The charter of the Greenwood Cemetery provides that no executed criminal shall have sepulture there, and Foster's interment there excites comment among the lot holders.
From The Greenwood Times, March 29, 1873
As a reporter for the Delta Flag was passing the graveyard coming into Greenwood on the Georgia-Pacific train, in company with several eminent divines and others, one of them pointed to the unsightly graveyard and asked, "In heaven's name, what is that?" The Flag man hung his head in shame, but was forced to say, "That is our graveyard." Why do not your City Council buy an eligible piece of ground, lay it off in blocks and lots, and have a decent burial place?" Alas, why not?
From The Delta Flag, October 14, 1892
We were talking one day lately with our progressive Mayor about the needs the people of the town had of a respectable place in which to lay our dead. He agreed with the Flag man that it was a burning shame that a place with as many people as Greenwood should have no better place than they have in which to bury their dead. The old graveyard at the best is but a sorry place; besides there is no fence around it, and the cattle, horses, hogs etc., roam at their sweet will; graves are often trodden over and other desecrations committed. It has been used as a burial ground for a long time, and the many of the graves are entirely obliterated, often the grave digger finding the remains of some previously buried person while digging a new grave; it is also a fact that no order was used in laying off the grounds of the graveyard, but graves scattered in every direction, white and black people being placed all over the grounds indiscriminately.
The Mayor said something should be done and he believes it would be a good plan for the town of Greenwood to purchase another site for a cemetery, fence it up and lay it off into blocks, lots and streets, selling the lots at so much apiece, which would soon reimburse the town the money expended in buying the lands. We agree with Mayor Miller and think our Board of Mayor and Aldermen should take some steps in the matter. Let them seek a good location and go to work and buy it for the purpose named. The old graveyard could be fenced up and thus the graves that remain there in some measure protected, while we believe a number of the remains would be disinterred and placed in the new burying ground. It is not only a matter of a place to bury our dead, but it should be a matter of pride with our people that the last home of our dead should not be left in such an unsightly condition. Strangers seeing the present graveyard must think we are a very careless, if not culpable people in having such an unsightly place in our midst, and for such a purpose.
From The Delta Flag, March 24, 1893
Our graveyard is in a disgraceful condition, and as soon as spring opens, it should have the attention of the people of Greenwood. At a very small expense this sacred place could at least be put in a somewhat respectable condition if a new burying ground cannot be had. The graves, many of them, have sunk down a foot or more below the surface; the fence has rotted down; valuable tombstones are broken in many places and stock is permitted to run at large at their own sweet will.
From The Greenwood New Era, February 2, 1894
The Greenwood Cemetery Society held a meeting at the Court House on Saturday, 6th inst. An increase in the membership shows an interest. We are glad to note a committee of three was appointed to solicit subscriptions for the purchasing of a new burying plot. If land holders in close proximity to the town cannot be induced to part with a few acres for this need, common, alike to all, why let the society go further, surely within two or three miles of our town a location can be found at more reasonable figures than those already offered for a purchase of ground in easy distance to our town. Many towns and cities have their cemeteries two or three miles distant. The attention of the society is first called to the old cemetery; this must be put in order and enclosed by a substantial fence. It has been ordered by the Board of Aldermen that no more interments be made until notice be given the Mayor, as the old burying ground has for some time been used by our black population, this ordinance was passed to prohibit further encroachment by them.
From The Daily Flag, October 12, 1894
It has been reported to this office that the graveyard is being used by a number of good people of the city as a pasture for their cows. Such desecration is horrible. It is marvelous to what extremes the personal interests of some people will carry them. The City authorities should take this matter in hand and put a stop to it. It is shameful.
From The Commonwealth, May 11, 1900
Be it ordained by the Mayor and Board of Aldermen of the City of Greenwood, Miss., that the Old Cemetery of said city be and the same is hereby closed and all persons be and are hereby prohibited from burying any person or persons in said cemetery without first obtaining permission from the Mayor of said city so to do.
Be it further ordained that any person violating this ordinance shall upon conviction be fined not less than one dollar nor more than twenty five dollars.
For cause this day shown the Board it is ordered that this ordinance be in force and take effect from and after its passage.
