Tag Archives: historic preservation


Freemantown Cleanup

From left, Gary McKnight (61C), Dr. Jennifer Dickey (77A, 80C) and Dr. Susan Bandy (70C) assist with the Freemantown Cemetery cleanup during Alumni Work Week.

As a teacher at Berry Academy, Gary McKnight (61C, FFS) spent 20 summers roaming the slopes of Lavender Mountain with his bird-dog searching for the historic Freemantown Cemetery. This spring, he helped to clean up and restore the site as a participant in Alumni Work Week.

“I thought it was local lore,” said McKnight, one of approximately 150 alumni and friends who returned to Berry in late May for the annual celebration of Berry’s work heritage. Project sites ranged from the House o’ Dreams high atop Lavender Mountain to the Gunby Equine Center to the grounds of Martha Berry’s famed Oak Hill estate.

At the Freemantown site, McKnight worked alongside project lead Joe Ragsdale (65C), campus preservationist Dr. Jennifer Dickey (77A, 80C) and other alumni to clear briars and debris obscuring the cemetery from view. Freeman family descendants also were on hand to assist with the effort.

The cemetery, which few people are aware exists, marks the site of a once-thriving African-American community established by Thomas Freeman in 1871. Freeman, a blacksmith and Union Civil War veteran, acquired 300 acres of what is now Berry’s mountain campus after his emancipation. He died in 1893, and his wife, Henrietta, and 12 children eventually sold the land to Martha Berry in the years between 1916 and 1926. While the buildings and church have been lost to time, the cemetery remains.

“I never thought it would be up in these trees,” McKnight said, “They’ve grown up in the last 50 years and covered everything.”

Ironically, the trees growing between the graves prevented erosion and helped preserve the cemetery.

Archeologists from the Georgia Historic Preservation Division surveyed the cemetery earlier in the year using ground-penetrating radar. Analysis of that data will help to reveal unmarked graves and determine boundaries for the site. Read more about the survey.

Already, the perimeter fence has been adjusted to incorporate a recently discovered headstone outside the original boundary. A new entrance will be constructed later this summer. Freeman descendants will hold a reunion at the site in August.

Related News: Berry Alumni Work Week reunites roomies; Around Berry photo gallery

By student writer Lauren Higdon

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Kevin Bacon on the set of "The Following."

Kevin Bacon takes a break during shooting for the pilot of “The Following.”

Most alumni can rattle off Berry’s impressive list of film credits – ranging from major motion pictures such as Sweet Home Alabama and Remember the Titans to television’s The Following – but how many know that such productions support historic preservation efforts on campus?

A recent article by the Georgia Studio Alliance played a game of “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon” to illustrate how production fees from an on-campus shoot – in this case, the pilot for The Following –  supplemented gifts from friends and alumni such as the Daughters of Berry and the Daughters of the American Revolution to help fund the renovation of Roosevelt Cabin. Read article.

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David Crook of Mike Crook Garden and Stone uses a mixture of clay composed of Berry sand, quicklime and sawdust to seal the walls of Roosevelt Cabin. (Photo by student Lauren Neumann.)

A preservation and restoration effort years in the making is breathing new life into Berry’s iconic Roosevelt Cabin. Built in 1902, the structure has served many purposes during the past century, but it is most famous for hosting former President Teddy Roosevelt during his 1910 visit to Berry.

The restoration process, which entered its final stages this summer, began about 10 years ago thanks to a donation from the Jarrett family and grants from the Georgia Department of Natural Resource’s Historical Preservation Division. According to Dr. Jennifer Dickey (77A, 80C), consultant for the project and former director and curator of Historic Berry, the work included rebuilding the foundation, replacing multiple logs, reconstruction of the roof frame, addition of a new roof, restoration of all the windows and doors, and application of new chinking.

Those attending Mountain Day will get a look at the restored Roosevelt Cabin during an open house scheduled for 10 a.m. to noon Saturday, Oct. 3.

Media coverage: Restoring the past

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