In the heart of Marietta, Georgia, just off the city’s square, you’ll find the unassuming but elegant cemetery that belongs to the nearby St. James Episcopal Church, established in 1849. Most who travel to the St. James cemetery do so to pay respects to its most famous inhabitant, JonBenet Ramsey, the little girl whose unsolved murder on Christmas Day in 1996 has haunted us ever since.
Visitors can drive into the back of the cemetery through an entrance on Polk Street. As you step out of your car, to the right of the driveway, you’ll find JonBenet, who is buried alongside her half-sister Elizabeth, who died in a car accident in 1992, along with her maternal grandparents, and her mother, Patsy Ramsey.
The cemetery is small, and JonBenet has a special spot in the back corner, underneath a few trees, with an adjoining stone bench to sit and reflect. Visitors to her grave have left wind-chimes on the trees, which dangle precariously, tinkling eerily. Others have left JonBenet, who was only six years old at the time of her murder, toys like little tricycles and teddy bears. For such an infamous story, visiting JonBenet’s actual resting place still feels overwhelming. Her grave bears a small stone covering the grass, as if emphasizing how her life was cut short.
But JonBenet’s is not the only memorial of interest at St. James Episcopal. There are a striking number of aged graves here. A quick walk around the grounds and you’ll find those who were born in the 1700s in England and who traveled to make a life for themselves in Georgia at the birth of the United States.
Another notable resident of St. James Episcopal is Mary—or Marion—Meinert. Her unusual moment sits at the front of the cemetery, near the original gates. If you are standing near JonBenet, Mary’s back will be to you. As you come upon her, you’ll see that she holds two infants in her arms. The local legend is that Mary died in childbirth, and that her memorial is haunted. High school students over the years have claimed to hear the sobbing of a young woman, or even the cries of a baby. Others say that the statue cries tears of blood.
Haunted or not, the truth is that Mary was a beloved member of Marietta society, and died of a lung ailment, probably tuberculosis, in 1898. As the mother of twins, her family erected this gorgeous memorial in her honor. Her husband, Henry, is buried alongside her under an unusual and striking large cross, adorned with flowers, on a pedestal stand.
Despite its age, St. James Episcopal Cemetery is very well kept by the church. The tombstones and memorials are regularly cleaned, their marble and granite reflecting bright in the afternoon sun.
Know Before You Go
Though the cemetery itself has no official website or information online, like most cemeteries, it's safe to assume that the gates open around 9 a.m. and close at dusk. To be on the safe side, we'd recommend visiting between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. on a weekday. Marietta square, just a short drive or walk from St. James, is an ideal place to walk around, filled with antique shops and plenty of places for lunch.
The nearby Marietta National Cemetery, is definitely worth a trip. It includes the graves of 3,000 confederate soldiers, amongst other prominent Marietta residents, and is quite the sight to see, with rolling hills and excellent views of downtown.