While the church has become an established institution in and of itself, a nearby cemetery on Mars Hill Church Road that holds the remains of some of the church’s and area’s founders has also become a local treasure. The Mars Hill Cemetery is celebrating its 175th anniversary this year, as well.
“It’s one of the oldest burial grounds in Cobb County,” said Jimi Richards, president of the Mars Hill Memorial Association, which oversees the cemetery.
Richards said there are more than 1,100 people buried in the 7-acre, private cemetery. While it is not endangered of running out of room anytime soon, the cemetery only has about 200 plots remaining for burials. So the MHMA doesn’t do much advertising, said Richards.
“We don’t want to become the Wal-Mart of cemeteries because we try to save those lots for descendants of people in the neighborhood,” he said.
Over the recent Memorial Day weekend, the MHMA conducted its annual tribute to veterans. In a ceremony, it honored the 90 veterans who served in every American war, from the Revolutionary War to the Persian Gulf War, who are buried in the cemetery.
Members of Marietta’s American Legion Horace Orr Post No. 29 participated. The post’s namesake was the first soldier from Marietta killed in World War I. He was interred in the cemetery.
Many of the roughly 250 MHMA members are members of the church, although the cemetery and church are no longer officially affiliated. In 1985, the MHMA was incorporated as a nonprofit.
“It’s totally operated on donations from descendants of people bequeathing their wills to the cemetery,” said Richards. “That money is 100 percent used to maintain the cemetery and grounds.”
Richards; his wife, Regina; and several other MHMA members volunteer their time to maintaining the cemetery. The Richards live next to the cemetery and have reserved plots there, along with other relatives. “My wife is a direct descendant of the original founders in 1837,” said Jimi Richards. “I’m a mutt; I married into the family.”
He said the rear of the cemetery is the original site of a slave cemetery and is where the children of slaves were buried. But the lack of grave markers has led to an ongoing search by Jimi to find the identities of the deceased.
In January 1837, Mars Hill Presbyterian Church was founded. After a fire, a new church was built on Mars Hill Road in the 1883. By 1901, the Mars Hill Graveyard Association (now MHMA) was formed, according to church history.
A year later, a one-room community schoolhouse built on cemetery property in 1873 was deeded to the Cobb Board of Education. It was used as a school until 1938 and now serves as the location for the MHMA’s yearly meeting during the Memorial Day weekend. The present church building was constructed in 1991.
Many of the 350 members of the church come from families that have long been associated with the church and cemetery, said Mars Hill Presbyterian senior pastor, Dr. Bryant Harris, whose wife, Linda, is descended from church founders. But with the explosion of growth in west and north Cobb, the connections to the past aren’t as strong as they used to be, he said.
His sermon this Sunday is titled, “To Be Continued.”
“’Mars Hill’ comes from Act 17, and it looks back at where Paul was preaching to the folks back then and the history of our church,” Harris said. “Just reminding us that while we spend a lot of time celebrating that early church, we’re here to be continued.”