The Natchez City Cemetery, established in 1822, is the largest cemetery in Adams County. Located on Cemetery Road, on the north side of the city, the cemetery is situated on a bluff overlooking the Mississippi River. It is approximately 95 acres in size.
The old burying ground was on a high hill where Memorial Park and St. Mary’s Cathedral are located in downtown Natchez. Samuel Brooks, the first Mayor of Natchez, from 1803-1811, is still buried there. When the cemetery was established in its present location, the remains from the old burial ground were gradually moved to the present site north of the town.
At one time, the old Charity Hospital stood just south of the cemetery, but burned on Sunday, August 5, 1984. The cemetery was established in 1821, but it contains graves dating to the 1700’s. Over the years, several parcels of land were either purchased or donated, thus increasing the size of the cemetery.
Numerous beautiful, creatively designed iron fences, benches, iron mausoleum doors, tombstones and monuments are found within the cemetery. The varied patterns of ironwork represent almost the entire spectrum of ironwork produced in America in the 19th and early 20th Centuries. Artistically sculptured markers with often-poignant inscriptions add to the unique character of the burial ground.
The majority of the signed marble work dates to before the Civil War. Edwin Lyon and Robert Rawes, two of the most prolific and outstanding antebellum marble workers can be credited with many of the beautifully sculpted monuments. There were numbers of other talented artisans whose work contributes to the beauty of the cemetery.
A tour of the Natchez City Cemetery is a glimpse back in time to the early days of historic Natchez, revealing the rich and colorful tapestry of this early Southern city on the Mississippi River. You will find many of the builders of the magnificent Natchez antebellum homes are buried here.
There is a statue of an angel at the front of the cemetery that, as you approach from a particular angle, appears to turn to greet you. This has been the subject of Natchez legendthroughout the years… but the thing about it is, this legend is true. Because of this, the statue has been dubbed, “The Turning Angel”. In this case, there is a logical explanation. If you read the inscription on the stature, it says: “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.” The five girls who were killed are buried under the watchful gaze of the angel. The Natchez Drug Company commissioned the statue, and the artist carved it in such a way to form an optical illusion. Approaching the statue from the correct angle makes it appear to turn as you grow nearer.
One rather large monument off of Steamboat Street in the cemetery is inscribed as, “Sacred to the memory of Rufus E. Case, who died at Wallenstein, La, November 29th, 1858. Aged 31 Years & 8 Months. Thy Will Not Mine, O Lord” The monument is in three tiers – three boxes really, stacked on top of each other. According to the book Historic Natchez City Cemetery, the reason behind this is that Rufus wanted to be buried in his rocking chair, facing his Louisiana home. A child in his family had died before him, and so his rocking chair was positioned beside the young one’s grave, and the tomb was built around him.
Florence Irene Ford (Sept 3, 1861 – Oct 30, 1871) died of yellow fever. Her family was distraught over her death, but her mother was especially devestated. She had a special coffin constructed for her daughter that had a glass window to display her body. Furthermore, when the grave was dug, Mrs. Ford had a set of concrete steps constructed so that she could descend them and look into the grave through a special glass windown that she had the workmen install. Because her daughter was terrified of thunderstorms, every time it would rain Mrs. Ford would descend the stairs and sit there by her daughter’s coffin, separated only by the thin glass wall. She could also gaze at her deceased child through the glass of the coffin. After the mother’s death, the glass wall was covered by concrete to prevent vandalism, but today you can still descend the steps to Florence’s grave.
According to the book Legends Of The Natchez City Cemetery, Louise was a prostitutewho worked in a brothel down Under the Hill after the Civil War. There are many colorful stories about the poor girl; that she had become stranded in Natchez and was forced into such a life just to survive, or that her fiancee abandoned her in town without any means to get by, and prostitution became her only way of life. In any case, she died of tuberculosis and was buried in the city cemetery with the simple epitaph, “Louise the Unfortunate.”
The Natchez City Cemetery is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and several tour options are available.
There are several video tours available on YouTube. This one gives the potential visitor an idea of the cemetery’s considerable acreage.