Last week in Part I, I shared some of the colorful history of Bonaventure Cemetery in Savannah, Ga. This week, we’ll continue our ramble.

It’s hard to think of Savannah without remembering its native son, singer/composer/lyricist Johnny Mercer. Many think the famous Mercer Williams House on Monterey Square must have been his home but it never was.

Situated on Monterey Square in Savannah's historic district, the Mercer House is visited by many fans of The Book, hoping to learn more about the murder that happened there. The tour focuses more on Jim Williams' taste in antiques than the Book, however. His sister, June, still lives in the upstairs room (which are off limits to tourists).

Situated on Monterey Square in Savannah’s historic district, the Mercer Williams House is visited by many fans of The Book. The tour focuses more on Jim Williams’ taste in antiques than The Book, however. His sister owns the house now and lives in the upstairs rooms (which are off limits to tourists).

The construction of the house was started by General Hugh Weedon Mercer in 1860. He didn’t finish it but the next owners of the house did. Neither the General nor Johnny Mercer ever lived there. Jim Williams purchased it in 1969 and restored it to its former glory.

Johnny Mercer was the son of George Anderson Mercer, a prominent attorney, and Lillian Elizabeth Ciucevich Mercer. She was George Mercer’s secretary and became his second wife. Photo by William P. Gottlieb.

Johnny Mercer was the son of George Anderson Mercer, a prominent attorney, and Lillian Elizabeth Mercer. She was George Mercer’s secretary and became his second wife. Photo by William P. Gottlieb.

The son of a prominent attorney and his second wife, Johnny Mercer was a music lover from his earliest years. The family’s summer home, Vernon View, was situated on the tidal waters and he spent long summers there among mossy trees and saltwater marshes. It may have inspired him to later write the lyrics to “Moon River” for the film Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

Many of the Mercer family graves have lyrics from Johnny's famous songs on them.

Many of the Mercer family graves have lyrics from Johnny’s famous songs on them. Johnny’s grave is second from the right side of the photo.

Johnny is buried in a plot that contains his parents and other relatives. His grave is beside that of his wife, Elizabeth “Ginger” Meltzer Mercer. Both of their gravestones are inscribed with lyrics from his songs.

The words "And the Angels Sing" come from the song of the same name. Johnny Mercer write the lyrics to Ziggy Elman's composition in 1939 and it became a hit. A 1944 film musical based on the song starred Fred McMurray and Dorothy Lamour.

The words “And the Angels Sing” come from the song of the same name. Johnny Mercer wrote the lyrics to Ziggy Elman’s composition in 1939 and it became a hit. A 1944 film musical based on the song starred Fred McMurray and Dorothy Lamour.

Also in the same plot is a small bench with a sketch of Johnny’s profile inscribed on the seat. On the side are the titles of many of his much loved songs. He wrote so many good ones but I think “Old Fashioned” is my favorite. There’s no doubt that the man whom many call “The Poet of Savannah” made an indelible mark on the world.

MercerbenchOn the top is a jaunty cartoon drawing of his profile.

Some have given Johnny Mercer the name "The Poet of Savannah".

The next two ladies are buried in adjoining plots but are no relation to each other. But you can’t see one without noticing the other.

The first one is in the Taliaferro family plot. A stunning angel hovers over a cross. It reminds me a great deal of the angel I love so much at Laurel Grove. She stands at the grave of Marie M. Barclay Taliaferro. Sadly, Marie’s angel has not held up as well as the one at Laurel Grove. Her wings and hands are damaged. But she is still lovely.

An angel hovers over the grave of Marie M. Barclay Taliaferro, who died at the age of 45. Her husband, Charles Champe Taliaferro, was a sergeant in the Confederate Army. He is buried in Graham Cemetery in Orange, Va.

An angel hovers over the grave of Marie M. Barclay Taliaferro, who died at the age of 45. Her husband, Charles Champe Taliaferro, was a sergeant in the Confederate Army. He is buried in Graham Cemetery in Orange, Va.

Charles Champe Taliaferro, Marie’s husband, outlived her by several years. He served in the Confederate Army during the Civil War. He is buried in Graham Cemetery in Orange, Va. Buried to her left are four of their children, all of whom died in infancy or childhood.

As  you can see, the tops of the angel's wings and her fingers have been damaged over the years. The name of the sculptor is unknown.

As you can see, the tops of the angel’s wings and her fingers have been damaged over the years. The name of the sculptor is unknown.

Located to the right of the Taliaferro angel is probably the most recognizable resident of Bonaventure. Gracie Watson is beloved by many, so much that a fence was put around her in the mid 1990s to keep her from being damaged. Shannon Scott, our evening tour guide, told us that the day after the fence was first put up, they found the lock on the gate destroyed with Gracie undisturbed inside.  His explanation was that Gracie didn’t want to be closed in but preferred to stay close to her visitors.

Gracie Watson only lived to the age of nine. But in her short life, she touched the hearts of many and continues to do so today.

Gracie Watson only lived to the age of six. But in her short life, she touched the hearts of many and continues to do so today.

Gracie was the only child of W.J. And Frances Watson. Her father was the resident manager of the Pulaski House Hotel, where Gracie grew up. A friendly and precocious child, she was popular with the guests and considered the hotel as her playground.

