Friday, November 14, 2008

Not a cemetery, not a graveyard, and certainly not!

There are two cemeteries that I would like to introduce to you. The first being St. Mary's cemetery in Bayou Goula, Iberville Parish, Louisiana, which was discovered as abandoned and vandalized in 2000. I'm calling St. Mary's cemetery - not a cemetery anymore as it was relocated. Christian Williamson wrote about this cemetery back in 2005, Sacred Trust: The Voluntary Removal and Reburial of Human Remains from a Historic Cemetery in Louisiana. This thesis paper is available for everyone to read and enjoy on the internet. Christian wrote, "This thesis presents the project in its entirety with the hope that it will provide a helpful blueprint for both anthropologists and family members who might find themselves involved in the rescue of ancestral remains from historic cemeteries." St. Mary's was founded in 1868 by John Hampden Randolph. The thesis describes the actions taken to rebury those interred at St. Mary's to Nottaway Plantation, the Randolph family historical home. This cemetery was both abandoned and quite isolated. The 31MB PDF file also contains photographs, epitaphs, and archeo. evidence. I found it a facinating read full of information.

The second cemetery that comes to mind as a subject of a thesis paper (or several thesis papers) is Breda Town Cemetery, Natchitoches Parish, Louisiana. I'd refer to this one as not a graveyard. Recently, a newspaper article was written stating that the Breda Town Cemetery Association had teamed up with University students from Northwestern in order to both conduct a cemetery survey and provide the students with an area of practice and study in the Masters of Arts Program. It is located in Natchitoches Parish, Louisiana and is listed on the Natchitoches Parish LAGenWeb parish page as being an African American cemetery without a transcription available. Breda Town began as the plantation home of Jean Philippe Breda and his wife, Marie Dranguet, in 1840. After the plantation dissolved, former slaves made their homes in Breda Town, which is now within the city limits of Natchitoches. I hope to read more in the future of Breda Town Cemetery as the survey is completed, mapped and studied.

Williamson noted differences between "cemeteries" and "graveyards" and cited several helpful sources. He stated, "Before examining the archaeological information available within an historic cemetery, we should discuss what the term cemetery means. Strangstad (Strangstad, Lynette, c. 1988, A Graveyard Preservation Primer. American Association for State and Local History, Nashville, Tennessee) provides a traditional definition for cemetery as “a place set apart for burying the dead.” Strangstad uses the term graveyard to distinguish early historic burial grounds dating from the seventeenth to the nineteenth century from modern cemeteries. The modern use of the term cemetery comes from the Latin word coemeteirum, and the Greek translation meaning “dormitory” or “sleeping place.” (Morris, Richard , c. 1983, The Church in British Archaeology. Research Report 47, The Council for British Archaeology, London, England Morris). And so I will make a note of the differences for future reference.

Should I be blogging only seventeenth to nineteenth century graveyards in Louisiana, since this is a "graveyard" blog? Certainly, not!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Isolated and abandoned family cemeteries quite common in Louisiana

Unfortunately, there are many isolated and abandoned cemeteries in Louisiana. The cold stones sit and wait for no one as time passes. Local history, banal, disorganized and unkept is shoved aside by current affairs. You drive by an abandoned cemetery or graveyard everyday. Hunters stumble upon old tombs in the thick on their way to claiming that prized buck. Tractors till the earth in heaps and mounds and suddenly, the silent speak.

From The Advertiser November 2, 2008
Expert lays down the law on home archaeology, by Judy Bastien •

["Ryan Seideman, a lawyer and archaeologist, is the person in Louisiana whose job it is to determine if private citizens have a right to any artifacts in their possession. Seideman is also the section chief of the state's Lands and Natural Resources section for the Louisiana Department of Justice.

Some of the laws are clear-cut - like the one governing human remains. Finding human remains is a more common occurrence than you might think. It happens often enough that Seideman recently gave a talk at UL titled A Nonlegal Guide to Louisiana Archaeology Laws or What Not to Do If You Find a Skull in the Attic.

"It's very common," Seideman said. "You find, all over the state, isolated and abandoned family cemeteries."]

Monday, November 3, 2008

Ft. Polk and its treasured heritage

Over the course of the past year 70 gravesites have been located with ground penetrating radar at Ft. Polk along with 27 cemeteries and home sites. You should read more about how this came about from The Leesville Daily Leader. The newspaper described the second annual Heritage Day celebration at Ft. Polk, Louisiana that took place on November 1, 2008. Can you imagine over 70 unmarked graves? The founding members of Heritage Day at Ft. Polk, Louisiana are hoping to provide monuments for the unmarked graves discovered by GPR. Additional information concerning this event can be read here URL.(November 7, 2008, Heritage Days helps families heal old hurts, by ZACH MORGAN on The Guardian.)

What is ground penetrating radar or GPR? According to the Saving Graves website, "Ground-penetrating radar (GPR) data is generated by the reflection of pulses of energy transmitted into the ground. The energy bounces off the buried features, and is detected with a receiving antenna. Each below-ground feature reflects this energy in its own unique way. Objects, and soils of different densities will generate detectable signals. By providing the user with the ability to “see” below the surface without disturbing anything, GPR is the ideal tool for locating sensitive features such as graves."

You may read about last years Heritage Day celebration on the Louisiana Genealogy Blog. More information about these Heritage Families can be found in this post, in addition to more links to stories, who to contact via email, phone numbers and organization contacts.

The Vernon Parish Library has a CD-ROM available with photographs of Vernon Parish cemeteries, according to their online catalog:

Vernon Parish Cemeteries [computer file] / Lewis Westfall.
Author: Westfall, Lewis.
Imprint:Leesville, La. : Westfall, 2005?
Physical Description:2 CD-ROMs, 4 3/4 in ; 4 3/4 in.Note:Photos of grave markers in Vernon Parish Cemeteries.
Content:Disc 1: A-L; Disc. 2: M-W.
Shelf Location
Call Number
Item Status
Main Branch
CD-ROM G La 976.361 Wes
Main Branch
CD-ROM G La 976.361 Wes v.2
Main Branch
CD-ROM G La 976.361 Wes v.1
Amazon books about - Louisiana Cemeteries


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