Take interest in our cemetery

Published 12:58 pm Thursday, August 7, 2014

I’m glad to see the Board of Mayor and Aldermen taking renewed interest in the city’s cemetery.

Cedar Hill is a wonderfully historical place and often I find myself wandering though its narrow, twisting paths looking for clues to Vicksburg’s history and the final resting places of so many of its important figures.

Sometimes the things I find are more shocking than simple history. The aldermen seem to agree.

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“I’m finding some things that are a wow factor to me Mayfield said during a recent board meeting. “I’ve been around that cemetery all of my life … and I had never noticed some of these things.”

Roads and traffic seem to be a top concern for the aldermen and rightfully so. There are more than 20 roads in the cemetery that the official city map lists as “not passable.”  Most of those are along Skyfarm Avenue and some of the impassable streets are nothing but grass paths marked with fresh tire tracks.

There is also not a single road inside the cemetery wide enough for two cars to pass without one pulling off on the grass. This is tricky problem to fix because the cemetery was designed when horse and buggy were on the cutting edge of travel.

I think there’s a lot more we could tackle than traffic and roads.

In a section of cemetery known as Ohio Circle, a number of graves appear to have been affected at some point by a landslide. Several markers stick up two or three inches above the ground. Most of the graves in that section appeared to be from the 1960s or ’70s, so I find it unlikely that many people visit often to notice.

Certainly our community cannot let these eternal monuments be claimed by the earth.

There are street markers in the cemetery that are broken or sitting on the ground, also presumably because of prior landslides. I’ve also heard tales that the grave marker of a Revolutionary War soldier was lost in a slide.

Being claimed by the earth isn’t the only problem with graves. Some of the plots have been set too close together. In some places the foot markers of plots literally bump against someone else’s headstones.

People don’t take care of the dead like they used to, either.

Graves around the cemetery are littered with broken wooden or metal fences put up in memorial but left to rot and decay as loved ones slowly stop visiting.

There are also cans of snuff, bottles of soda, beer and other personal items left sitting unattended on and around graves. The labels on some soda bottles I found were so decayed that they had begun peeling off and the trademark red Coca-Cola caps had been bleached yellow.

Certainly there must be some sort of time limit on how long items that are not stone or concrete markers can be allowed to sit at a gravesite.

The saddest section of the cemetery is a plot referred to as Babyland, where many infants have been buried. There are many metal markers left from funeral homes, yet few head stones. Despondent parents have left toys there to bake sadly in the sun and feel the tears of the rain. Recently when I visited, the area was so cluttered that it appeared grounds crews could not mow it.

None of these problems will ever get fixed, however, if we ignore them and just hope they go away. So on the next sunny, cool afternoon, go take a walk through our city’s cemetery and see if it’s the kind of place Vicksburg can be proud of.

I’ll argue that it is, but it needs a little work.

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