Approved this 5th day of July 1904.
W. S. VARDAMAN, Mayor
R. WILSON, Clerk
Aldermen Loggins, Fountain, Peteet and Clark voted aye.
From The Commonwealth, July 9, 1904
Most people today, in going into the new city park, have been climbing the fence of the cemetery and using that plot of ground, sacred to many of the older people of Greenwood, as a passageway. This act is a violation of a city ordinance which forbids trespassing in the cemetery and will be prosecuted if it is continued further than today. It is out of keeping with the splendid spirit shown by those who were interested in the cemetery in agreeing that the southern half might be used for a park, and must be discontinued.
From The Greenwood Daily Commonwealth, July 4, 1924
The Greenwood Cemetery Association is planning to construct a new fence on the north side of the cemetery, and later, plans to continue the fence completely around the cemetery.
The cost of the north side fence is approximately $275.00, and the association is asking those interested in the Greenwood Cemetery to make contributions for the purpose of erecting the fence.
The Greenwood cemetery is probably the oldest institution in the city. Within its confines lie the remains of the founders and pioneers of Greenwood, the loved ones of the years that are past. As a tribute to their memory, respect for their lives, the duty is devolved on the present generation to keep their resting place in good condition.
For years, the good women whose loved ones rest in the cemetery have kept up the association, have made improvements in the grounds, and borne the burden of its upkeep.
Their efforts should be supplemented and their work supported. Contributions for the fence will be received by Mrs. W. J. Weaver.
From The Greenwood Daily Commonwealth, January 21, 1926
Work was begun yesterday on a new fence which will extend completely surround the Greenwood Cemetery. The fence is being erected under the auspices of the Greenwood Cemetery Association and will cost approximately $400.00 when completed.
The Association is in need of funds for the work, and is depending on the citizens who have relatives buried in the cemetery to assist them in the work. Mrs. W. J. Weaver will receive all contributions.
From The Greenwood Daily Commonwealth, January 22, 1926
To those citizens of Greenwood who treasure the traditions of this community, and the memory of the men and women who laid the foundations of our city, the old Greenwood Cemetery should be a place of compelling interest.
Within the boundaries of this neglected spot lies the dust of many of the pioneers of this Delta land. The founders of the city of Greenwood lie buried there-men and women who sacrificed much and toiled unceasingly to carve a habitation for themselves and their descendants out of the wilderness. The names of these men and women, whose deeds are inseparably woven into the early history of Greenwood, should be preserved and enshrined in the memory of Greenwood citizens today. Instead, many of them are almost obliterated by time and weather on crumbling marble headstones. Their graves are over-run with brambles and vines, and they lie forgotten by the community, to their building of which they dedicated their lives.
Among those buried, there are forty Confederate veterans. Some of those graves were never marked, and the exact spot of their burial in the cemetery is unknown. However, a mound has been erected in honor of these particular soldiers, and on it often flies the flag of the Confederacy.
Among the soldiers of the Confederacy who are buried here are: T. H. Collier and Phillip Cobbs, the Father and brother of Mrs. Fanny Weaver; Jim Carnes, Father of Mrs. Tom Chapman; William Chapman, Father of the late Mr. Tom Chapman; Dock (Sam) East and Bird East, uncles of Mrs. Tom Chapman; William Jones, Father of Messrs. R. T. and Phil Jones, AND THE LATE Mrs. Fanny Weaver; Tom Holmes, Father of Miss Ethel Holmes, Mrs. Elma Jones and the late Guy Holmes; Colonel Strong and his son, Jacob Strong, both veterans, Colonel Strong being the Father of Miss Tallou Strong and founder of the family for whom Strong Avenue was named; Dandridge Portwood, uncle of Robert Portwood and miss Bessie Portwood; W. A. Gillespie, Father of Miss Carrie Gillespie, who now resides in California; Major Allen, who once owned a hotel situated on the river front, where Hugh Critz Motor Company is now located; William Hamilton, Father of Mrs. B. L. Young; Taylor Hines, Father of Miss Estelle Hines, Mrs. Eugenia Davis and Joe Hines; Jim Harper, Grandfather of Mr. Will Mayre; Joe Jackson, step-son of Dr. J. T. Henry; Mr. Bob Hicks, Father of R. H. Hicks; Samuel Jacobs McGlathery, Father of Miss Pattie McGlathery and Mrs. S. L. Brister, Sr.; Arzo Ashland Daniel Buck Stoddard, Father of Judge M. L. Stoddard and Miss Lula Stoddard; Mr. Barrino; Mr. Tom Dennis; Mr. Stephens; Mr. Henry Sisloff; Mr. Walton McLean and Mr. John Groves.
