Natchez City Cemetery, Natchez MS and Trying to Find Miss Sophronia

We’ve been to the Natchez city cemetery several, several times – but I noticed when I went to their website that the site has a section for particularly interesting monuments. I couldn’t right-off find the book that we’d bought earlier about the cemetery, but I made some quick notes about some of the monuments I wanted to take pics of. Here are just a few:

Louise the Unfortunate, Natchez City Cemetery, Natchez MS
This monument above is for Louise. The Unfortunate.

How sad!
Apparently she came to Natchez to meet and marry her fiance. He either died or just didn’t show up, and she didn’t want to return home. She supposedly went from respectable career choices like seamstress and housekeeper to – over the years – careers that were, ahem, less respectable in society. There are three ideas as to how she came to be buried in this plot, with a headstone (even though no dates are on it), and this is from the cemetery’s website:

…some say Louise became friends with a doctor who treated her during her hard life Under-the-Hill, and upon her death he paid for her funeral. Some say a wealthy plantation owner who frequented her room on lonely nights paid her funeral expenses. Others say a preacher paid for her funeral from his pauper funds, but she wasn’t buried in a pauper’s grave.


Natchez Drug Company / Turning Angel, Natchez City Cemetery, Natchez MS

This pic above is of a monument that was erected by the owner of the Natchez Drug Company. There was an explosion at the building that leveled the five-story structure and among others killed five of his employees, the youngest being twelve years old.

The monument reads:

Erected by the Natchez Drug Company to the memory of the unfortunate employees who lost their lives in the great disaster that destroyed its building on March 14, 1908.

Carrie O. Murray
Inez Netterville
Luella D. Booth
Mary E. Worthy
Ada White

In front of this angel monument are headstones for each of the employees. The angel on the monument is referred to as the ‘turning angel’ because it appears to turn at night as cars’ headlights shine on it from the main road.

Schwartz monument – Christian Schwartz had ‘White House’, the home now known as ‘Glen Auburn’ built.

….so we left the cemetery and went to some little just-for-tourists shop right downtown to ask them if they knew where we could find Miss Sophronia that day. Miss Sophronia sells pralines outside Rosalie and also where the Delta Queen and Mississippi Queen steamboats dock, some other places too. When we walked in to this little touristy shop (which I could not believe we were going to, but okay, we wanted to find her), we were asked by this man who didn’t sound at all like he was from anywhere south of Pittsburgh if we wanted to try *their* PRAY-LEENS. (no.)

“Prah-leens” please.

He didn’t know who Miss Sophronia was.

Update 2015: Miss Sophronia passed away July 21, 2015.

She touched the lives of a number of people with her quick style and jovial nature. She enjoyed making praline candy and delighted in meeting people from all over the United States and other countries while selling her pralines during the fall and spring tourist seasons and throughout the year at the various antebellum homes in Natchez and under-the-hill. Nobody was a stranger to her.

Monument to Emma Sansom, Gadsden AL

Monument to Emma Sansom, Gadsden AL

When I was in first grade at Episcopal Day School in Gadsden, we had a project to learn about any famous person we wanted, and to tell a bit about that person in class. I chose Emma Sansom, because so often we passed the monument to her on Walnut Street and I wanted to learn more about her. I think in first grade the best I could do was that ‘Miss Emma Sansom helped General Forrest cross the creek’!

Can you imagine.

Earlier this week we were in Gadsden and took these pics.

Here’s more about Emma Sansom:

In 1863, Union Colonel Streight dashed across Alabama on his way to Georgia, General Forrest on his heels much of the way. When Forrest came close to Gadsden, he needed a way across the Black Creek as it was up and the bridge was destroyed.

Forrest went to the first house he came to and asked if there was anyone who could show him a way across. No men being home, 16 year-old Emma Sansom spoke up and said that she knew the way and would accompany him if she had a horse.

This report is from The Jacksonville Republican, May 1863:

There being no time for ceremony, Gen. Forrest proposed that she should get up behind him to which, with no maiden coyness, but actuated only by the heroic impulse to serve her country, she at once consented. Her mother, however, overhearing the suggestion, and sensitively alive to her daughter’s safety and honor, interposed the objection. “Sir, my child cannot thus accompany a stranger.” “Madam,” respectfully urged the far-famed chieftain, “my name is Forrest, and I will be responsible for this young lady’s safety.” “Oh,” rejoined the good woman, “if you are Gen. Forrest she can go with you!”

This account is from Bennett H. Young’s, Confederate Wizards of the Saddle:

Without waiting for the assistance of her escort, she unloosed her hold from his waist and sprang to the earth.
The soldier, throwing his bridle rein over a sapling, followed the child, who was now creeping on her hands and knees along the ground over the leaves and through the ticket. The enemy saw the two forms crouching on the soil and began to fire at the moving figures in the bushes. Fearing that she might be struck, the soldier said, “You can be my guide; but you can’t be my breastwork,” and, rising, he placed himself in front of the heroic child, who was fearlessly helping him in his effort to pursue her country’s foes. Standing up in full view of the Federals, she pointed where he must enter and where emerge from the water. Her mission was ended. The secret of the lost ford was revealed. Streight’s doom was sealed. The child had saved Forrest in his savage ride, ten miles and three hours’ time, and now he felt sure that Rome was safe and that Streight and his men would soon be captives in his hands. As they emerged into an open space, the rain of bullets increased; and the girl, not familiar with the sound of shot and shell, stood out in full view and untying her calico sunbonnet, waved it defiantly at the men in blue across the creek. The firing in an instant ceased…
. . . Riding with quickening speed, he galloped back to the house. . . . [He] gave orders to instantly engage the foe. He sent aids to direct the artillery to the newly-found ford, and while they were moving with all haste into position, he drew from his pocket a sheet of unruled paper and wrote on it: Headquarters in Saddle, May 2d, 1863.
My highest regards to Miss Ema Sansom [sic] for her gallant conduct while my forse [sic] was skirmishing with the Federals across “Black Creek” near Gadisden, Allabama [sic].
N.B. Forrest, Brig. Gen. Com’d’g N. Ala.

