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Jerusalem Cemetery


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As I searched through Google Maps looking for a cemetery to visit, I was very excited to see one called “Jerusalem Cemetery” because I thought it might be a Jewish cemetery hidden away somewhere.  The only local Jewish Cemetery I knew of is on Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive.  When I got a little closer, I saw the sign that tells me that the one on MLK is still the only local one of which I am aware.

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Ah, well.  Baptists are nice, too.

Jerusalem Cemetery is located on the south side of New Hope Road.  The turnoff for the road is on Highway 6 between Many High School and the Town of Many.  The year on the gate leading into the site indicates that it started in 1883.  There are several older graves that fit in with this timeline.  Overall the area is more empty than filled, with most of the graves concentrated in the central portion of the site.

This person has a question for the visitor:

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I suspect I would be where he is.

Most of the time I don’t go on cemetery visits looking for anything in particular; I’m looking for something at the site that stands out to me.  In some places it is decorations or inscriptions.  Sometimes it is the landscape or setting of the site.  In the case of Jerusalem Cemetery, I am sad to say that what stands out the most is the number of fallen, growth-covered or otherwise damaged headstones.  Many of these–if not most–are among the older headstones and are in the same general area.

Why is this?

Perhaps the work done when putting in the markers was not the best.  There may have been a storm or tornado that knocked over markers already weakened by weathering and erosion.  Unfortunately, the idea that kept popping into my head was that these markers had all been damaged or knocked over on purpose.  I can’t prove it, but the instances of markers flat on the ground next to the base on which they are supposed to rest keeps leading me in that direction.

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This marker sits atop another broken marker.

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Markers on the ground and an empty base:

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I love the carving on this headstone, which evokes a “City of God” kind of feeling.  I do not love the fact that it’s broken in half and lying on the ground.

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Two more broken headstones:

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In addition to those that are fallen or have suffered mechanical damage, there are several markers that are covered with biological growth or show signs of having been cleaned improperly–then covered with biological growth.

This marker is snow-white beneath a covering of growth.  It sounds strange to say, but no marker this old should be this white.  The stone has a sugary appearance to it that indicates a weakened state.

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White marble markers aren’t the only ones that attract biological growth.

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I’m curious about Jerusalem Cemetery.  The site doesn’t appeared to be abandoned.  There are recent burials there.  There is contact information posted at the gate, so somebody has assumed some sort of responsibility for the site.  In spite of all this there are shattered and growth-covered headstones that indicate either neglect or vandalism.  It just seems to me that the condition of the older markers does not fit with the rest of what I see.

See more photos of this cemetery on my flickr page.

Thomas-Wren Cemetery, Pt. 2


A recurring theme in area cemeteries is the use of flowers.  Both real and artificial flowers are placed on graves in memory of the deceased.  We find images of flowers carved into markers and memorials.  They are often used to signify the fragility of life.  Sometimes inscriptions describe the deceased as a flower in God’s garden, as seen below.

 

"God's garden has need of little flowers"

 

"An angel visited the green earth and took a flower away"

For whatever reason, most likely time and neglect, there are dozens of Woodmen of the World markers covered with biological growth of various colors.

 

I would love to clean this monument

I mentioned in my previous post that the western side of the cemetery was smaller and not as full as the eastern side; however, do not mistake this for being the “lesser” side in any way.  I will be showing more photos from this side in order to highlight some of the newer aspects that have appeared at Thomas-Wren in the last couple of decades or so.

 

View from across the street of the western side of Thomas-Wren Cemetery

Some people see graves and think of depressing death.  I usually don’t.  However, it’s hard to avoid that reaction when there’s a big freaking coffin sitting right next to the front gate.

 

This coffin is next to the western gate

I like it when a grave’s appearance is tailored to the life of the deceased.  It is even better when the tailoring goes beyond just an image or words.  In this case the deceased was a brickmason, and the material and layout of the grave reflects this.

 

This grave reflects the deceased's trade as a brickmason

Angels usually hold something, pray, or look out at the world.  I rarely see them look like they’re about to kiss.

