Gracie Watson’s grave is located on Lot 98, Section E in the Bonaventure Cemetery situated on a bluff of the Wilmington River, east of Savannah.
Born in Savannah, Georgia, in 1883, Gracie was the only child of W.J. and Frances Watson. Her father was the manager of the opulent Pulaski Hotel located at the corner of Bull and Bryant Streets in Savannah. The hotel was Gracie’s playground, and she became a darling of hotel guests and staff, often entertaining them in the lobby with songs and dances.
On April 22, 1889, just two days before Easter, Gracie passed away at the age of 6 after suffering a brief episode of pneumonia. She was interred in the Watson family plot in Bonaventure Cemetery. Her grave was initially marked by a traditional headstone. However, in 1890, her grief-stricken father commissioned sculptor, John Walz to produce a monument bearing Gracie’s likeness.
The marble sculpture was made from a photograph of Gracie taken shortly before her death. The statue depicts Gracie seated with her legs crossed at the ankles; her right-hand resting atop a section of tree trunk entwined with ivy.
Walz’s life-size sculpture was said to bear an uncanny and haunting resemblance to the little girl in life. Gracie’s monument is also reportedly one of Georgia’s only funerary monuments sculpted in such a distinct likeness.
The inscription on a stone marker near Gracie’s relays the following message to visitors: “Little Gracie Watson was born in 1883, the only child of her parents. Her father was manager of the Pulaski House, one of Savannah’s leading hotels, where the beautiful and charming little girl was a favorite with the guests. Two days before Easter, in April 1889, Gracie died of pneumonia at the age of six. In 1890, when the rising sculptor, John Walz, moved to Savannah, he carved from a photograph this life-sized, delicately detailed marble statue, which for almost a century has captured the interest of all passersby.”
Gracie’s parents never recovered from their grief and ultimately returned to their family home in New England, leaving Gracie alone in Savannah. However, she has never been truly alone. Gracie’s grave remains one of the most visited spots in Bonaventure Cemetery. The Bonaventure Historical Society eventually installed a wrought iron fence around Gracie’s grave-site, but not before her nose incurred some damage requiring repair.
At some point, it became popular to leave small gifts, toys, and trinkets at Gracie’s grave, especially around Christmas and often by children.
Know Before You Go
The cemetery is open to the public daily from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. There is no admission fee.