Focused on Mississippi: Stories from the grave, in Natchez

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(Natchez MS) Natchez City Cemetery is like a city itself. It is spread out over a hundred acres with a population of well over 50 thousand. People who died in Natchez since 1822 are buried here. You will find them in everything from unmarked graves to magnificent crypts- and with beautiful monuments and statues to mark their final resting places with eloquent epitaphs that go on and on carved into their grave markers to memorialize their lives, all the way down to simple sentences. Like Louise. The Unfortunate. Louise “period” the unfortunate.  Like “The Unfortunate” is the best thing they could remember about her.

Louise is buried right across a retaining wall from seven-year-old Rosalie Beekman. Rosalie was killed by a Civil War shell fragment from a bombardment of the city by a Union gunboat. Turns out little Rosalie was the only Civil War battle casualty in Natchez. A seven-year-old girl.

Inside this block pyramid in a man buried sitting in his rocking chair. The Turning Angel is perhaps the best-known statue in the cemetery. It is said to turn and watch you as you pass at a distance. Optical illusion. Or maybe it really does.

Florence Irene Ford died of yellow fever in the 1870s. She’s buried with a set of steps behind her headstone leading down to the coffin level. When storms would blow up, her mother would sit at the bottom of those steps so little Florence wouldn’t be alone.

More than 50 thousand people are buried here along with their own stories. But if death is what we think it is, they couldn’t care less where they are buried or what is placed atop them. All of that cemetery dressing is for the living. A city of monuments that look as natural as if they’d grown here. And lanes and streets where bikers bike and joggers jog and sightseers see- see how we remember the past. And hope someone will think enough of us when we are gone to write a nice word or two over us. Or at least as nice as they can.

Tickets are on sale for this year’s Angels on the Bluff night time tour of Natchez City Cemetery. It is always the 2nd weekend in November. Buy them at the Natchez Visitors Center.

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