The History: Remembering Elizabeth Beers

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Pictured above is Elizabeth Beers giving students from The Heritage School a tour of the Train Depot in 2015.

By EMILY KIMBELL, Newnan-Coweta Historical Society

In late November, the Newnan-Coweta Historical Society lost a dear friend with the passing of Elizabeth Gardner Allen Beers.

Beers once served as the Historical Society’s board president and as director of the Male Academy Museum, but she has been such an integral part of our organization that it is difficult to recount or summarize all the roles that she played and what she has meant to us. As Dorothy Pope, former NCHS curator, current board secretary, and long-time supporter said of Ms. Beers, “Elizabeth has just been one of the figures that’s always been there … Those left behind are not ready to let go!”

Elizabeth was known around town as the “unofficial local historian.” If anyone had a historical question about Coweta County, they knew to ask Ms. Elizabeth Beers about it. She gained this notoriety after starting her business “Tour with Elizabeth” in 1994. Her walking tours, driving tours, ghost tours, and cemetery tours impacted hundreds of local citizens and beyond – almost everyone has a story to tell about how they met Ms. Elizabeth Beers and what story she told that resonated with them. Ms. Elizabeth gave tours and lectures for years, even publishing a book of her lectures at the age of 90. 

She was not just a lady of words but of actions as well. Ms. Elizabeth was known as the guardian angel of Oak Hill Cemetery. She worked tirelessly for decades to preserve, clean, and restore old markers in the cemetery. While the city maintains the grass and roads, the graves are private property, and Ms. Elizabeth took it upon herself to see that they were kept clean. Many of the family plots in the historic section of Oak Hill that still look brilliantly preserved and polished are due to the efforts of Ms. Elizabeth and her charity “Friends of Oak Hill Cemetery.”

I often tell my own story of meeting Elizabeth for the first time in 2015. I was conducting research on College Temple, and after reaching out to her for help, she agreed to meet me at the Male Academy Museum. Unfortunately, the doors were locked, and she did not have a key, so she quickly improvised. She put me in the back of her car and drove me around town to see all the sights affiliated with the school. We just met, but she took hours out of her day to spend time with me and talk to me about my research interest. She played a major part in why I kept pursuing College Temple as my topic of research study for graduate school and why I’m currently the director of the Newnan-Coweta Historical Society.

Elizabeth attending the 2019 Back to School Pep Rally at the McRitchie Hollis Museum to honor the opening of the ‘Touchdown Newnan: Tackling the Legacy of Newnan High School Football’ exhibit.

Our local history community has suffered other great losses with the passing of influential Coweta citizens who were historians, writers, and documenters. With the passing of Carla Cook Smith, John Caldwell, Elizabeth “Libby” Johnson Buchanan, and others, a hole has certainly been left in our community. Comments and stories left about our dearly departed friends tells of people who certainly left their mark on our community and inspired others. 

I cannot help but wonder with the passing of such integral parts of the local historical community, who will fill in the gap and continue their mission. This town and its history was so important to our predecessors and it is vital that we continue their efforts of preservation and education. Learning about local history is essential to our education. It helps us understand our values and practices, it makes history real through the stories and lives of individuals, and it celebrates the everyday moments and people. It is vital that we do not let historical efforts die with those who have passed on before us. None of us may ever know as much history as Ms. Elizabeth Beers, but we can certainly try to carry on her legacy. 

Newnan-native, Emily Kimbell is the director of the Newnan-Coweta Historical Society and McRitchie-Hollis Museum. Emily is currently finishing her doctoral studies at Georgia State University, where she also teaches English Composition courses and is an active member of her community often seen on stage in local theatre productions and writing for local media outlets.

Elizabeth sits with former Newnan-Coweta Historical Society curator Keri Adams (right) at the 2014 Palmette Ball.

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