name sake of the city’s town square. Another former Bainbridge Mayor J.W. Callahan, is also buried in the Oak City Cemetery. In the late 1880s, he owned and operated the largest individual naval store in the nation and spearheaded the laying of the first brick streets in Bainbridge.
In addition to the live tours, Glover compiled various tourist scripts from 2012-2015 and created a book for others to purchase and learn about the rich history of Bainbridge and Decatur County.
“The creation of the Oak City Cemetery Living History Tours is a popular event for both young and old,” Glover said. “What an awesome way to learn about the history of your local community and the people that planned, developed and shaped the lay- out of your community as it exists today.”