By Carol A. Moore
LANIER CO., Ga. – A mystery is growing around the Rivers Mausoleum at the City Cemetery in Lakeland.
Recently it was discovered by a family whose relatives are interred in Rivers Mausoleum during a gathering at the cemetery that someone had broken through the locks and placed a coffin inside, on top of Lucile Lashley Rivers’ vault.
Family from all over the country had come to the mausoleum site of the E. D. Rivers Jr. family only to discover this unusual turn of events.
E. D. Jr. was the son of Eurith Dickinson Rivers, who was a well-known Georgia politician from Lanier County. As a Democrat, he served as the 68th Governor of Georgia, serving from 1937 to 1941.
Governor Rivers and his wife, Mattie Lucile Lashley Rivers were buried by E. D. Rivers Jr. inside vaults in a locked mausoleum that is prominently visual within the City Cemetery.
Groups such as the local American Legion Milltown Post #336 have held memorial ceremonies on its steps because the mausoleum is a state historical place and the final resting place of a Georgia Governor.
The mausoleum is an above-ground free-standing structure that has vaults (crypts or burial compartments) to hold whole human remains. They’re found all over the world and can vary greatly. They might house the remains of a single individual or several people. Using a mausoleum protects human remains from the elements. This vault was designed and made by Bailey’s Mausoleum in Waycross especially for two people, Governor Rivers and his first lady, Lucille Rivers. If you’re not familiar with the cemetery, it’s located on E. Church Street at N. 6th Street.
As the story unfolds, members of E.D. Rivers Jr.’s family have been in contact with a wide variety of people and agencies. Just to name a few offices, City of Lakeland, District 176 Georgia Representative, Lanier County Coroner, Lanier County Tax Assessor, Lanier County Sheriff’s Office, Music Funeral Home, Red’s Monuments and Floral Shop, three Waycross funeral homes (Music Funeral Home, Miles-Odum Funeral Home, and the Fluker Funeral Home) are among those who have been contacted. The family’s biggest concern is that the funeral home personnel are referencing a “new law instituted in the last couple of weeks” which may require going to court in order to solve the mystery, because of privacy laws.
In the process of trying to determine who’s casket has been placed in the mausoleum that was designed only to hold Governor Rivers and his wife, more questions have been raised than answered.
- Who’s body is in the additional casket?
- Who bored the locks of the mausoleum to place it there?
- Who has the ownership papers for the Rivers’ cemetery lot? Who keeps secondary records?
- How can someone enter and place a body inside someone else’s mausoleum?
- Who is supposed to investigate the situation?
- How did the City of Lakeland come into ownership of the cemetery?
- Who has sold the lots and profited from the sale?
- Why does the City of Lakeland maintain the cemetery at their expense if someone else has profited from selling burial plots?
- What is the law that would require a court order?
- Why are records on ownership not maintained?
- Why does the River’s family have to go to court at their expense in order to solve the mystery?
Just by looking at the Lanier County Tax Assessor’s records, The Lanier County News has learned that there are further questions raised over finding that the Charles Knight Cemetery, which is 5.24 acres and next door to the City Cemetery, is not valued the same as the cemetery next door. The City Cemetery is 2.3 acres and valued at $23,100, while the Knight cemetery is valued at $89,100. In other words, the Knight Cemetery is valued at $17,003.82 per acre while the City of Lakeland Cemetery is valued at $10,043.47 an acre or a $6,960.34 per acre difference. All land, it would seem, is not valued the same!
The Lanier County News has also learned that on average a traditional cemetery holds approximately 1,250 burial plots per acre. Roughly this would approximate that there are 2,875 burial plots in the City Cemetery and there is no easy way to determine who is buried in the cemetery, who can make decisions about burials in the cemetery, who collects money for selling cemetery plots, and who is responsible for the cost of maintaining the plots.
It is the observation of The Lanier County News that there are potentially a lot of lawsuits that would tie up our local courts if the referenced new law report is accurate.
Further updates will be provided as information is made available.