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Newton gets state grant for cemetery tour

COVINGTON - Newton County is developing a tour of historic local cemeteries and recently received a state grant to get the project started.

The county received $1,450 from the Historic Preservation Division of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources and the Tourism Division of the Georgia Department of Economic Development to create and publish a 32-page guide booklet for walking and driving tours.

The booklet will include a pull-out map of cemeteries, along with brief histories and information on noteworthy persons buried there, according to Newton County Arborist Debbie Bell, who applied for the grant on behalf of the county.

Seven cemeteries will be featured, including the Covington and Oxford cemeteries, along with historic African-American and veterans cemeteries.

The tour route is expected to take two to four hours to complete and will begin and end in Covington. The booklet is expected to be completed by March.

The tours are a way "to recognize cemeteries as a historic resource and to be involved with heritage tourism, a growing market," Bell said.

Background information obtained during the research phase will be valuable information for the Newton County History Center, currently under development, and creation of a new historic preservation ordinance, she said.

"The Covington-Newton County Chamber of Commerce receives numerous requests for information about local cemeteries and for assistance genealogical research," Bell said in her project description. "This publication will also complement their resources."

The grant requires a local match of $1,450, and so far, financial commitments have been made by the Chamber's Department of Tourism, Main Street Covington and the Newton County Historical Society. At this rate, it looks like private donations will be sufficient, and the county will not have to use public funds toward the match, Bell said.

Once completed, the booklet will be available at the Chamber of Commerce, local businesses and county offices.

This year, the Historic Preservation Division and Tourism Division awarded six grants totaling $8,000 for heritage tourism cemetery projects located throughout the state.

Recipients were selected from a pool of 36 applicants. Other recipients include Fitzgerald City Cemetery in Ben Hill County; Riverside Cemetery in Macon, Bibb County; West Hill Cemetery in Dalton, Whitfield County; Clay County Cemeteries; and Hillcrest Cemetery in East Point, Fulton County.

"This 50-50 matching grant program was created by our two agencies to promote preservation and heighten the awareness of, through heritage tourism, Georgia's historic cemeteries," said Historic Preservation Division Director Ray Luce. "Even though these are modest seed grants, their ripple effect often spurs other preservation/tourism projects at the cemetery, as well as at other historic resources within the community."

Crystal Tatum can be reached at crystal.tatum@newtoncitizen.com.