The plot of land comprising the Greenwood Cemetery was given to the City of Greenwood by the Mississippi Legislature, in a special grant, about one hundred years ago. The first cemetery used by the residents of Williams landing was located on the riverbank, and had to be abandoned on account of the bank caving into the river. Thereafter, the legislature gave the city ten acres of sixteenth section land with the understanding that five acres were to be used for a burial place for white citizens and five acres for colored. The five acres formerly used by the colored cemetery has been converted into a city park.
When R. V. Pollard was a member of the state legislature in 1908 and 1910, he secured the passage of an act authorizing the City of Greenwood to make an annual appropriation of $100.00 for the maintenance of the Greenwood Cemetery. This amount was used for the erection of a fence. And for necessary improvements form year to year. However, several years ago the city discontinued this appropriation, and no public funds have been appropriated for this purpose since that time. The city street department, however, mows the plot. Limited funds that could be raised from private sources have been inadequate to properly maintain the burial place of these early citizens of Greenwood, and the place has fallen into disrepair and neglect.
From The Greenwood Commonwealth, November 5, 1936
The Greenwood Cemetery, that neglected spot at the intersection on Mary Street and Strong Avenue, presents a melancholy scene to the person who cherishes the traditions of the past, and the memory of the men and women who molded the character of this community at its beginning.
Here lie forty soldiers of the Confederacy. Many of them were wounded in action, fighting in the defense of their homes. All of them were valiant Southerners, who faced danger and death many times in the cause to which they were dedicated. The graves of many of these chivalrous boys of the sixties are now overrun with blackberry bushes and weeds. The simple stones marking their graves are stained and defaced. Greenwood, the city they founded and built, in the heart of the Southland for which they fought, has forgotten them.
Not only is this the resting place for heroes of the Confederacy, but many of the founders of Greenwood's oldest and best families lie buried here. Some of those pioneers have children and grandchildren now residing in Greenwood.
Among these are Dr. J. P. Henery, his wife Helen, and other members of their family. Dr. Henery was the great-uncle of Lorraine and Raymond Craig. He was a large landowner and a distinguished and useful citizen. The Henery Addition (often misspelled "Henry") and Henery Street were part of his estate.
Another family who was prominent and beloved in the early days was Mr. Henry Sisloff and his wife, ancestors of Henry Sisloff. The Sisloffs lived on River Road, owning what is now the C. G. Hull home, west of the Buckeye Oil Mill. The older settlers still recall "Uncle Harry" and "Aunt Jane" Sisloff, and the sprightly little rig in which they drove to services each Sunday at the Methodist Church, of which they were devout members.
Henry Sisloff was born in 1818, and lived to be 81 years of age. He and his wife are buried in a particularly lovely spot in the Greenwood Cemetery. Their little plot is surrounded with a beautiful wrought-iron fence and sheltered with stately cedars.
Another pioneer who contributed largely to the civic and religious life of Greenwood was Littleton Upshur, grandfather of Littleton Upshur, editor of the Commonwealth, and Miss Lula Mae Upshur. Born in 1827, he died March 15th, 1884, at a time when the Yazoo River was in a spring flood. Inasmuch as the cemetery was inundated at the time, his remains were taken by boat to the Mound, located on the Gearhsier place east of town, where they were interred. Later when the floodwaters subsided, his body was brought to the Greenwood Cemetery.
A simple shaft of marble marks the Upshur lot, enclosed by an iron fence. Here lie buried Littleton Upshur, his wife and children, and his relatives, the Portwoods and Kelleys.
