By Kay. S. PedrottiBarnesville owes its very existence to a man whose gravesite has been neglected nearly to obliteration. The Azalea Garden Club plans to change that.Starting with the fenced area around the resting places of Gideon Barnes and his second wife, Hulda Ann Barnes, the club is embarking on a long-term project for improvements at Greenwood Cemetery.Hedy Cauthen, chair of the cemetery project committee, says the club became energized to get started on the project because of a recent talk by Shanna English, Old Jail Museum curator and Lamar’s ex-officio historian.’The first phase of our project is now improvements around the burial site of the city’s founder,’ Cauthen said. ‘Shanna told us the site was in deplorable shape and badly in need of repairs. Some of our members drove to the cemetery that very day to take a look.’Many things from weather to family illnesses got in the way of coming up with a definite plan and start date, said Azalea president Linda Akins, who serves also on the committee. Enlisting help from volunteers and the city of Barnesville, the plan is for restoring Gideon’s grave and then making improvements to the front entrance wall and redoing the cemetery sign.The process for obtaining a Georgia Historical Marker commemorating Gideon Barnes also has begun but requires many steps, Cauthen said. The marker is separate from the cemetery project and would likely be placed in downtown.At the Barnes grave site, the fence is badly rusted and leaning and the gate is broken. Engravings on the two marble obelisks have become very hard to decipher; one idea for preserving the inscriptions is to have the words duplicated on granite markers to place at the site, said Cauthen.The ‘next door neighbor’ to Gideon and Hulda is a Tyler family, whose site is in even worse shape. Many older gravestones have become unreadable, sunken into the ground, vandalized, broken and just generally ignored, Akins added.Akins said an anonymous donation of $2,800 has been given to start the cemetery overhaul. The Azalea Garden Club, in its 63rd year, has done multiple community improvement projects through the years but none quite so large in scope.To expand their help during the Great Day of Service May 4, Cauthen said, they hope to recruit family members of those buried in Greenwood to come and tend the graves.Other phases will include plantings, possibly shrubs at the front and trees along the road. Trees could be donated in memory of family members buried at Greenwood, Cauthen said. The Azalea club plans to apply for local grants and for help from the Garden Club of Georgia, Akins added.’If we can just get the founder’s grave site fixed up,’ said Cauthen, ‘the rest of the plans will fall into place as we go. Thanks are also due to other committee members including Paulette Butler, Jean Dukes, Anne Claxton, Audrey Smith and Laura Geiger.’ *************ABOUT GIDEON BARNES:When Gideon Barnes bought his land here in 1828 with proceeds from the sale of a horse, he could not have dreamed that at his death in 1871 the whole town would walk with him to his grave site. At that time, the Pike County area that would later become Barnesville and a part of Lamar County was mostly unsettled wilderness with trails for roads and native peoples to travel them. Barnes brought with him from his home in Virginia ‘“ according to his account ‘“ a tin cup, two pewter plates, one blanket and a cow hide. He built a double log cabin at the intersection of two Indian trails and established a thriving trade business. Later returning to his Virginia home, he brought back with him three mules; two slaves, Bob and Sallie; the first chickens to inhabit the area and a young apple tree to plant in front of his house. He built a log store across the road from his home and started a stagecoach line between his store and the town of Columbus on the Chattahoochee River. Bob drove the stage and Sallie sold her famous ginger cakes to travelers.Gideon married Sarah Raiford and the couple had five children: daughters Virginia, Millicent and Maria Louisa; and sons Frederick and Augustus. Gideon served for a time in the military during the Indian Wars but otherwise was a Barnesville resident until his death. Local living descendants include the families of Jimmy Matthews and Harold Matthews.Sarah died in 1861 and was buried in the old Methodist Cemetery, now believed to be underneath the Lamar County courthouse. With the building of the Macon and Western Railroad the population increased and the town’s influence grew. Gideon built a substantial hotel where he was described as the ‘genial and popular landlord.’ The hotel burned in 1884.Gideon remarried to widow Hulda Aldridge of Perry but they had no children.When Gideon died May 10, 1871, all schools and business enterprises closed ‘that the entire population might march in the procession which accompanied his remains to the Methodist church, where tribute was paid to him as the Founder of Barnesville, and then to Greenwood Cemetery.’’“ Historic material supplied by Shanna English from records at the Old Jail Museum.