Google+ Georgia On My Mind: An Oakland Story: Sarah Dye

Friday, July 13, 2012

An Oakland Story: Sarah Dye

I had a lovely dinner Wednesday night with the family at Six Feet Under on Memorial Drive overlooking Oakland Cemetery.   As we dined I keep looking out across the road at the tombstones, but there was no time to go walk among dead….

As we headed home I silently told the headstones I’d be back…..

Oakland  isn’t just a resting place for Atlantans.   It’s a historical time capsule of sorts.  

It’s a lovely park and garden.

It’s a place to reflect

It’s a place with great views of the city

….and Oakland Cemetery has great stories to tell.   I think that’s my favorite part….the stories.

One of my favorite stories involves Lot 428 in the original six acres of the cemetery belonging to the Dye Family.

The rain this week has certainly been welcome even with the consequences many have had to endure due to the fierce lightning and booming thunder.

July started off breaking all sorts of temperature records with several days of one hundred plus thermometer readings, and my yard was one crusty carpet where I couldn’t tell where the dust  left off and the brown dying grass began.

I’m not sure what the temperatures  happened to be during July, 1864 around Atlanta, but for those few citizens who didn’t leave the city before  the Union lay siege it was a hot place to be as the shells flew back and forth between the Union and Confederate positions.

Sarah Dye and her young children tried to escape the shelling by digging a hole in their backyard. 

It had been rumored Sarah’s husband…..John Dye…..was one of the best carpenters in the city.   He had built a home for his family at the corner of Ivy (now Peachtree Center Avenue) and Baker Streets.  

When we think of the Civil War we tend to group everyone above the Mason-Dixon Line as falling in line with the Union while those below the line were all Confederates.

Generally, this was true, but the lines did blur occasionally.   Sarah Dye was a known Union sympathizer.   According to the book The Historic Oakland Cemetery of Atlanta:  Speaking Stones by Cathy Kaemmerlen…..the “Southern Claims Papers”, issued after the war to help reimburse Southerners for their wartime losses, Sarah was a Union woman and against the war from start to finish.   She had made it public that she thought the war would ‘bring no good’.  She was labeled a Union sympathizer, even though her husband served in the Confederate army.  

However, regardless of Sarah’s beliefs and opinions of the war she found herself in the middle of the daily shelling….not only dodging Union shells but attempting to shield her family from Confederate shells as well.

At some point during the bombardment one of the children….a two year old boy named for his father….become ill and died.   

Sarah placed his body in a box and July 10, 1864 found Sarah crawling out of  the crudely fashioned bomb shelter in her yard and she began walking to Oakland Cemetery which in those days was outside of the city of Atlanta. 

Can you picture her walking down Atlanta’s dusty desolate streets strewn with items left behind by war refugees, craters fashioned by shells and other bits of war wreckage while cradling her dead child in her arms?   

Sarah was intent on giving her child a proper burial whether a war was raging around her or not.

She was stopped and warned to get off the road.   Finally, a man in a wagon who happened to be heading her way out of town allowed her to ride so she was able to get to cemetery a little faster.  Sarah placed her baby next his sister Mintory, who had passed away years before.    At some point….so the story goes she fell asleep on the grave and upon waking made the return trip to her home to care for the other children.

Today there are fourteen graves in the Dye family plot including Sarah and her husband John.   Family lore reminds visitors to skip the first step leading into the plot because it is said another baby was buried under the step in 1849.

I’ve written about Oakland Cemetery before at Georgia on my Mind here, and I’ve recently written a review for Six Feet Under over at Cooking With Cooper.

Join the Georgia on my Mind community on Facebook by clicking the “LIKE” button on the left sidebar.  I’m publishing all of my Oakland pictures there in an album!   You can tell me what you think!

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