The Upshurs were one of four families who founded the Episcopal Church in Greenwood. The other three families were the Alec Hendersons, the Gid Montjoys, and the Thomas Lucases. Their first services were held in the old courthouse, which was torn down when the present courthouse was constructed in 1907.
A baby's grave bears the inscription: "Athene, daughter of Lena Hill and Otto Oretto-Born July 18th, 1899-Died December 26th, 1899." The Orettos were show boat people, who forsook the glamour of the river stage, and settled in Greenwood. They built the Rice Hotel, which is now the Denman House on Market Street. They gave their baby a stage name, perhaps in the hope that some day she would be a famous actress. But the day after Christmas, thirty-seven years ago, Baby Athene Oretto died. Her little grave is overgrown with brambles, and the tiny headstone so defaced with time and weather, that the inscription is almost obliterated.
Another young person of promise who lies sleeping beneath the tress of the old Greenwood Cemetery is Joseph R. Hughes, Jr., the son of the late Reverend and Mrs. J. R. Hughes, and the brother of Tom Hughes and Mrs. Annie Hughes Dixon. His Father, a beloved Baptist minister, sent him to school at Mississippi College in Clinton. Joe was a brilliant student, and his parents hoped that he would become a minister. But in a tragic accident, Joe was burned to death at school, when he was only sixteen. His epitaph reads: "It is the Lord, Let HIM do what seemeth good."
Yellow fever, the scourge that took such terrible toll of Southern communities from time to time, did not miss Greenwood. In 1855, F. W. Sabin, a prominent merchant of Greenwood, whose store was located on the riverfront, became the first victim in Greenwood. At the time of his death, he was in his prime, forty-one years of age.
F. W. Sabin was buried beside his wife, Jane, upon whose tomb is inscribed the words: "Jane, wife of F. W. Sabin. Born in Canton, Maine. Died 1850."
F.W. Sabin has three grandchildren living in Greenwood today: F. W. Sabin, R. F. Sabin, and Mrs. Bessie Sabin Wilsford.
One of the most colorful characters of the early days was John H. Groves. John Groves was born in 1831, and, according to the inscription on his tomb, which bears a Masonic emblem, he died in 1899. He was the town marshal and jailer, at the time the village jail was located on the corner of Main and Market streets, where a brick cotton office now stands.
Eary settlers still recall that exciting Sunday morning a half-century ago when a wholesale jailbreak freed a dozen or so prisoners. In making their escape, they headed east on what is now Market Street, for the "commons", or a wooded tract near Mrs. Fannie Weaver's home. "Miss Fannie" lived in the house she now occupies, and when she heard the commotion, ran out of the house to see what was going on. Soon she was out in the road beckoning to the prisoners and shouting, "Run, run fast! Come this way!" Meanwhile, the jailer, John Groves was in full chase after the escaping prisoners, shooting as fast as he could fire his gun and reload it. The bullets whistled past and around Miss Fannie, who had joined the runaways and was urging them on to freedom. When it was all over, Mr. Groves said to her in great indignation; "I neatly shot you, and it would have served you right if I had!" When the writer asked Miss Fannie why she had aided and abetted the fleeing prisoners in their wild dash for liberty, she replied; "I always felt sorry for the fellow who was in trouble-even if he deserved it." John Groves is buried beside his wife, Louvigy, and other members of his family.
One of the most recent graves in the Greenwood Cemetery is that of Mrs. Margaret Elizabeth Brown McGlathery, Mother of Miss Pattie McGlathery and Mrs. S. L. Brister, Sr. At the time of her death, Mrs. McGlathery was one of Greenwood's oldest and best beloved citizens. She is buried in a beautifully kept plot beside her husband, Samuel James McGlathery, a Confederate soldier, and five of their children.
These are but a few of the Greenwood pioneers whose earthly remains lie at rest in the old cemetery. Back in the early days, before artesian wells were bored, before "the swamp" (as the Delta was called by hill people) was drained, and before medical science had developed its present skill, the death rate in Greenwood was high. There is hardly an old Greenwood family who does not have some member of its household resting in the Greenwood Cemetery. Much of the drama, the comedy, and the tragedy of another century lie buried in this "God's half-acre", unknown or forgotten in the whirl of modern life.
From The Greenwood Commonwealth, November 26, 1936