Reprinted with permission of the Natchez Democrat.

In 1971, James W. Lambert wrote an informative article about the Natchez City Cemetery. He goes on to say...

We know that there are many who have found real interest in the old gravestones, and we feel certain that the article which we recently found and which was published in the Natchez-News-Democrat on March 14, 1915, will be most interesting to them, as it has been to us.

The article is entitled “Historic Cemeteries of Natchez” and was written by Maude K. Barton, native and long time resident of Natchez. The article is as follows:

The old burying ground was a parrelogram the southern margin of which was Main Street for three hundred and twenty feet, the eastern margin was Fifth (now Union) Street for two hundred and ninety-seven feet, thence eastwardly another three hundred and twenty feet, street not named, then northwardly the remaining two hundred and ninety seven feet.

Part of that old cemetery is the Memorial Park, and all that remain of the dead buried there are a few bones in a common grave near Rankin Street.

Samuel Brooks, first mayor of Natchez, was buried there. He was mayor from 1803 to 1811, was a cousin to the celebrated Phillip Brooks. Mrs. Eliza C. Brooks left a donation to fence the old graveyard. This old burying ground was conveyed to the City of Natchez in the year 1817 for the nominal sum of five hundred dollars. All that time the place was a high hill and most unsuitable for a burying ground.

The first part of the new cemetery was purchased by the city consisting of about 10 acres, property of Col. John Steel. Part of which was immediately laid off for the remains of the persons belonging to the Roman Catholic Church, part for strangers, part for “persons of color”, and the rest for white persons of any church or no church at all.

Alleys and family squares were from a plan surveyed under a resolution of the President and Selectmen in the year 1824, we have no President and Selectmen now.

In that day the lots sold for fifteen dollars each, since the 7th of August 1890, the family squares or lots sell for thirty, thirty-five or forty dollars each. The sum of one thousand dollars was paid for Col. John Steel’s property.

In this old part of the city cemetery were buried many notable people in the history of this city and state. And some from Louisiana and other states. Also the grave and monument of the Royal Governor when this state was part of Louisiana, namely

Don Jose Vidal
Born in the City Cowna, Spain
March 12, 1763
died at New Orleans
22 of August 1823

Enjoyed the confidence of his sovereigns. He filled many
offices of rank and trust in the Royal Government of the
Province of Louisiana. Captain of Gragoons in the Spanish time;
commandant of the Post of Concordia, consul of Spain at New Orleans.


This is on someone’s slab that must have suffered greatly and death was certainly relief too:

Death to the happy thou art terrible.
But how the wretched love to think of thee
Oh-thou true comforter the friend of all
We have no friend besides.

Considerable part has gone into the surrounding bayous, which though beautiful, are the curse of our own country. At one time it was an easy matter to find a skull or bone where the graves had been washed into the bayou. All that has been stopped since the Cemetery Association has taken charge. Some yeas ago the place was so overgrown with trees, vines and underbrush that it was a perfect paradise for snakes and birds, partridges ran around perfectly tame and would stand and look at you. Fact, have seen them myself.

The next new burying ground was bought from the heirs of Thos. Purnell and certain lots of it were appropriated for a place of interment of resident colored persons of the city, to be used graciously for that purpose on proper application and under the direction of the sexton. This was in 1855. In 1867 an additional burying ground was purchased by the City of Natchez from Margaret Case and in 1890 another plot was purchased of George Zurhellen and others. The pauper ground is outside of the fence surrounding the Catholic Cemetery.

Many a romance is hidden in those old graves, many queer names so forgotten in sound, cut on marble monuments. It is really interesting to read some of them. Flat on the ground and blackened with age is a plain slab just where it has fallen. “Sacred to the memory of Mary Ann Jennett, daughter of Peter and Ellen Raggio”. Also of Catherine Philomena, sister of the above, pretty names are they not. Near the bayou on that side of the city is a large square lot surrounded by a strong brick wall. The iron gate is gone and not a vestige of a grave or monument left. I wonder who it belonged to and how old it is. Nearby another overturned piece of marble, the top fragment reads: “In Memory of John Gilmore, native of the Parish.” All the rest is lost. Next to it is a dreadfully discolored leaning slab over which someone has hung a rusty iron chain, which reminds you of a ghost story, with “the rusty clanking chains.” An old Irvin Lot, part of the iron fence gone, six marble pillars dashed in a corner. A monument marks a grave of one born in 1772 and all died before 1850.

There is a large lot near with only a slight vestive of the brick wall left. Then a handsome monument has its foundation giving away and the iron on top cracked, but the shaft is straight and tall. But yet a little while and it will be laid low. The man whose grave it marks was born in 1809. Near there are a lot of poor looking sunken graves, a number of them are marked with small boards painted white lettered in black in some cases, a small black hand is painted, pointing to the inscription. There is a beautiful old lot with the name “Hebert” on the iron gate. A strong iron fence surrounds it and a beautiful wrought iron archway like a wreath of leaves is over the gateway. Three fine monuments are in the lot.