The summer of 1858 could not have been worse for Mary and James Mulholland.
No South Mississippi summer in those days could have been pleasant, but the death of three of their children must have made it unbearable.
Yellow fever was the likely culprit to take 2-year-old James Joseph on June 1, followed by his 11-month-old brother, Robert, just over a month later on July 9. Their 4-year-old sister, Margaret Jane, was the last to pass only 19 days later.
The three children were the first to be buried at what became known as the Wells-Mulholland Cemetery in D’Iberville. But the question at hand is whether their spirits ever came to rest.
Ghost stories centering around the cemetery, long ago abandoned, have persisted.
Did Margaret Jane reach out to a young boy in a dream, as was told to Jeffrey Powell, son of Coast historian Murella Powell?
That is one of two tales about the cemetery Powell recently related, giving rise to a curiosity about the site.
The tale goes that a young boy woke up from a dream that was so vivid he went to his grandfather and insisted that there was a little girl in peril. He led his grandfather to a nearby patch of woods, where they discovered the cemetery where 4-year-old Margaret Jane Mulholland was buried along with two of her brothers.
Was Margaret Jane reaching out to complain about the neglected state of her resting site, or was it a visit from the time when she and her siblings were deathly ill?
There were 16 people buried in the cemetery from 1858 to 1921.
Powell also tells the story of a man who was walking near the cemetery when the spirit of a man suddenly appeared, walking in-stride with him. He didn’t become aware of his presence until the spirit asked him for help.
Was it the father of the three children, desperate in his despair?
The cemetery was the subject of historical research in 1969 and again in 1990, but it was apparently forgotten until 2012, when the Mississippi Department of Transportation began work to connect Sangani Boulevard with Promenade Parkway to make that shopping mecca more accessible.
Hank Rogers of the D’Iberville building department said workers stumbled across the remains of the cemetery when they were clearing land for the project. They stopped cutting trees, and the road project was built around the patch of trees.
When Ocean Springs historian Ray Bellande toured the site in 1990, he found it in a state of “gross negligence,” with only four of the original 13 tombstones visible. Today, only two are readily visible.
There are depressions in the ground leading to speculation that the cemetery had been vandalized and even that some of the graves had been violated.
Certainly if that was the case, the likelihood of spirits wandering the area would be high.
If you get a sudden chill while shopping at Promenade shopping center, it could be because you have been joined by a member of the Wells or Mulholland family.