Cobb family cemetery focus of restoration and Civil War history

Lillie Wood walks a visitor through the Daniell family cemetery in Smyrna and remarks about the residents as if introducing them at an outdoor summer social, trying to keep all the names and associations straight.

“This guy who is buried here at one time was the chairman of the school board,” she says, looking hard at the dates on the headstone, then glancing at the name again. “Well, I guess that’s him."

For at least four decades Wood, the wife of Smyrna City Councilman Pete Wood, has been a regular visitor to the 2-acre wooded Daniell cemetery wedged into a back corner of her neighborhood, the Bennett Woods subdivision, off Concord Road. She used to bring her children to the cemetery. They would sit on one of the benches and she'd tell them stories.

“Now my children are in their 40s,” says Wood, who has become Smyrna’s unofficial go-to preservationist. Two years ago she led efforts to restore the Taylor-Brawner House, the 1890 Victorian home of the family that introduced the jonquil flower to the region, which led to the Smyrna nickname, "The Jonquil City.”

Unlike many forgotten or abandoned family cemeteries in Cobb -- they are so numerous the county has a cemetery preservation commission -- the Daniell family cemetery is fenced off, well-tended and active. Still, there’s plenty of work to be done in the graveyard that dates to 1862 and contains more than 230 plots of the Daniell family and descendants.

“Some of these markers are leaning and need to be straightened up and others aren't marked. We’re not sure who’s buried there,” says Wood. “We have a researcher working on that.”

Two weeks ago Wood organized a volunteer group that spent a day painting the iron fence that surrounds the burial ground. Joe Daniell, a seventh-generation descendant of Robert Daniell, who established the graveyard, said now the challenge is to connect the family history and its Cobb County landmarks to the Civil War.

Robert Daniell built the Concord Covered bridge on Concord Road and the Concord Woolen Mill, which manufactured uniforms for the Confederacy. The mill was destroyed  by Union troops when they marched through Atlanta on their way to the sea in 1864, and was later rebuilt. Its ruins, along with the restored covered bridge, are part of  Heritage Park.

"We're talking to people about including the cemetery and the mill in the 150th anniversary of the Civil War," said Daniell. "It's amazing how many events in that war took place in Cobb County."

Wood said the lure of history, preserving it and connecting the pieces that are scattered and disconnected over time is a challenge in more ways than one.

"It's quite interesting, you can get caught up," she says, showing a guest yet another headstone while telling yet another story. "You have to be careful to stay in the land of the living."