Copyright © Janice Tracy, Cemeteries of Dancing Rabbit Creek.

Friday, November 21, 2008

John R. Cobb, "True and Faithful to all Duties"

John R. Cobb's gravemarker proclaims to all who see it that he was "True and faithful to all duties." John died slightly 7 months short of his 33rd birthday, still a young man. There is no information available to confirm that John was either single or married at the time of his death.

In 1900, according to the U. S. Census recorded that year, John was 15 years old and lived with his parents, Nathaniel and Elizabeth Cobb. He was the oldest of five children, with siblings named Mattie, Alma, Joseph, and Earnest. Mary McLean, his 77-year old South Carolina-born grandmother, perhaps already a widow, also lived in the household with her daughter, son-in-law and their children.

The inscription on John's gravestone likely had a purpose and recognized his early demise. Did he die of an accident, perhaps while he was working on the farm or in the dense woods near where he lived? Or did he die of natural causes, or an illness or of some contagious disease common at the time?

Whatever the reason was for John's death, he died at an early age, even for 1917.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Brewer Children of Camden, Mississippi

So often during the 1800's, children died in infancy or while still very young, sometimes due to contagious diseases for which no vaccinations existed at the time. I feel a certain sadness each time I hear a story of a child taken from their parents at a young age, but in the case of the J. G. and M. L. Brewer family, sadness was a regular visitor to their household in the years just before the end of the 19th century.

During a span of 14 years, the Brewer family lost not only one child, but four. These young children are all buried next to each other in the Good Hope Cemetery near Camden, Mississippi.

According to the U.S. Census taken in 1880, J. G. and M. L. Brewer had two children, both daughters, named Georgia, age 5, and Macy, age 2. J. G. was 27 years old, and his wife was 21. They were children of fathers who were born in South Carolina and in Virginia, fathers who had each married wives in Mississippi.

In August of 1888, their oldest child, Georgia Ann, died just a few months after she had turned thirteen. And by 1902, another three children, all girls, had died before they reached their first birthdays.

Mary Etta Brewer
Born January 15, 1886
Died March 25, 1886

Mamie Velma Brewer
Born October 17, 1901
Died February 20, 1902

Emma C. Brewer
Born Sept. 6 1895
Died July 8, 1896

Georgia Ann Brewer
Born January 1, 1875
Died August 2, 1888

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Bethel Methodist Church, Attala County, MS

Right : Bethel Methodist Church, near Hesterville, in Attala County, Mississippi

Below: Bethel Cemetery, where over 300 residents and former residents are buried.

Bethel Methodist Church, an independent Methodist church, is a beautiful architectural example of small rural churches built in parts of Mississippi that were settled during the 1800's. The church was organized around 1840, although the current structure was built after the Civil War. The church and its cemetery are located about seven miles north of Kosciusko, Mississippi, off Highway 35 North, near the community known as Hesterville.

This old cemetery is the resting place for over three hundred residents or former residents of Attala County and the surrounding area, some of them original pioneers who came to the area after the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek was signed with the Choctaw Indians. A number of the graves are now over 100 years old.

Among the names of those buried in Bethel Methodist Church's cemetery are Conner, Covington, Duncan, Giles, Gober, Holland, Hudson, Hull, Jamison, Jenkins, McAdory, McAfee, McCool, McElroy, Murff, Sanders, Stephens, Strahan, Sweatt, Tarver, Williams, Weatherly, and Young.

If your family is one of those listed here, and you would like to share pictures and stories of your loved ones who are buried in the Bethel Cemetery, please contact me at I look forward to hearing from you.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Mystery of Mary Vanarsdale

This gravestone in Good Hope Baptist Church's Cemetery touched me when I saw it, primarily because of the little lamb gracing the stone's top. At first glance, before I read the dates of birth and death for Mary Vanarsdale, I thought the person buried there might have been a child. I looked for another Vanarsdale family member in the cemetery, but Mary apparently was the only family member buried there. Since the name Vanarsdale was not a common name in Attala County in the 1800's, I decided to see what I could find out about this family.