At the age of six, Gracie developed pneumonia and died in April 1889. Initially, her grave was marked by a standard tombstone. Her father was said to have sunk into a dark depression, leaving Pulaski House, and then eventually Savannah.

Watson did commission a sculpture of Gracie from John Walz, a local artist who worked from a photograph of her. You may remember Walz from my post about Laurel Grove South, where another of his statues resides. You can see other examples of Walz’ work throughout Bonaventure.

This stone details the story of Gracie's short life.

This stone details Gracie’s short life. Some believe that she adopts every passerby and every passerby adopts her.

Not far away from Gracie is this unique piece of Egyptian Revival architecture in the form of the Mongin family tomb. The death dates listed at the foot of the tomb range from 1815 to 1840, in keeping with the period that this style was popular. There’s another similar example nearby in Laurel Grove North.

The Mongin family tomb is a prime example of the Egyptian Revival style that was popular in the early 1800s. It was much more popular in England and Europe than in the U.S. but you can still find examples of it in some Southern cemeteries.

The Mongin family tomb is a prime example of the Egyptian Revival style that was popular in the early 1800s. While it was much more popular in England and Europe than in the U.S. you can still find examples of it in some Southern cemeteries.

It’s hard to miss the tall Celtic cross that rises from the Chisholm family plot.

ChisholmcrossNext to the Chisolms is the Anderson family plot. The largest monument features a bust of Confederate Brigadier General Robert Houston Anderson. An 1857 graduate of West Point, he later accepted a commission as a Confederate lieutenant of artillery.

Promoted to Major September 1861, he assumed the administrative post of assistant adjutant general to William Henry Talbot Walker, Major General of Georgia state troops, commanding on the Georgia coast. In January 1863 he was transferred to line duty but not before finally seeing action in coastal Georgia at Fort McAllister, where he helped repel assaults by Federal ironclad ships. His transfer came with a promotion to Colonel of the 5th Georgia Cavalry, which was serving in the Army of Tennessee.

Robert Houston Anderson served with great distinction in the Confederate Army during the Civil War. Afterward, he returned to his native Savannah and served as police chief of the city.

Robert Houston Anderson served with great distinction in the Confederate Army during the Civil War. Afterward, he returned to his native Savannah and served as police chief of the city.

Anderson was raised to brigade command and made Brigadier General on July 1864. He took part in all of the operations in the Atlanta Campaign. After the war, he returned to Savannah and was the city’s chief of police from 1867 until his death.

My final stop was where my visit began, at the Lawton family plot. I wanted to visit the monument to Corinne Lawton, daughter of Alexander Lawton (whose large monument with the statue of Jesus I featured last week). The story of her brief life is steeped in much debate because many say she committed suicide while others claim she died of Yellow Fever.

Corrinne Elliot Lawton was the daughter of a wealthy Confederate brigadier general and a minister to Austria. But she died young just before her wedding day.

Corinne Elliott Lawton was the daughter of a wealthy Confederate brigadier general. How she died is a subject of much debate.

A popular legend states that the beautiful Corinne fell in love with a young man several rungs below her on the socio-economic ladder and her parents forbade her to see him. Instead, they arranged her marriage to a more acceptable suitor. The story goes that Corrine drowned herself in the Wilmington River (upon whose banks Bonaventure is situated) on the eve of her wedding day to avoid spending her life with a man she didn’t love.

Corinne Lawton was the oldest of the four daughters of Alexander and Sarah Lawton.

Corinne Lawton was the eldest of the four daughters of Alexander and Sarah Lawton.

In contrast, the published diaries of Corinne’s mother, Sarah Lawton, explain how a lingering Yellow Fever epidemic (one of many Savannah suffered through) had shaken the city. Already suffering from a cold, Corrine fell victim to the illness.

According to Sarah, her daughter died in her bed, surrounded by family. Locals say the Lawton descendants who live in Savannah today are loyal to this version of events. As you can imagine, many favor the more romantic version.

Italian artist Benedetto Civiletti of Palermo created the much-photographed statue of Corrinne Lawton. The detail of her hair down her shoulder is lovely.

Italian artist Benedetto Civiletti of Palermo created the much-photographed statue of Corinne Lawton. The detail of her hair flowing down her back is lovely.

The Lawtons commissioned Italian artist Benedetto Civiletti to create a sculpture to grace Corrinne’s grave. Her eyes, I must confess, spook me a bit. But I love the attention to detail he gave to the long, cascading locks down her back. The wreath on the steps is also skillfully done.

CorrinneWreathAround the time I was snapping these pictures of Corrinne’s statue, I heard the rumble of tour buses in the distance. In a few minutes, the tranquil peace of the place would be disturbed. After spending a little time at the water’s edge, I took a last look around and left.

But Bonaventure is not a place you visit once and forget. Despite my quibbles about the tourist hordes, I can’t deny the haunting beauty of the place. I know I’ll return for a third visit. If you are in Savannah, you can’t plan your travel itinerary without a visit to Bonaventure Cemetery.

But go on a Sunday morning. When the air is cool and the light is shining on the Wilmington River through the moss-covered trees.

Bonaventureboat

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