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Legal threat hangs over grave relocation hearing set for superior court Friday

By Walter Geiger The battle over the relocation of over 100 graves from the historic Wadsworth-Clayton Cemetery off Old Milner Road to make room for future industrial expansion is set for a second superior court hearing Friday. The session will begin at 9 a.m. with Judge Tommy Wilson presiding. The City of Barnesville wants to relocate the remains to Greenwood Cemetery in town. The old family plot, which dates back to the early 1800s, is located on city-owned property in the industrial park. It was established by Archibald Wadsworth, one of the original settlers of this area. Previous land owners removed all the headstones for some unknown reason decades ago. Many primitive monuments have been located buried at the cemetery. Nearby is Lavender’s Curve where two trains collided as the Battle of Atlanta was winding down on Sept. 1, 1864, killing at least 31 people. Also at dispute is whether or not some or all of those victims were laid to rest in the nearby Wadsworth family plot. The city originally applied to the county commission for a grave relocation permit. The county voted 3-2 on July 13, 2016 to grant it. Two direct Wadsworth descendants, Mike Ross and Cynthia Wadsworth, filed objections, arguing the permit application should have gone through Lamar superior court. At a hearing in Atlanta earlier this year, Fulton County superior court judge John Goger agreed with the plaintiffs and sent the case back to superior court here. At an initial hearing last month, Judge Wilson heard no testimony but encouraged the two sides to sit down together in a room adjacent to the court room to work on a compromise but that effort failed. He adjourned the hearing and urged continued negotiations between the parties. Ross has filed a motion to dismiss the hearing because the city filed under an abandoned cemetery statute. Ross claims that descendants have cared for the cemetery now that they have been allowed access to it. Additionally, Wadsworth has served notice of her intent to file suit against the county commission and chairman Charles Glass seeking $500,000 in damages. She wrote the letter and it appears not to have been prepared by an attorney. Such letters are known as ‘˜ante-litem notice’ and are not, in themselves, lawsuits. The letter addresses statutory issues that have already been dealt with under Judge Goger’s decision which favored Wadsworth and Ross. She also claims Glass violated her civil rights and sexually harassed her by interrupting her at the original permit hearing and ‘forcing’ her to look at him while speaking. She claims a male speaker was not asked to do the same. It is routine for the commission chairman to advise speakers to address the commission and not the audience at public hearings. Wadsworth also claims Glass acted in a hostile manner and created a hostile environment at the hearing.

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