Piece of parish history sits beside highway

Published 12:00 am Sunday, December 24, 2000

VIDALIA, La. – At the edge of Whitehall Plantation, underneath the shadows of stately pecan trees, lies a piece of local history. It’s a cemetery so small that those who speed past it along Louisiana 131, driving south to Deer Park or just north to Vidalia, might not even notice it there.

The cemetery was part of Whitehall Plantation at one time and was primarily used by black families, said Percy Rountree, owner of Whitehall.

&uot;It’s pretty old, certainly dating back to the turn of the century,&uot; Rountree said. &uot;It could date back to the Civil War, but I’m not sure of the exact date.&uot;

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Beyond that, no one seems to know more of the cemetery’s background.

Richard Harriss III of Natchez was a young boy when his grandfather sold Whitehall to the Rountree family about 30 years ago, so he does not remember the graveyard’s history.

Neither does Shirley Fredrick, to whom Rountree sold some of the plantation land, including the cemetery.

&uot;There was a black church that keeps it up, but can’t remember the church’s name,&uot; Fredrick said. &uot;(The church) moved to a different location a few years ago.&uot;

The graveyard is still maintained, as evidenced by the manicured grounds and the flowers, some in Christmas red and white, placed near the headstones.

Many family names familiar to area residents are represented at the Whitehall cemetery – Webster, Rowan, Hagan, Jones and White, to name a few.

One headstone, shaped like a cross, casts a long shadow over the adjacent field. Another is topped with a lamb carved out of stone. &uot;Love Always,&uot; reads one headstone. A picture of a father and his young son adorns another.

Headstones in the cemetery date back to the 1920s. &uot;And people are still being buried there,&uot; Rountree said.