Jackson County

Seymour Cemetery rockin' - this time for the right reasons

 Cemetery commitee President Charlie Seymour talks to Raymond 'Big Boy' Beaugez, great-grandson of William Seymour.
COURTESY MALINDA BEAUGEZ Cemetery commitee President Charlie Seymour talks to Raymond 'Big Boy' Beaugez, great-grandson of William Seymour.

The "ghosts" that haunted the William Seymour Cemetery in Jackson County for years probably should start hunting new digs.

Ghost hunters, partiers and vandals for years had been the most-frequent visitors to the isolated family cemetery off Bayou Talla north of Ocean Springs.

But lately, they've been displaced by a spirited group of Seymour descendants who've been cleaning up the grounds and have more plans for the graveyard. They're having a meeting at 6 p.m. June 24 at the Cedar Grove Community Center, 7216 Melrose Drive in St. Martin, to keep that ball rolling.

"There are some things that were brought to everybody's attention, we just need to discuss in more detail," said Malinda Beaugez of Ocean Springs, one of the organizers. "We're also going to be getting things together, like if people have pictures or documents or old family recipes. We're going to scan those and start up a website, not just a Facebook page but an actual website that will have all this information on it. We want our family to be able to go back from generation to generation."

The cemetery has about 250 gravesites, said Wanda Freeland, another of the descendants of William Seymour. To be eligible to be buried there, a person has to show they are a descendant, too.

Beaugez guesses there are hundreds of them. She and as many as 60 of her own family are descendants of Cora Seymour Beaugez, William Seymour's daughter. Beaugez hopes to get some of the oldest family members out to the regular cleanups -- not to work, but to pass on family lore.

Old-timers welcome

"We want to set up a tent area for the older generation," she said. "They can come out and set up under the tent and tell stories about their childhoods, what they used to do, just things like that.

"Our family is such a big family that there's a lot we don't know about each other."

The turnout for the cleanups has been so good they haven't had to raise money to hire a caretaker for the cemetery, which was started in the 1880s. They are on Saturdays the week before Easter, Mother's Day, Father's Day and All Saints' Day.

"Our generation has really picked up and started showing up," she said. "We've got years and years that we can do that."

How long the cemetery can be cared for by volunteers will eventually depend on the next generation, another reason to get every one involved in a cleanup that's also a social event, she said.

"It's really neat," she said.

Infamous past is past

All the activity at the cemetery -- once known as the Rock'n'Roll cemetery and the scene of drinking parties -- seems to have chased off vandals who had damaged tombstones in the past. The ghostly lady in the rocking chair, the albino ghost and the glowing orbs seemed to have moved on as well.

"We haven't had any of that," she said. "I would say it been quite awhile since we have had (vandalism).

"There's more family going out there now."

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