Copyright © Janice Tracy, Cemeteries of Dancing Rabbit Creek.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Henry Grey Vick, Almost a Bridegroom

Henry Grey Vick is buried in the Chapel of the Cross Cemetery in Madison, Mississippi, and his grave is one of the oldest there. At the time of Henry's death, he was betrothed to Helen Johnstone, daughter of the owner of Annandale Plantation located nearby. It was Helen's decision to bury Henry close to where she lived, rather than near his parents in one of Vicksburg's cemeteries or on the land of the plantation that he owned at Nitta Yuma in the Mississippi Delta.

The story of Helen Johnstone and Henry Vick is a tragic one that has become a legend in Madison County. By all accounts, Henry had asked Helen's mother for her daughter's hand in marriage shortly after she met her when Helen was barely sixteen. Mrs. Johnstone, a widow, was not ready to let go of her daughter so soon. She did agree, however, for Helen to marry Henry until she turned 20. Helen and Henry had waited for so long to be married, but on the very day of their planned wedding, Helen was not walking down the aisle as Henry's bride. Sadly, she was burying the man she loved and had hoped to marry, and her grief was greater than anything she had ever known. Henry had been taken from her before their life together had ever begun.

But Henry's death was not the result of an illness or an accident. Instead, it was the result of a duel with a man with whom he had argued over the man's treatment of one of Henry's slaves. Unknown to his bride-to-be, Henry had challenged the man to a duel and had died from the gunshot fired from the other man's pistol.

Much has been written over the last 150 years about the sad love story of Helen Johnstone and Henry Grey Vick and his untimely death. One of the reasons has been that visitors and those who have lived near the Chapel of the Cross and its cemetery have believed over the years that Henry's ghost inhabited the area after his death. It was said that Helen placed a bench near Henry's grave, and it was there that she often waited for his return.

Visitors who have visited the Chapel of the Cross and its cemetery over the years have often remarked that when the wind blows through the knarled cedars that surround the churchyard, they wonder if Henry might be watching from somewhere nearby.

It is a legend that persists to this day.

Helen later married a man who served as the rector of the Chapel that her family had built, and they had several children. But Helen was not buried in the cemetery where she waited on that bench for Henry for so long.

In 1994, Glenn S. Smith of TheDirectorsGroup, Madison, Mississippi, published the book "Shadows of a Chapel." If you would like to read more about The Chapel of the Cross, the Johnstone family of Annandale, and the love story of Helen Johnstone and Henry Grey Vick, an online copy of the book is available at the link below.

1 comment:

  1. What a great story, Janice. I can see her sitting on that bench in that beautiful, lonely cemetery now.