Let’s save the Folkes grave

Published 10:25 am Thursday, May 1, 2014

Miles Folkes’ headstone laying on the ground in Cedar Hill Cemetery.

Miles Folkes’ headstone laying on the ground in Cedar Hill Cemetery.

The ravages of time haven’t been kind to one of Vicksburg’s earliest leaders.
Well, more specifically, his grave.
Over the weekend, I was at Cedar Hill Cemetery helping Wayne McMaster prepare for Sunday’s Confederate Memorial Day service at Soldiers’ Rest.
He was pointing out some of the graves of Vicksburg’s most prominent historical figures to me as we traveled to one of the more far flung Confederate plots outside Soldiers’ Rest.
In the shadow of two giant, ornate makers near the corner of Willow and Ohio streets, I looked down in the dirt to a large, simply carved stone with the name Miles C. Folkes carved into it broken from its base and laying somberly in the grass.
Folkes was mayor of Vicksburg from 1840 until 1847 and again from 1858 until 1860, according to city records, though I’ve found clippings saying he was elected mayor again in 1856.
His photo hangs outside the boardroom where our Board of Mayor and Aldermen meet, and there is a painting of him on display in the art room of the Old Court House Museum. Yet our community had let his permanent memorial become a broken hunk of stone lying in the dirt.
“How many people do you think know the grave stone for a former mayor is just laying here in the dirt?” I asked Wayne.
“Probably just you and me,” he responded.
At that moment, I knew I had to tell the community about the shape our former mayor’s grave and come up with a plan to fix it.
The stone, if stood up, would be about four feet tall. It tells little about Folkes’ life. The stone has the Oddfellows symbol — three links of chain — above his name birthday and death date.
The final line is a piece of scripture from Luke 23:50 — “a good man, and a just.”
Folkes was one of the earliest settles of Walnut Hills, the area that is now Vicksburg. He was born Feb. 9, 1804 in Northampton, N.C., and moved here when he was about 17. He died here in Vicksburg in August 1860.
From what I’ve pieced together though a scant family history and newspaper clippings, Folkes was a man of unwavering conviction.
He was a Presbyterian, and his wife taught Sunday school for 50 years, according to newspaper articles I’ve found. He was staunchly against the consumption of alcohol outside of medical and sacramental use and a member of the Warren County Temperance Society, serving as its vice president in 1842.
As mayor, he also served as city judge and frequently held court. He was also a delegate to the Southern Commercial Convention alongside famous Vicksburg attorney Walker Brooke.
Basically, he was a man of honor and principles from the time when what is now Warren County was populated without outlaws and pirates until the eve of the Civil War.
He and men like him stood up for what they believed in when no one else would. For that reason alone, we need stand 154 years later and preserve his tombstone. It won’t take much; just a few supplies, a couple hours of work and some dedicated volunteers.
Though his politics and ideologies — temperance and protecting Southern businessmen —seem antiquated by today’s standards, so do those of every man and woman of his generation. That’s no reason to forget him and let his monument turn to dust.
I hope you’re with me.

Josh Edwards is a reporter and can be reaxched by email at josh.edwards@vicksburgpost.com or by phone at 601-636-4545.

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