 

The angel on the left appears to be about to plant one on the cheek of the other

 

I have seen angels.  I have seen dogs.  I have never seen an angel-dog.

 

"Angel Dog" sounds like the name of a band or a show on Cartoon Network

When it comes to statuary, the lamb is much more common, but the lion also has its place.

 

Lion

Here a hobby the deceased shared with his friends is shown.  I thought it was nice that some outside the family were involved in contributing to this grave:

 

"Given in memory by: friends, bikers, and families"

I’ve seen several graves with an 18-wheeler on them, which I always think marked the deceased as a trucker.  This marker indicates the career may continue as he drives the truck right on up to heaven.

 

An angel waits for the truck at the end of the road

This statue reminds me of the Ents from the “Lord of the Rings” series:

 

Dignified-looking fellow

The following grave was covered with red gravel and had these “footsteps” with words written on them and set in a row.

 

Footprints

"If I could be anyone I choose,"

"I'd follow in Grandpa's footsteps..."

"and try to fill his shoes."

At some point in the past, graveyards became not just places where dead bodies were buried, but places where the dead only slept peacefully until they were given new life.  Here an angel sleeping on a bench decorates the grave.

 

Angel sleeping on a bench

I have mentioned that I look fondly on color in cemeteries.  I’ve got nothing against gray–and have been told I look good in it–but anything that serves to liven up the place–no pun intended–is a welcome asset.

 

Sky and duck images in color on this grave

Back of the same grave, showing a sportsman's scene

This dog-shaped object is on top of the Suggs grave.  I have not yet been able to determine if it was made like this or if it has eroded away into this condition.  There are many crater-like depression covering the entire surface.

 

Object on top of the Suggs grave in Thomas-Wren

I have noted the presence of a lot of squirrel iconography.  This sign takes it a bit further:

 

"Squirrel Crossing"

At some point while visiting Thomas-Wren Cemetery I first had the thought that the cemeteries in this area are wonderful places.  No, there is not the presence of grand monuments and tombs that are found in New Orleans and other places around the state.  However, the attention some of the graves receive, the decorations they hold and the feelings and emotions expressed by their inscriptions and actions of surviving loved ones are truly outstanding.

See more photos of this cemetery on my flickr page.

Thomas-Wren Cemetery — Pt. 1


 

Front Gate of Thomas-Wren Cemetery

 

I don’t think it would be quite accurate to say that Thomas-Wren Cemetery is my favorite of the ones I have visited recently, but it is the only one that made me laugh out loud twice.  There’s also so much stuff that I would like to return and take it all in again one day.

Thomas-Wren Cemetery is located on both sides of Highway 787 in Red River Parish.  The eastern side is larger and mostly full.  The western side is smaller and has more open area.  There is a church set slightly apart from the cemetery’s fence on the eastern side.  A few cars drove by during the time I was there.

I visited the cemetery the week before Halloween.  I’m fairly certain that this decoration was there for the holiday, but how great would it be if it were there year-round?  I was walking the rows of the cemetery, back and forth, back and forth.  I didn’t really have my head up, or I would have noticed it sooner.  So when I saw it for the first time, it caught me completely off guard, and I laughed out loud.

 

This large spider decoration was on the grave during the week before Halloween

 

This is on the back side of a grave that had a lot of decorations.  The rabbit is standing in front of a vase filled with flowers, and he’s holding a sign in his hands that also made me laugh.

 

Rabbit with sign in front of flowers
“Don’t Even Think of Eating These Flowers!”

 

Every now and then I see something that makes me think, “How can you not like these people?”  Thomas-Wren may have more great nicknames per capita than any other site.

 

"Hotshot"

"Posh"

"Tater"

 

This grave was completely unlike any other in the cemetery in terms of material and shape.

 

I’m not sure what the situation is with this headstone.  There is an inner part made of one material that contains the inscription, and an outer part that surrounds it.  The crack in the middle of the inner stone leads me to think that it was repaired and the outer part fitted over it to hold it in place.  The outer part shows no crack along the same line as the inner part.  This is just a theory, however.

