Civil War may be over, but a new Battle of Jonesboro is brewing

Tonight’s Jonesboro City Council meeting is shaping up to be the modern-day Battle of Jonesboro.

On one side: a company eager to open a funeral home on what is believed to be the last of Clayton County’s unspoiled Civil War battlegrounds. The opponents: a prominent Clayton County family and the historical society.

At stake is about 11 acres near Tara Boulevard off Fayetteville Road where 148 years ago Confederate and Union soldiers clashed for two days in a decisive Civil War skirmish known as the Battle of Jonesborough, which became a turning point in the war. The Battle of Jonesborough was the final battle of the Atlanta Campaign, and it caused the besieged city of Atlanta to fall under Union control.

The City Council will consider annexing and rezoning the property at tonight’s meeting.

Property owner Weisbaden Investments LLC sees the site, now mostly forested wetland, as a great place for a funeral home and wants it rezoned for that purpose. But longtime Jonesboro resident Mary Huie-Jolly and local history buffs say the site may be the last piece of unspoiled Civil War battlefield in Clayton County.

Ben Loggins, owner of Loggins & Associates, a Jonesboro CPA firm that is the registered agent for Weisbaden Investments LLC, said Friday that Weisbaden officials did not want to discuss the matter.

Meanwhile, Huie-Jolly, who has an unexploded Civil War-era artillery shell from the site, said the site should be preserved and used for educational purposes.

She’s also pushing for more archaeological digs to be done on the site because she feels it possibly contains more artifacts, not only from the Civil War but of early Creek Indian and European settlers. For that reason, opponents hope that if a funeral home is coming, construction could at least be delayed until a thorough study is done on the property.

“So much has been developed and paved over [in Clayton],” said Barbara Emert, president of Historical Jonesboro/Clayton County Inc. “It’s probably the last known vestiges of the [Civil War] battlefield. We just believe it would be better environmentally and culturally to keep the land as it is. Make it some sort of park.”

The dispute comes ironically as the nation is in the midst of the sesquicentennial observation of various milestones of the Civil War, which began on April 12, 1861.

“The Battle of Jonesborough was one of the two most important battles of the war that occurred in Georgia,” said Huie-Jolly, whose family has been in Clayton County since the 1830s. “Chickamauga’s site was preserved, but very little of the Battle of Jonesborough was and nothing in its original form.”

The site came to Huie-Jolly’s attention about a year and a half ago after state Department of Transportation officials conducted a survey of her land, which she owns with her brother, while preparing to widen Ga. 54, also known as Fayetteville Road. Huie-Jolly’s property is next to the site of the proposed funeral home. The Civil War artillery shell was unearthed at that time.

The proposed funeral home also would be fairly close to a community that contains a collection of graves dating to the early 1800s.

Having a new business in the city would likely be welcomed at a time when Jonesboro, like many small towns, has lost business because of the rocky economy, Jonesboro Mayor Joy Day said.

“New business is always beneficial to the city in terms of revenue,” Day said. Earlier this month, Pope Dickson & Son Funeral Home closed its Jonesboro and Morrow locations after 66 years due to the bad economy and poor health of the owner.

While Weisbaden’s proposed funeral home has drawn public outcry, the company has remained noticeably silent. Weisbaden, for instance, did not attend a recent City Council work session where the issue of its proposed funeral home came up.

“That whole area is of great environmental value to the local community,” Huie-Jolly said of the Weisbaden property. “It would be a terrible shame if it was turned into a parking lot.”

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