First, I searched the U. S. Census Records for 1850 and found the only family by this name living in Mississippi was the household enumerated in Beat 3 of Leake County. The head of this household was "L Vanarsdale," born in Kentucky. Leake County, as the crow flies, is not many miles away from Attala County, so I was optimistic that I might have found Mary's family. I became less optimistic when I found that Mary, a 16-year old daughter enumerated in the household, could not have been Mary buried at Good Hope, whose birth date was shown as 1852. I also reviewed the Slave Schedule for 1850 and found that L. Vanarsdale owned 16 slaves. The U. S. Census record taken in 1860 again showed this family still living in the same location, and L. Vanarsdale now owned 26 slaves.

I continued to search the U.S. Census recorded for 1870, 1880, and 1900. First, I found that "L. Vanarsdale" was actually "Lucas Vanarsdale," and his descendants continued for over half a century to live near Carthage, in Leake County. When I examined the U. S. Census for 1870, I also found two Vanarsdale families living near Newport, in Attala County, very near the Good Hope Cemetery. One household was headed by "Drue" Vanarsdale, whose 20-year old wife was named "Mary." A one-year old daughter, Maria, also resided in that household. The racial identity of all individuals enumerated in the two Vanarsdale households living in Attala County in 1870 was shown as "B," a census abbreviation meaning "Black." By 1900, that same family had grown to include a total of 6 children, and they were living in Madison County, in the Camden Community, where Good Hope Baptist Church is actually located.

Was Mary Vanarsdale, the wife of Drue Vanarsdale, the same Mary who is buried in the grave at Good Hope Cemetery? Or was she the wife of another Vanarsdale male, who for some other reason was buried in another cemetery?
Maybe someone who reads this can help solve the mystery of Mary Vanarsdale.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Good Hope Cemetery - Woodmen of the World Tombstones

The Entrance to Good Hope Cemetery, established 1851, near the Good Hope Baptist Church.

Good Hope Baptist Church Cemetery is located across a well-built and maintained wooden footbridge from the church. From the footbridge, a visitor can see deep down into a wooded ravine that is part of the heavily timbered countryside that provides a beautiful, serene setting for this old church and deceased members of its community who lived during the 1800's.

To get to the church and cemetery from Highway 51 North, turn right onto Highway 17 East, and travel about 6 miles to Rocky Ridge Road, a paved and scenic county road. Stay on Rocky Ridge Road for about 5.5 miles, passing Shrock Road on the left. Turn left onto Mullinvill Road and travel approximately 500 yards to the church and cemetery directly ahead.

The cemetery is fenced, and on each side of the gate are engraved stones dedicating the cemetery to the memory of Barrett family who were instrumental in its establishment in 1851. The actual location of Good Hope Baptist Church and cemetery is in Madison County, Mississippi, but it is very near the line that separates that county from Attala County.
The tombstone you see here is located in
the cemetery at Good Hope and was erected for Edward Arthur Branch, my paternal great-grandfather. Ed, as he was known to his family and friends, was born on November 15, 1874 in Madison County, Mississippi, and he died on November 2, 1914, in Jackson, Mississippi. The inscription on the tombstone states simply "Gone Home."

Ed Branch was only 40 years old when he was diagnosed with cancer. Two days before his death, he was admitted to a hospital in Jackson for surgery that doctors believed might save his life. He died of complications from that surgery, barely two weeks away from his 41st birthday. He left a widow and five children under the age of 18, and his only son, my grandfather, had just turned 16 years old.

Before he died, Ed Branch had been a member of an organization known as "Woodmen of the World," founded in Omaha, Nebraska in 1890 by Joseph Cullen Root. According to "Wikipedia," the organization's purpose was to help its members "clear away problems of financial security....," and one of the benefits of membership was the organization's free tombstones for its members.

My great-grandfather's tombstone, one of three present in the Good Hope Cemetery, and one of many in cemeteries across the country, is a reminder of the other men who worked in one of the earliest occupations in the United States, the wood and timber industry. Use of these tombstones, unique and shaped like stumps of wood that bore the Woodmen of the World logo, was discontinued by the organization sometime around 1920.