Copyright © Janice Tracy, Cemeteries of Dancing Rabbit Creek.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Potter's Field - A Cemetery in Madison County

The serene picture to the left is one of an area in Madison County known as "Potter's Field," identified by the simple sign to the right. Almost all of the graves of those buried in this cemetery, located at 800 W. Dinkins Street in Canton, Mississippi, are unmarked.

The Potter's Field cemetery is the location for burials of those who die in Madison County with no family or friends to claim the bodies. In other places, these "potter's field" cemeteries are known as places of burial for unknown or indigent people. There is no information available about how long this Madison County "Potter's Field" has been used for burials or exactly how many people have been buried there.

While researching the term "potters field," I found information in Wikipedia that pointed me to a story told in Matthew 27:7 of the New Testament of the Bible. The story relates how Judas, after his betrayal of Jesus, attempted to return the 30 pieces of silver to Jewish priests. Calling the the coins "blood money," the priests believed it was against the law to return the money to the treasury. Instead, they decided to use the money to purchase land for a burial place for "foreigners." The Valley of Hinnom, located just outside the gates of Old Jerusalem and at the foot of Mount Zion, is believed to be the site of the original "potters field." The name for the burial ground came from the simple fact that local potters used parts of the Valley of Hinnom as a source of clay.

It is interesting to note here that three of New York City's old cemeteries began as "potters fields," and New York City's current potter's field is the largest cemetery in the United States. Situated on Hart Island, this cemetery is the location of approximately 800,000 burials. Because of its history and its size, the cemetery on Hart Island has been the subject of several books and documentaries.

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