Updated: Mar 5
On a cold February day, the passengers onboard the Anne landed on the bluffs of the Savannah river in 1733. They traveled for months to start a new colony which they named Georgia, and the first settlement was known as Savannah. The colonists built their city on top of an ancient Native American graveyard, which the local tribe allowed as long as no graves were unburied and moved. The first cemetery was constructed along with a Jewish one as a gesture of goodwill from Oglethorpe to the Jewish immigrants. In 1750, the first cemetery was shut down and replaced by a colonial park, which can be found downtown. The original cemetery would be dismantled in later years, and its original location is currently where the restaurant “Husk” is located at.
Colonial park was opened in 1750, and sometime during this time, legends say that a huge man named “Rene Rhondolia” terrorized the cemetery. It was said that he was over seven feet tall, and as a young man he would torture the neighborhood animals. His family property bordered the cemetery, and due to the complaining of the neighbors, the family built a wall and spiked it with broken bottles to keep Rene from leaving the estate. One night, two little girls were found murdered in the cemetery. A mob found Rene hiding in a system of tunnels underground the cemetery, and lynched him in 1777.
During the civil war in 1864, after Sherman took the city, some of his troops camped out at Colonial Park. Whether it was out of boredom or plain disrespect, the union soldiers changed the dates written on the tombstones. Due to their lack of respect for the dead, the tombstones now mark some fathers that were born before their sons, or children that died before their parent’s birth. Most of the tombstones that have been changed can be found on the brick wall built by Rene’s family to keep him from hurting the innocent people of Savannah, which like the legend tells, clearly didn’t work.
Visit the Colonial Park Cemetery on our Six Feet Under Savannah Tour which operates nightly at 8 pm.