Copyright © Janice Tracy, Cemeteries of Dancing Rabbit Creek.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Odd Fellows Cemetery - The Lady in Red

Cruger, Mississippi, in Holmes County, Mississippi, is home to barely 400 residents. Located on the west side of U. S. Highway 49, the town is roughly 70 miles north of Jackson and about 175 miles south of Memphis, Tennessee. It lies within the confines of the large area of fertile agricultural lands known as the Mississippi Delta. Places nearby have unusual names, such as Alligator Bayou, Mosquito Lake, and Mossy Island. Located near Cruger is Egypt Plantation, an active farming area of almost 2,000 acres that sees it share of heavy equipment during farming season. But in the summer of 1969, a backhoe dug up more than Delta soil. It unearthed a coffin buried only a few feet deep that contained the body of a young woman who became known as "The Lady in Red."

Below is a partial account of the event as it appeared in Jackson's Clarion-Ledger on August 29, 1969:

"The method of preservation used for the Lady In Red was common prior to the Civil War, when custom-made caskets, shaped to the body, were ordered as one would order a dress. The glass that sealed the coffin was placed over the body, and alcohol was poured inside until it was level full, and then sealed with a cast iron tip. When the back hoe machine hit the coffin, alcohol spilled from the casket and spots of the liquid were seen on the folds of the woman's dress."

Aptly named for the red dress she allegedly was wearing, the young woman in the cast iron casket was said to be well-preserved. It is any one's guess how The Lady in Red came to be buried in the soils of Egypt Plantation, and there is no information to suggest a cemetery was located in the immediate area. One theory is the casket could have "dropped off" something that may have been carrying it to her final resting place.

Gravestone for The Lady in Red
Final Resting Place in Odd Fellows Cemetery
Lexington, Holmes County, Mississippi
(Photographed by Natalie Maynor)

The date of birth shown on the Lady in Red's grave stone is the result of expert analysis of her age. Since there is no way to determine her date of death, the date shown on the grave stone is the day her body was discovered on Egypt Plantation.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Wordless Wednesday - Vicksburg National Cemetery

If you read Mississippi Memories today, you saw a photograph of the entrance to Vicksburg National Military Park, site of the decisive Battle of Vicksburg. On July 4, 1863, the City of Vicksburg surrendered to Union troops and virtually lost control of the Mississippi River. I took the photograph posted here on an early Spring morning in 2008, when fog from the Mississippi River still partially blanketed the historic town and the park, both situated along the wooded bluffs of the river. But even the shroud of mist that covered the park that morning does not prevent one from seeing the acres of graves present in the Vicksburg National Cemetery. Of the approximately 18,000 individuals buried in the cemetery, over 12,000 graves are those of unknown soldiers who fought for both the North and the South.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Tombstone Tuesday - Isaac Newton Nelson

This well-preserved grave stone that marks the grave of Isaac Newton Nelson is located in Broom Cemetery, near Coffeeville, in Yalobusha County, Mississippi. The marker bears the Masonic emblem that denotes Mr. Broom's membership in the Masonic Order. According to the inscription on his grave stone, Isaac Newton Broom was born on Valentine's Day in 1834, and he died when he was 69 years old.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

William and Marguerite Coogle Gilmore - Gulde Cemetery

Gulde Cemetery, also known as New Prospect Cemetery, is located in Rankin County, Mississippi. Among the graves in this cemetery are those of William E. Gilmore and his wife, Marguerite Coogle Gilmore. The inscriptions on the double grave markers state that Marguerite was born in Knox County, Indiana, on October 5, 1872, and her husband was born on June 22, 1866, in Harrison County, Indiana. According to the inscriptions, William died on June 16, 1936, and Marguerite died a little more than ten years later on November 3, 1946.

But these grave markers contain more than names, dates of birth, and dates of death. The inscriptions on them also contain the names of the deceased couple's parents. William was the son of Mary and Ephraim Gilmore, and Marguerite was the daughter of Elizabeth B. and John E. Coogle.

As a family history researcher, I think this information is a real find for descendants of Marguerite and William Gilmore. It was certainly enough information to trace these two families' ancestry back another generation.

My search revealed that William Gilmore, age 36, was the head of a household in Knox County, Indiana, when the U. S. Census was taken in 1850. According to the census record, he was born in Iowa, worked as a farmer, and owned real estate valued at $780. His household included his wife, Elizabeth, age 33, who was born in North Carolina, and six children. Names and ages of children enumerated in the household were Catherine, age 10, Ephraim, age 8, William, age 5, John, age 4, Sarah, age 2, and James M., who was only 7 months when the census was taken. Ephraim, who was 8 years old in 1850, would have been 24 when William E. was born in 1866. And it is very likely that William's middle initial stood for "Ephraim."

In 1870, the U. S. Census record shows that Ephraim and his wife were still living in Knox County, Indiana, with Vincennes shown as their post office. They were living with their children William, age 4, and Mary, age 2. Another individual, Sarah Kindrick, age 14, was also shown in the household. Like his father, Ephraim was a farmer, and his property, including real estate, was valued at $4,100. Although I was unable to locate Ephraim in the U. S. Census of 1880, taken in Indiana, I did find him enumerated as a "boarder" in a household of other boarders, with an occupation shown as "proprietor of saw mill."

Research for the Coogle family in Indiana revealed that John Coogle, Marguerite's father, was 15 years old when the U. S. Census of 1850 was taken in Vincennes, Knox County. His parents were William Coogle, 40 years old, and Charlotte, age 36. According to the census record, William was born in Indiana, and Charlotte's birthplace was Kentucky. Other children enumerated in the household were Susan, age 16, Mary, age 12, William, age 10, and Laura, age 8.

Since the name Marguerite raised a question for me about possible French ancestry, I looked for clues about her name while searching census records. What I found was that Coogle is a fairly uncommon name, and that some of the males were born in locations in Europe, including Wurtenberg, Germany. Possibly, Marguerite was named for a European grandmother.

It is difficult to say why the William E. Gilmore and Marguerite Coogle Gilmore moved south and eastward to Mississippi, so far away from Indiana. Theirs was a "reverse migration path," so to speak. Perhaps it was Marguerite's decision to inscribe their parents names' and their places of birth on the grave stones in hope their descendants would always have the knowledge of their ancestors' beginnings.