Monday, April 6, 2009
Live Oak Cemetery, Pass Christian, Harrison County, Mississippi
Located across the street from historic Trinity Episcopal Church in Pass Christian, Mississippi, on St Louis Street at Church Street. Today I want to talk about a beautiful, old, historic cemetery that needs help. My first visit was in June 2005, just two months before Hurricane Katrina decimated this town. The name of the cemetery, Live Oak, perfectly described the beauty of this setting. The Oaks were numerous and despite it being a bright sunny day, most of my photos that day are quite dark as the full, old trees with their mass amounts of hanging Spanish moss created a canopy over the graveyard that was graceful and spooky at the same time.
The graves here dated from the early 1800s, though the exact date of the earliest grave is unknown. Some of those buried here include Frances Parke Lewis Butler, 1797-1895, great-granddaughter of Martha Washington and grand-niece of George Washington; Captain Samuel McCutcheon, 1773-1840, a former owner of Ormond Plantation near New Orleans; and a man, Michael Cuddy, a native of Ireland, who died in what has become known as the "Last Duel in Pass Christian", May 21, 1826.
And then came August 29, 2005 and Hurricane Katrina. Katrina pushed a wall of water over the entire Mississippi coast and washed away nearly everything from the beach to nearly a mile inland. Not merely flooded like New Orleans, the Mississippi coast was almost wiped clean(I know, my mother lost her home there). The photo below is roughly the same view as the one at the top.
These photos were taken in September of 2007, almost two full years since Katrina hit. When I visited two weeks after the storm, I could not get as far as Pass Christian as we were only given passes to the area where our home was(Long Beach), and many roads were still completely impassable. When I did get back in 2007, this was one of the first places I had to visit. And I was stunned to see the devastation. I sat in tears for some time.
The grave above is that of Frances Butler, mentioned above. There had been an iron fence surrounding the plot, but all that was left was the gate. The McCutcheon family tomb and the box tombs around it, below, were reduced to rubble. Trinity Church was severely damaged, but the framework held up even when the walls washed away. The high school just east of the cemetery was completely destroyed. To see more of Pass Christian, before and after photos from Katrina, this is a good website to visit. I have many "after" photos, but not nearly enough "before".
I hope to return some day, to check on the progress of this cemetery. However I live in Middle Tennessee. My mother has moved on to East Tennessee. My sister also had lived in Gulfport, MS at the time of Katrina-her husband had been stationed there in the Navy. He has since been transferred to Virginia and they will be leaving for a tour in Italy soon. So I have no family in Mississippi anymore. But I hope that one day I can find the time to return to visit this wonderful community.