 

Inset

 

I noted a flat metal marker in Liberty Cemetery that stood out.  Here is another in Thomas-Wren, and a vertical one at that.  I’m always thrown a little by metal markers, even though they were much more popular at one point than they are now.  I think I rapped on this one just to confirm that it was indeed metal.

 

Upright metal marker

 

Since this is only Part 1 of my writing about Thomas-Wren Cemetery, I’ll finish this part with an unfinished marker.  It doesn’t even go so far as saying Born and Died, settling for B and D.

 

B and D

See more photos of this cemetery on my flickr page.

Liberty Cemetery


View from the front gate of Liberty Cemetery, facing east

Liberty Cemetery is located on Parish Road 211 in Coushatta, behind Liberty Church.  As is the case with other cemeteries founded around the same time (~1860s) and still in use, there are a variety of markers and materials in use.  There are marble monuments, Woodmen of the World memorials, granite headstones, and the round “stump” markers I first saw at Bethany Cemetery.  Graves face east.  I was glad to see a couple of benches in the middle of the cemetery that allow people to sit and rest.  The site is not completely isolated, but still quiet enough to enjoy in peace.

This is my favorite decoration at Liberty, and one of my favorites overall:

 

Elvis is in the cemetery

 

Before the trend of vertical granite headstones gained popularity, there were obelisk-type monuments used as markers.

 

Vertical obelisk-type marker covered with biological growth

Shorter vertical monument with decorative top

Woodmen of the World Memorial

The front gate lists an earlier year of establishment, but the oldest grave I saw was this one from 1881.

 

The oldest marked grave I saw at Liberty Cemetery -- 1881

Metal markers have been very rare in the cemeteries I’ve visited lately, though Memory Lawn Cemetery has them almost exclusively.

 

Metal Marker in Liberty Cemetery

I have seen gravel covering graves.  I have seen urns decorating graves, sometimes with flowers in them.  I have never seen an urn with gravel in it.

 

Gravel in an urn

 

A traditional way that families used to–and sometimes still do–tend to graves is by painting them.  In this case either the inscription was painted to make it stand out more, or the entire stone was painted and the paint in the lettering is all that remains.

 

At least the inscription on this grave appears to have once been painted white

See more photos of this cemetery on my flickr page.

Martin Cemetery


 

Front gate of Martin Cemetery

Martin Cemetery is located at the intersection of Highway 155 and Highway 507, across from the Martin Baptist Church.  The site is mostly what I can only think of calling “front loaded.”  Most of the graves are in the third of the cemetery closest to the gate.

Martin Cemetery shows some of the same features as the others I have written of to this point; it just doesn’t have as many of them due to limited burials.  We see the words of the deceased:

 

Song written by the deceased, B.L. Youngblood

 

Images of their interests and occupations:

 

Images showing a welder and a guitar

 

Footstones such as these more commonly show a name or nickname instead of a quote.

 

“This world is not a conclusion. A sequel stands beyond.”

 

One of the increasingly popular symbols in this part of the country is what I have heard called the “sportsman’s fleur de lis.”

 

The “sportsman’s fleur de lis” combines the images of a duck, fish and deer

 

See more photos of this cemetery on my flickr page.

Bethany Cemetery


 

Front Gate of Bethany Cemetery

Bethany Cemetery is located in Red River Parish on Parish Road 353/Bethany Presbyterian Church Road.  It was the first site I visited that had someone else there at the time, and I was lucky enough that he was the head of the cemetery association.  He told me that the first burial took place when a member of a wagon train died and was laid to rest here.

The cemetery association has rules regarding the period of time family members have to mark a grave, and the association head was waiting on someone to come mark a spot.

 

Rules at Bethany Cemetery

 

A rule that is unique among all those I have seen posted at area cemeteries:  “No inscriptions or designs that are offensive to Christian beliefs”

To the left of the entrance is a lightly wooded area with many graves sitting under the shade of trees.  This is the most tree-heavy section (northeast quadrant) of the cemetery.  Some of these trees could be trouble at some point if they topple over, drop limbs or extend their roots into markers.  One tree situation I did like is this one, a slender tree set back from the grave:

 

A straight up tree that does not branch out or extend invasive roots

 

There are some family sections that can be identified by copings or other types of ground-level borders, but no family section is as clearly defined as that of the Cason family.

