Jackson County

Mississippi Coast cities portray the past with cemetery tours

COURTESY/DEIDRE DENBLEYKER 
 Janet Beatty and Jeannie Dixon in period costumes portray their ancestors at last year's Griffin Cemetery Tour in Moss Point. Some graves in the cemetery date back to the 1700s.
COURTESY/DEIDRE DENBLEYKER Janet Beatty and Jeannie Dixon in period costumes portray their ancestors at last year's Griffin Cemetery Tour in Moss Point. Some graves in the cemetery date back to the 1700s.

MOSS POINT -- For the third year, Moss Point will join other cities on the Mississippi Coast with an historic tour of Griffin Cemetery.

Ann McLeod Waller is going to portray a great-grandmother she never knew. Mary Anna McCarter Fisher died in 1899, but Waller will use information from a family history and the stories of relatives to put together a living portrait.

"I'll dress simple, with a high-neck blouse and skirt," Waller said. "I have a picture of her. She had fairly short hair, which was unusual back then."

Reading from a script, Waller will act as if she is her great-grandmother telling a life story from the 1800s in Moss Point.

And she'll do it from Griffin Cemetery, where graves date to the 1700s, for the annual cemetery history tour.

Why is it important for Waller to dress up and brave the fall weather to tell of a woman who came to the Coast from Florida because her husband would take a job at a Moss Point saw mill, when that industry was beginning to boom?

Like others on the Coast, librarian Deidre den Bleyker, who organizes the event, says it's important to the city.

"It's bringing back history," Den Bleyker said, "capturing the history of the town and families that settled here."

Waller will tell where Fisher was born, where her parents were from, where she met her husband, the children she had and that she died relatively young.

Getting into the part

Local historian Edmond Boudreaux has grown a beard for his role as Joseph Fortune Meyer, the Biloxi mentor to famous potter George Ohr and, much later in life, Peter Anderson.

"I didn't know about the Peter Anderson connection," said Laurie Rosetti with Biloxi Main Street. "When Ohr died Peter Anderson bought his wheel. The whole Gulf Coast potting world is connected."

Building Biloxi is the theme of the 9th annual Biloxi Cemetery Tour, where 10 people will portray architects and contractors, but also leaders in religion, education and business.

Rosetti wrote four of the scripts and learned remarkable details about the people buried in the cemetery.

Boyce Deaton, a theater graduate from USM, will take on the role of George Washington Wilkes, the founding father of the Daily Herald, now the Sun Herald, and veteran of community theater Ken Beasley will play manufacturer Thomas Jefferson Rosell.

A fascinating stop on the tour is the grave of Belgian priest Alphonse Ketels. When fire destroyed his downtown Biloxi Catholic church in the late 1800s, he traveled to Europe. Inspired by the cathedrals there, he found Reis & Reis, brothers from Germany to create the stained glass windows, even though some people thought his plans too grandiose.

Sweets will be served following the tour on Oct. 18 and gumbo on Oct. 20.

At the start of the Oct. 20 tour at 2 p.m. four vintage angel statues donated by novelist Kim Carter will be blessed in the "baby land" section of the cemetery where children are buried.

Carl Matthes, called the "designer of Biloxi" because he laid out the city, will have his day when the Local History and Genealogy Department at the Biloxi Public Library on Howard Street tells his story. The event begins at 5:30 p.m. Thursday.

Some of the other characters portrayed will be at the event in costume. The event is free and light refreshments will be served.

Here are some other events planned:

Moss Point

n Third annual Griffin Cemetery Tour

n 9 a.m.-3 p.m., Oct. 17 (No tour at noon) at Griffin Cemetery on the west end of Dantzler Street. Tours leave every 15 minutes as needed.

n Featured will be families who came because of the saw mill, merchants and Civil War veterans. The tour this year is dedicated to Mary Lou Harper, and is sponsored by the Jackson County Genealogical and Historical Society, the Jackson-George Regional Library System and Griffin Cemetery Inc. Golf carts available.

Arts and crafts for sale. Admission is free; donations accepted.

Bay St. Louis

n 20th Annual Cedar Rest Cemetery Tour on Second Street.

n 5:30 to 8 p.m., Oct. 31.

n The theme is people who have streets named after them in Hancock County. One example is Dr. Roger deMontluzin (1863-1914) of deMontluzin Avenue. His father emigrated to the U.S. in the early 1800s and his grandfather was a captain in Napoleon's army. His family came to Bay St. Louis in the late 1800s.

n Refreshments after at the Kate Lobrano House, 108 Cue Street. Admission is free, but donations are accepted. Sponsored by The Hancock County Historical Society.

Biloxi

n 9th Annual Old Biloxi Cemetery Tour on U.S. 90.

n 2-4 p.m. Oct. 18, 5-7 p.m. Oct. 20.

n This year's theme is Building Biloxi. Ten re-enactors will portray famous Biloxians who contributed to the building of the city -- architects, builders, teachers, leaders in religion and a newspaper man.

Pascagoula

n Historical Cemetery Tour at Greenwood Cemetery on Buena Vista Street.

n 4:30-7:30 p.m., Oct. 29.

n Residents come to life as historical characters from the city's past. It will include historical music and dancing demonstration. Hosted by the Pascagoula Historic Preservation Commission and the Jackson County Historical and Genealogical Society. Admission is free.

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