The family gathers for Judge John Heard’s birthday.
The family gathers for Judge John Heard’s birthday.

The man whose family cemetery is the focus of a lawsuit lived a long, prolific life, according to a Georgia researcher.

Barry Colbaugh wrote an article about Judge John Heard in October 2012 for The Georgia Confederate, the official newsletter of the Georgia Division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans. Heard was a Confederate Veteran and a prominent community figure.

Heard served as a local judge in the 1900s, and his bloodline also connects him to other political figures in Georgia history. He is believed to be a descendant of Stephen Heard, who was governor of Georgia in 1778, according to Colbaugh. One of John Heard’s descendants, Paul Heard, made an unsuccessful run for governor in 1994, according to Paul Heard’s obituary.

According to Colbaugh’s article, as well as information posted on genealogical websites, Heard wasn’t just another rank and file soldier in the Confederate Army. He also witnessed history.

Judge John Heard
Judge John Heard

Heard was in his early 30s when he surrendered with Gen. Robert E. Lee at Appomattox Court House in Virginia in 1865, according to the article. He walked barefoot from Virginia to his family farm in Georgia, his hands ruined from injuries sustained during the war.

The location of the Heard Cemetery is all that remains of the farm.

According to Colbaugh, when Heard returned, he discovered the farm was destroyed and the livestock had been stolen. Heard rebuilt and grew a successful crop that year. He also took over the ferry that bears his name from John Isom, who had been Heard’s commander in Company B of the 9th Battalion, Georgia Artillery.

In addition to being a judge, Heard held large family reunions at the farm each year to celebrate his birthday. According to court records, in 1900, he deeded the 1 acre that would become the family cemetery, the property that is the subject of a recent lawsuit. He was said to have told his family members that he would like to “sleep by the banks of a beautiful river one day,” according to Colbaugh’s article.

Heard married twice. He married Abigail Isom, who died in 1882, and then married Athelena Dickerson, who died in 1947. Heard fathered a total of 23 children, 13 of which survived. He died in 1931 at the age of 95.

Dan Whisenhunt wrote for Reporter Newspapers from 2011 - 2014. He is the founder and editor of

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