Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Cemeteries hold the key.....

Anyone who knows me knows anything about me, or has read anything I’ve written knows that I love country roads, cemeteries, genealogy, cemeteries, family, cemeteries, travel, cemeteries……you’ve got the idea!

This past Saturday, at the Historical Society Meeting in Raleigh (if you have any interest in your family lineage and/or Smith County, we’d love to have you join us!), one of the members, who is also a distant relative, mentioned that one of my Allen ancestors (a ggg- aunt) had been confined to the Mental Hospital in Meridian and was buried in that cemetery. (My Granny Walker’s mother was an Allen.)

This ggg-aunt was born in 1829 and lived, per census records, most of her life with her parents. In the Smith County census of 1880, she was still living with my ggg-grandmother. She was approximately 50 years of age and my ggg-grandmother, a widow, was 78.

In 1882, legislation was passed establishing the East Mississippi State Insane Asylum and in 1885, the hospital opened 2 miles west of Meridian. I am assuming that ggg-grandma Allen died sometime between 1880 and 1885, hence the reason the “insane” ggg-aunt had to go to a Mental Hospital.

Again, anyone who knows me understands that this is a mystery to be unraveled. Even though there was a heat advisory, on Sunday, I just HAD to go find this grave. I coerced cousin, Pam Walker, to ride along with me. After all, I had already located the other Allen grave in the cemetery at the Ellisville State School. I have to admit, this was beginning to be a little unnerving ……all these ancestors ending up in mental facilities! (Bob had always laughed and commented that everyone in Smith County was so related, he didn’t know how we could “walk and chew gum, at the same time.”)  I miss him, terribly, but I think this was one time I was glad he wasn’t around!

The directions to the East Central Mississippi State Hospital, also known as Cedar Haven, stated that the cemetery was at the west end of 22nd Street. Have you ever tried to find anything in Meridian? The streets start and stop. We’d be on 22nd and it would end and we’d have to zig and zag until we found it, again. We stopped at a convenience store to ask directions, and the two female clerks spoke absolutely NO English!!

We got to the end of 22nd street, in the absolute worst part of town and there was no cemetery. Everyone we stopped to ask, shrugged their shoulders…..they had no idea where the “old cemetery for the insane” was located. We were already hot and tired and probably looking pretty scary!

Finally, we decided to use Pam’s GPS, on her phone!! Maybe we needed to be in that hospital. We had driven around for an hour – why didn’t we think of this sooner?
We located the East Central Mississippi State Hospital on Highland Street. It’s a huge facility that seems to be in the process of growing. Are they expecting that many more people? Anyway, we got directions from a very nice young security guard …..who had no idea there was a cemetery ……but she made a phone call, got and gave excellent directions.

After following her directions, suddenly we were, again, at the end of 22nd Street (in another block)…..and there was the cemetery with a locked gate!  The optimist cousin Pam  said, “we can crawl under.” I looked at the bottom of the locked gate….and the ground…..and wondered how badly I wanted to find this woman’s grave (on this very hot day.)

I’m not sure why the gate was locked ….unless it was thought that someone might steal a body. There was ample (well, not really ample) room between the locked gate and the post to which it was attached…..we were able to squeeze (literally) through.

We walked the cemetery, checking each tombstone. Again, as in the Ellisville State School cemetery, most stones were state issued and were small with name and dates of birth and death. Unlike Ellisville, most of these stones were set above the ground. In the older section, the stones were of concrete and only contained a number …..etched into the stone….probably the “Inmates ID” number.

I’m not sure how many acres the cemetery covered. After all the makeup on my face had melted into my eyes, and I began to feel like I couldn’t breathe, it felt like 100! (I think it was probably 5 acres.)

Unfortunately, we didn’t find the ggg-aunt, but I did take a photo of a tombstone with a familiar last name – Hosey. When I got home and began checking, I discovered that he’s my 1st cousin twice removed (his mother was an Allen.) 

Can I say that now I’m just a little more than concerned.  All these family members in a Mental Institution. Yep, it’s probably a good thing Bob Gorrell isn’t around right now. 

Cemeteries hold the key to our past - and possibly - to our future!! 
#Cemeteries #Hosey #Allen #EastMississippiStateInsaneAsylum #Meridian
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