Several weeks ago, I received an email from Mitchell Sawyer, who happened upon a post I had written in December 2008 about Kirkwood Cemetery in rural Madison County. According to Sawyer, he discovered the once hidden cemetery when he was searching for his Hemingway ancestors, who he believed to be buried there. After finding the cemetery in a neglected and overgrown state, Mr. Sawyer personally initiated a cleanup project.
Kirkwood Cemetery, Madison County
( St. Philip's Episcopal churchyard)\
Photograph by Mitchell Sawyer
In an email to me, Mr. Sawyer stated: "When I found the grave yard it was completely overgrown and hidden. I had a lot of encouragement and advice from the Ms. Dept. of Archives and History. After removing the “forest” I started some tombstone cleaning and very thankfully the Madison Co. Supervisors got in the act and erected a nice chain link fence. Unfortunately, this past summer it appears vandals toppled the Governor’s monument. The cemetery has gained the name, of course, from the McWillie plantation but the actual name is St. Philip’s Episcopal churchyard. The Episcopal church building stood to the left as you enter the cemetery; upon a small knoll."
Photographed by Mitchell Sawyer
April 17, 2007, after cleanup
As one who treasures the beauty and historical significance of our state's very old cemeteries, I want to thank Mr. Sawyer for his role in locating this cemetery, for clearing and removing the trees and brush, and for getting the Madison County Board of Supervisors involved. Through Mr. Sawyer's selfless efforts, descendants of those buried in Kirkwood Cemetery near where old St. Philip's Episcopal Church once stood, may now visit the graves of their ancestors.
Thursday, April 9, 2009
Wednesday, April 8, 2009
Monday, April 6, 2009
Hillcrest Cemetery in Goodman, Mississippi, located in Holmes County, holds the history of almost two generations of my father's family. Pictured here is the double grave marker of my paternal grandparents, Clark Commander Branch and Lelia Porter Branch, located in a newer section of Hillcrest Cemetery, in Goodman, Holmes County, Mississippi. As the inscriptions on the gravestone states, Clark Branch was born on August 9, 1899, and Lelia Porter Branch was born on July 17, 1904. This photograph was taken by my parents several months after my grandfather's burial and not very long after the gravestone was placed at the gravesite. As you can see, my grandmother's inscription shows only her date of birth, as she continued to live almost twelve years after her husband's death. She never remarried, and when she died on January 16, 1991, Lelia Porter Branch was buried next to her husband.
Hillcrest Cemetery is the burial place for many early residents of the area who lived in the Goodman area or "just over the Big Black River," in Attala County, where members of the Branch and Porter families had settled over 150 years ago. My grandmother's immediate family, except for one brother, are buried here in this cemetery. The graves of her parents, J. J. Porter and Margaret Susannah ("Maggy") Merriweather Porter, along with five of her brothers and sisters, Etta Porter Parker, Leonard Porter, James Porter, Newell Autry Porter, and Vertie Porter, are located nearby. Another brother, Clarence Porter, is buried in Jessamine Cemetery in Ridgeland, Mississippi, near where he had lived most of his adult life, and in the same cemetery in which my own parents have chosen to be buried.
Members of my grandfather's family interred in Hillcrest Cemetery include at least one of his four sisters, Stella Branch Young and her husband, Woodard Young, and their mother, Claudia Baldridge Branch. Edward Arthur Branch, Claudia's husband and father of her five children, died when my grandfather was 15 years old and is buried in Good Hope Cemetery near Camden, Mississippi, in Madison County. An account of Ed Branch's death, along with a photo of his Woodmen of the World gravestone, can be seen here.