 

Entryway to the Cason section of the cemetery

 

During my research for my master’s thesis, I came across several references to funeral and burial motifs.  Angels symbolize this, lambs that, urns this, hands that.  Nothing in the literature I read said anything about squirrels.

 

Statuette of a squirrel

The opposite side of this part of the grave shows a squirrel inscribed on the stone. The deceased has left "peanuts" behind for the squirrel's enjoyment

 

This was also my first time seeing a raccoon as a grave decoration:

 

This grave has several decorations, including a raccoon on top left

 

Of the messages left behind by the dead to the living, this was my favorite at this site:

 

"I'll Meet You at the River"

 

Of all the times for the batteries in my camera to die out, it happened when I was at the following grave:

 

Grave decorated with flowers, statues, gravel, inscriptions

 

The grave has several different kinds of decorations.  The marker itself has a picture of the deceased, carvings that indicate his interests, hobbies and accomplishments, and writings on the front and back telling what loved ones thought of him.

 

One of the engravings on the headstone -- "Ropin' for Jesus"

Baseball announcers sometimes say, “If you watch enough games, you might see something that you’ve never seen before.”  I’m starting to feel that way about cemeteries.  These stone “stumps” — I can think of no better term at the moment — are arranged in rows, and some have first initials and last names engraved on top.

 

Stone "stumps"

Zion Baptist Cemetery


Front gate at Zion Baptist Cemetery

Zion Baptist Cemetery is located on Grappes Bluff Road off of 84W/71S in Natchitoches Parish, just before entering Red River Parish.  It is behind Zion Baptist Church.  It was here that I started thinking to myself, “Wow, there’s really a lot more in this area than I had imagined.”

The site displays great diversity in monument types, even if “standard” granite headstones have become the norm in recent years.  The dates on the oldest markers indicate that the cemetery has been in use for more than 100 years.

 

Round obelisk

Tall monument with urn on top

 

Someone who would know says this is a '55 Chevy

Oblong headstone

Sometimes deceased couples send messages to one another:

 

"Goodnight, Darling -- I'll See You in the Morning"

And sometimes we learn that death was not from disease or natural causes:

This marker says the deceased was murdered 9/20/1995

 

PFC R.J. Bell -- Killed in Action in Belgium/Reburied Nov. 9, 1947

We can learn what survivors appreciated about them:

"Her rocking chair porch/Views of the lake/The awesome chicken gumbo no one else could make/Her humming birds fussing over sweetness of red/Every corner of the yard a flagrant flower bed/Her collection of tea pots each a story to tell/Shopping and browsing she loved so well/Her countryside paintings she lovingly shared/She loved you so much and showed how she cared/Her love that you have will never ever part/By keeping her memories close in your heart"

 

"Respected 3rd Grade Teacher at Kaufman I.S.D."

There is information on what people did for a living:

 

Image of Carlisle Grocery Store on a grave

Image on a marker of an 18-wheeler hauling cargo

 

Oil Rig on marker

 

What they did for fun:

 

"Loved Hunting and Fishing"

Music-themed marker

 

And the organizations to which they belonged:

 

This mark designates a 32nd degree Mason

 

In one corner of the cemetery is a section that appears to have had all the grass removed.  “Scraping” is a custom that leaves only dirt on top of a burial plot.  Some people consider it very undesirable to have grass growing on top of a grave.  Scraping takes care of this.

 

There is no grass in this part of the cemetery

This entire section of the site is without grass or other vegetation

 

I came away thinking that Zion Baptist Cemetery was a very interesting site.  It has been in use for a long time and displays a wide variety of grave types.  Several graves show inscriptions, motifs and personal decoration.  I would love to go back and spend some more time there.

See more photos of this cemetery on my flickr page.