This site served as Savannah’s main cemetery for more than a century following its establishment in 1750. With three subsequent expansions, six acres and over 9,000 graves, burials were cut off in 1853, and the site is now recognized as the oldest intact municipal cemetery in the city.
When the site first opened, it was intended to serve as the burial ground for Christ Church Parish, but after its expansion, the cemetery was opened to all denominations. Since interments were closed prior to the start of the Civil War, no Confederate soldiers were buried here. There are, however, some burials of note; over 700 victims of the 1820 Yellow Fever epidemic are here, along with many victims of Savannah’s dueling era. Declaration of Independence signer Button Gwinnett is buried here, as well as Archibald Bulloch, the first president of Georgia, and James Habersham, an 18th-century acting royal Governor of the Province.
Not surprisingly, Colonial Park Cemetery is home to a number of interesting ghost stories and legends. Paranormal enthusiasts have dubbed it “Paranormal Central,” with one of the most famous ghost stories involving Rene Asche Rondolier, a disfigured orphan who was accused of murdering girls. It is said that he was dragged to the swamp and lynched, and some locals believe he still haunts the cemetery, calling it Rene’s playground. Some local paranormal experts dispute the validity of this ghost story due to a lack of historical records.
Other ghost stories revolve around Savannah’s voodoo culture. Although many have moved out of the city, years ago it was not uncommon for morning visitors to find remnants from a previous night’s ceremony. Soil was used from the graves, and some were actually robbed for use in these rituals. The small park adjacent to the cemetery is the location believed to be the site of Savannah’s dueling grounds.
Colonial Park Cemetery is located at 201 Abercorn Street in Savannah and is open to the public from 8am to 5pm, November through March, and from 8am to 8pm from March to November.