FRIENDSHIP CEMETERY - COLUMBUS, MISSISSIPPI
FRIENDSHIP CEMETERY, long known as Odd Fellows Cemetery, 4th St. (R) facing 13th Ave. S., is situated on land purchased by the Odd Fellows in 1849 for recreational purposes. During the War between the States the 18 acres were converted into a cemetery. The first burials were of soldiers who fell at Shiloh. Under the magnolias are the graves of about 100 Federal and 1,500 Confederate soldiers, whose names were recorded in a book since lost. Now all graves are “unknown,” and so marked on the more than 1,000 headstones set up by the War Department in 1931. In one corner of the cemetery is a faded red brick vault—the grave of William Cocke, Revolutionary War veteran, legislator of Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee and Mississippi.
Memorial Day had its origin in this cemetery on April 26, 1866. The ladies of Columbus met and marched in procession to the burial ground, where they cleared and decorated with flowers the graves of both Confederate and Union soldiers. This act inspired Francis Miles Finch’s poem, “The Blue and the Gray.” April 26, not the nationally recognized May 30, is still Decoration Day in Mississippi.
—Mississippi, A Guide To the Magnolia State (WPA, 1938)
Several of the grave markers have been overtaken completely by majestic Southern magnolias (Magnolia grandiflora), the tree that serves double duty as both the state tree and the state flower. Slowly growing around the marble monuments left for people that were forgotten to time. In a way, a fitting and honorable reminder of how much things have changed, how slow that change has been and how much we have left to make right.
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David Jones is a State Guide to Mississippi. While going to school, he lived in five of the Southern states, from Virginia to Texas. Currently he can be found traveling the highways and back roads of Mississippi, helping people out when he can and exploring the hidden treasures of the state. You can find him on Tumblr at woodprof.tumblr.com.