N. Fulton city begins maintenance of historic slave cemetery

After its city council voted unanimously this month to take over maintenance from Fulton County, workers in Johns Creek began shaping up and preserving a cemetery where former slaves are buried.

The cemetery grounds are near where Macedonia African Methodist Church once stood. It will cost the city $3,600 annually to maintain the two-acre plot of land on State Bridge and Medlock Bridge roads. Work conducted this week included cutting grass, pulling weeds, trimming and removing debris.

There are more than 53 graves on the land, but only 23 are marked, according to a 2016 study conducted by GDOT when a billboard was proposed to be erected near the cemetery. Of the marked graves, the earliest dates to 1900, with the most recent gravestone dating 1976.

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“This is just a kind of diamond in the rough. No one even really knew about it,” John Bradberry of Preserve Johns Creek told Channel 2 Action News. “This is a connection all the way back to the American Revolution, the Civil War and all the way through the 1900s.”

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Bradberry said the cemetery hadn’t been properly maintained before the council made its move to take it over from Fulton County. Headstones had been destroyed, a city crew dismantled a homeless camp there, and the city found that the historic site wasn’t receiving regular care.

The cemetery had been active until about 25 years ago, he said.

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Before July, Fulton County had been responsible for its maintenance since at least 1998, according to a letter sent from the county to Johns Creek. With the recent city council vote, the Public Works Department in Johns Creek now has unlimited access to the grave-site.

“With the city maintaining it, we can at least ensure that it doesn’t get worse,” said Mike Bodker, Johns Creek’s mayor, told the news station. “And we’re going to put a plan together on how we can work with other outside organizations to hopefully make it better.”

Bodker added that he will seek funding to improve this historic cemetery, but he doesn’t want Johns Creek to get into the “cemetery maintenance business.”

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In the future, Johns Creek leaders say they hope to work with outside organizations that are better positioned to unveil a more accurate history about the cemetery and who is buried there.

The city added that it is still unclear as to who last owned the property, but the city will provide routine ground maintenance to help improve the condition of the cemetery.

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Johns Creek Mayor Mike Bodker says the city plans to work with historical groups to seek funding and make improvements.

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