The following day, Forrest caught up with Streight, and they battled; Forrest demanded Streight to surrender but he refused, demanding to be shown that his men were outnumbered. Although Forrest only had about 400 men and Streight had around 1500, Forrest ordered his men and artillery to move in and out of sight continuously along a ridge, fooling Streight into thinking he was indeed outnumbered. Streight surrendered at noon.
This quote of General Forrest from Edward Longacre’s article in Civil War Times Illustrated (June 1969):

“…When Streight saw they were barely four hundred, he did rear! demanded to have his arms back and that we should fight it out. I just laughed at him and patted him on the shoulder, and said: “ah, Colonel, all is fair in love and war you know.”

In my pic above, you can see that one of Emma Sansom’s fingers is missing; it’s sitting in the mayor’s office (it was returned by a prankster who broke it off!).

There is a marker in honor of Emma Sansom is in Social Circle, Georgia, in thanks to her for helping Forrest capture Streight, who was headed to Rome, GA.

The Alabama State Legislature at one time was discussing the possibility of putting Emma Sansom on the official Great Seal.


Folk Gravestones at Black Oak Cemetery, Dekalb County AL

I have family buried at Black Oak Cemetery in Dekalb County, and I was there last week to take pictures and get good dates for my genealogy projects.

Besides the usual markers….marble, granite…were these wonderful hand-made markers. This first one below is for John L.A. Brown – he was born September 19, 1800 and died October 19, 1818 (Alabama wasn’t even a state until 1819). His marker as well as some of the others feature this tree motif. What else this particular one includes is heart shapes, and a hand pointing up.

I have a friend whose relative passed away (just a couple of years ago), and their family members dug the grave themselves, with shovels, not machinery – not because they couldn’t afford to hire someone else to do it, but because they wanted to – as a kind of service in itself. I’m pretty sure you couldn’t do that at a big city cemetery, but this was beside a small country church.

The family members who made these monuments below decorated the gravestones by hand either because they couldn’t afford a professional stone, there was noone nearby to do the job, or because they felt it was their duty. In whatever case, these stones in particular seem so much more *real*.

John L.A. Brown 9.12.1800 - 10.19.1818, Black Oak Cemetery, Dekalb County AL
John L.A. Brown

To the Memory Of...  Black Oak Cemetery, Dekalb County AL
To the Memory of…

Monument, Margaret ... Black Oak Cemetery, Dekalb County AL

Joel T. Thacker Monument ... Black Oak Cemetery, Dekalb County AL
Joel T. Thacker

Son of Thacker ... Black Oak Cemetery, Dekalb County AL
Son of Thacker
Monument with Tree Design ... Black Oak Cemetery, Dekalb County AL
Tree design

Tree Motif ... Black Oak Cemetery, Dekalb County AL
Another…tree motif

Laura Kelly Monument, Kosciusko MS

This pic of the Laura Kelly monument is from the Kosciusko City Cemetery in Kosciusko, MS.

Laura Kelly died in 1890, and her husband ordered a statue to be made in her likeness (incl. dressed in her wedding gown) from a sculptor in Italy. The Kelly’s home was under construction when she died, so Mr. Kelly instructed the builder to add a third story to the home so that he would be able to look out the window and see his wife’s monument.

Laura Kelly Monument, Kosciusko MS

Laura Kelly Monument

Roma Royalty in Meridian

Kelly Mitchell, Queen of the Gypsies (Romas), Meridian, Mississippi

Marker of Queen Kelly Mitchell in Meridian

Above is the grave marker of Queen Kelly Mitchell in Meridian, MS. The story is that she died in 1915 while giving birth at a camp in Coatopa, Alabama (which is west of Demopolis). Her family brought her to Rose Hill Cemetery in Meridian to be buried. A recollection of that event can be found at this very good site that also refers to the rest of the family of Emil Mitchell, who was Kelly’s husband, the “King of the Gypseys”. The story goes on about the burial customs and the fact that the grave was reinforced with steel bars and concrete so as to discourage thieves (because apparently many fine things were buried along with her body for use on the other side of the Styx).

Kelly Mitchell, Queen of Gypsies (Romas); in Meridian, MS

collection of items left on Kelly Mitchell’s marker

I have heard that when the Roma come through Meridian, they leave items on Kelly’s marker. Visitors do as well (people seem to do that a lot…people leave all kinds of things in Montgomery at Hank Williams’ grave….guitar pics, whisky bottles, etc. Next time I go through, I’ll post a picture). This gravesite also seems to be a spot for people who do geocaching, so I’m pretty sure that some amount of this must have been left from them. Whenever we go through Meridian, we stop at Rose Hill to see what’s on the markers. It is different every time.

Along with Kelly Mitchell are buried her husband, Emil, who died in 1942 close to Attalla (AL), Flora Mitchell (Emil’s sister), Joe “Sharkie” Mitchell and Princess Diana Sharkey Mitchell, Slatcho Mitchell, Helen and Frank Mitchell, Mehil Mitchell, Lawrence Mitchell, Nicholas Gulumba, Costa George Bimbo, and Ovdoikia George Bimbo.