Meridian’s Sesquicentennial Celebration has begun. The official birthday date was February 10. This week, we have enjoyed a play that featured the entire history of Meridian presented by Poplar Springs Elementary School (third grade), a program brought by the city at Dumont Plaza, and an exciting birthday party hosted by Silver Leaf Manor. I am thrilled to say – that is just the beginning, folks!
Yes, there are many more celebrations planned as we ring the bell 150 times in order to commemorate the Queen City’s rich history. I, along with many of you, are history “nuts,” and as we see it, the coming months will be one merry party after another – all in appreciation of our heritage. Check this column often as I plan to announce all of the activities associated with Meridian and the Sesquicentennial Celebrations. Please contact me if you have an event pertaining to the celebration.
Today, I would like to introduce the organization of a Rose Hill Cemetery Tour. The hope is to present a tour similar to the historic tours at Columbus, Natchez, or Vicksburg. Mr. W. Walton Moore, Jr., Rose Hill Cemetery Director, has dreamed of a tour showcasing the historic importance of the cemetery. Last week, I joined a group of interested folks at the cemetery to officially begin the process. I admit that we are very excited at the prospect of such an undertaking, but it will take a lot of work and much organization. We need your help. If you, or your organization, would like to volunteer with this labor of love for our city, please contact Mr. Moore, Ward Calhoun, Sr., or me.
Allow me to review or perhaps introduce you to Rose Hill Cemetery. The cemetery comprises 10 acres located on Eighth Street (across from Calvary Baptist Church). It officially opened in 1874, but there were burials at the site prior to that date. The oldest marker is dated 1853. There are at least 190 unknown graves, because the earliest markers were wooden. The wooden markers seldom lasted more than 20 years. The present day cemetery was acquired by two Masonic Lodges and an Odd Fellow Lodge in 1873. It incorporated in 1874. Pertaining to the purposes of these two organizations: Odd Fellows was in charge of the burials and the Masons took care of the widows and children.
Last week, as we toured the cemetery, (it was my 5th tour during the last couple of years), a list was made of notable personages to include on the tour. Along with Mr. Moore, Ward Calhoun, Brenda Stewart, Charles Stewart, Barbara Wells, Barry McMullan, and Richard Whitehead, we discussed the many burial sites and the significance they hold for the history of Meridian. There are many important players and unusual facts at the cemetery. Here are a few:
1. Nine Meridian Mayors.
2. Confederate Mound – 167 soldiers and 1 woman.
3. Gypsy Queen and members of her family.
4. Victims of Yellow Fever (late 1800’s).
5. Captain James L. Duck (helped start free public education in Meridian).
6. John Ball – Meridian Founding Father
7. Ragsdale – Meridian Founding Father (Death Angel monument -- $150,000, today’s cost).
8. Daisy Williams Weems (daughter of F. W. Williams).
9. Many children (one site marked “Little Bird” Witherspoon).
10. A broken flower on the marker indicates the person died young.
11. John W. Fewell – Started the first gas company and electric company in Meridian.
12. Thomas H. Woods – Gave the opening address at the Grand Opera House (1890).
I could go on and on, but you can see by this list the great importance of a historic cemetery tour at Rose Hill. I hope you will consider becoming a part of this group of volunteers. It will take all of us in order to provide a quality tour. Rose Hill Cemetery deserves the best that we can provide.
So, let the partying begin! The Saints have the Super bowl. We have Rose Hill!
Upcoming Sesquicentennial Event:
Saturday, February 20
Northwood Country Club
Art for Meridian
Champagne Reception/Silent Auction/Dinner/Live Auction
Sponsored by Meridian Council for the Arts
Proceeds to benefit the Meridian arts community.
Art pieces donated by local artists.
For more information, contact Connie Royal, City of Meridian Cultural Affairs Director or Debbie Martin, Meridian Council for the Arts President.
Anne McKee is an author and storyteller. She lives in Meridian. Anne is listed on the Mississippi Artist Roster, sponsored by Mississippi Arts Commission, as a dramatic and literary artist, storyteller, and as a Teaching Artist. She is active with the arts and educational communities throughout Mississippi.