Sounds kind of odd, new life for a cemetery, but cemeteries are living things in the sense that life is preserved there and history is preserved there and they deserve respect. A cleaning up every now and again. Hopewell is a deserving cemetery that got that treatment.
The Hopewell Cemetery, south of Vicksburg is the Warrenton community, is the oldest cemetery in Warren County. It was here before the county was here.
"It was in Claiborne County, there was Warren County then" said Gordon Cotton. "There was no Warrenton then. The town of Warrenton had not even been established. Of course there was no Vicksburg."
They were just a bunch of settlers, almost pioneers, who were moving into the Mississippi territory. It wasn't even a state yet, when they established Hopewell Church in 1805.
They almost immediately started dying. And were buried in the churchyard, and were buried here for many decades after the church ceased to exist.
The church disbanded in the late 1820's when the population shifted to nearby Redbone.
"Even though the church ceased to exist very early they kept using this graveyard" added Cotton. "Of course the town of Warrenton was formed right down the hill on the river. It became the first seat of Warren County. So this became the town graveyard."
The last burials at Hopewell were around 1900. Then the cemetery was abandoned and forgotten and overgrown for a hundred years until just a few years ago, when the Vicksburg and Warren County Historical Society pitched in and cleaned it up.
My friend, historian Gordon Cotton, who among other things, was the former curator for the old courthouse museum in Vicksburg, says it was a formidable task to clean it up.
"Over two acres and you couldn't even walk through it" said Cotton. "We put it off as long as we could and several friends of the historical society said lets do it. So we got out here, about a dozen people and we worked and we worked and got it done. And now you can cut it with a lawn mower in most places."
"And uncovered were graves of soldiers from the revolutionary war and the war of 1812 and the civil war. As well as the grave of a man killed when a house fell on him. To one lady who's name was copied directly out of the family bible inscribing on her tombstone the middle name of alias. Where the inscription in the bible was simply an explanation for her married name.
"Like I say, everybody out here, everybody is a story Walt" said Cotton.
Old stories come alive again when old cemeteries are uncovered and the lives of the people who are buried here are rediscovered.
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