CROLEY-L Archives

Archiver > CROLEY > 2007-01 > 1168226222

From: "forest" <>
Subject: [CROLEY] Crowley Cemetery
Date: Sun, 7 Jan 2007 21:17:02 -0600

Here is a short history of the Crowley Cemetery in Decatur, DeKalb County, Georgia. Decatur is now a southeastern suburb of Atlanta, so I now refer to this cemetery as the Crowley Mausoleum in Atlanta. James Crowley left Virginia in 1785 with his parents (Benjamin Sr (1739-1817) & Sarah Strong Crowley, and lived at Lexington, Oglethorpe County, GA. until about 1822. All of Benjamin's children were born in Oglethorpe County. We first believed that all of his children were born in Decatur, Ga until we found out this was not true. James M. Crowley (1777-1828) received approx 500 acres of land in Decatur in the Georgia Land Lottery of 1822.. He was a wealthy man, a successful farmer and had many slaves. His net worth when he died was over $100.000, a substantial amount of money for a man at that time. Besides farming, he bought and sold a number of farms in Oglethorpe and DeKalb counties.
He built his home about 100 yards South of what is now the Avondale Mall and the Mausoleum.. Tthe cemetery was on top of a hill 100 yards North of his home. When the Avondale Mall was built in 1963, the cemetery ended up in the middle of the parking lot of the Avondale Mall.. James Crowley was the first person to be buried in the cemetery when he died in 1828. There are presently eleven graves in this cemetery -- seven adults and four children. James and his wife, Dorcas Smith Crowley and three of their children and their spouses, and a family friend are buried there. The children were Benjamin C Crowley & wife Mary Jane Tuggle - Delaney Crowley Cross & Zachariah Cross - and James Crowley Jr who died as a young man. John Hawkins was the family friend. There were also about 50 slaves buried in the area surrounding the cemetery, but no effort was made to preserve these graves when the Mall and Mausoleum was built in 1963.
When James died in 1828, the farm became the property of my Great Grandfather Allen Crowley (1806-1864). He sold the farm to relatives in 1846 and moved to Northern Mississippi. Seaborn Crowley owned the farm for a number of years between 1846 and 1898 when the Hill family (also relatives), bought this land. Forrest Hill tells me that the Hill family bought the land from a doctor in 1898 who was not a relative. The cemetery was originally in the middle of the pasture on the farm surrounded by a barbed wire fence until the mall was built. For a number of years in the 1950s and early 1960s the barbed wire fence fell into disrepair and livestock were able to enter and leave the cemetery. When the Mall was built the cemetery ended up in the middle of the Mall parking lot. The builder did not want the cemetery in the Mall area, but was unable to get permission to move the cemetery, so he agreed to build a building around the cemetery. The undisturbed graves are on top of this building. The building is sixty feet long and sixty feet wide, and about twenty feet high. To do this, the builder had to dig down about 20-25 feet on all sides of the cemetery and then build the building around the cemetery.. The excess dirt was used to level the parking lot. The Hills leased the land to the builder of the Avondale Mall in 1962. The mall was originally called the Columbia Mall and was later renamed the Avondale Mall. At first the mall thrived as one of Metro Atlanta's premier destinations in the 1960s and 1970's,
but later the Mall fell out of favor to more modern malls, and the mall was finally closed in 2001. People visiting the mall often joked that the Mausoleum was the "Tomb of the Unknown Shoppers".
The Atlanta Constitution Newspaper has run several articles on the Mausoleum over the years. Historic Preservionists have credited the Mausoleum for sparking an ongoing effort to document and preserve antebellum cemeteries throughout Metro Atlanta. In 1994 the newspaper ran an article and pictures of the Mausoleum. They called the Mausoleum "A WEIRD PLACE AROUND ATLANTA" Several relatives objected to them calling our cemetery a WEIRD place and told the newspaper how they felt about it. In the article they also quoted someone as saying "When I die, bury me at the mall. That way I know you'll come to see me every day"
The Mausoleum has nine box tombs and two headstones.. The headstones for Delaney Crowley and her husband are buried in the ground and they did not have box tombs. They were the last persons to be buried here.. 175 years ago most of the cemeteries in this area had box tombs. A box tomb is made out of concrete and is about 2 1/2 feet wide and 7 feet long. Part of the box tomb extends above the ground about a foot and the walls are about three inches thick. The removable top is about 3 ft by 8 ft and weighs about 300 pounds. Benjamin C. Crowley and his wife are buried in box tombs in the center of the Mausoleum. I am unable to identify which box tomb contains the remains of the other relatives. The headstone was placed on top of each person's box tomb. There have been a number of break-ins of the Mausoleum over the last 45 years and some of the headstones on top of the box tombs were broken and thrown to the parking lot and then thrown away, and other headstones were stolen. My son, who drives a 18 wheeler, recently parked his truck next to the Mausoleum, climbed on top of his truck, and was able to see the top of the Mausoleum and could have climbed to the top of the Mausoleum if he had desired. Another relative parked his RV next to the Mausoleum, climbed on top of his RV and could see the top of the Mausoleum.
Forrest Hill tells me that Wall-Mart purchased 23 acres of land including the Mall in September 2004 but has had trouble getting permits to open a store there as of this date. Forest

This thread: