Cemetery needs permanent solution

Published 12:03 am Sunday, June 5, 2011

Watkins Street Cemetery, while grateful for volunteer and monetary donations from time to time, needs a permanent and consistent source of care for its preservation.

Many times as volunteers waned and donations declined, the cemetery became an overgrown forest, and parts of it were in that condition two months ago.

The cemetery was designated a historic, 100-year-old cemetery by the Mississippi Department of Archives and History in 2009 and eligible for county care, but that was not carried out.

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It has also been denoted as such by Dr. Ian W. Brown of the Department of Anthropology at the University of Alabama, who had been contacted by Mr. and Mrs. Mike Gemmell of the Master Gardeners. The Master Gardeners had been trying to restore the Rhythm Night Club section, which was completely overgrown.

Due to their efforts, Dr. Brown’s four-page pictorial story and request for donations in the national organization publication — Association for Gravestone Study — in 2010, Watkins Cemetery is now nationally recognized as a historical cemetery.

In 2003, a state law was adopted and passed that the sheriff is authorized to preserve historic cemeteries.

Surely the cemetery is eligible to be preserved by state law.

The state law, passed in 2003, authorizes any sheriff or his designee to use county prison labor to preserve and maintain certain historic cemeteries.

This is our hope for the preservation of our Watkins Street Cemetery.

Thelma J. White is the founder of the Worthy Women of Watkins Street Cemetery Association, a retired teacher and a Natchez resident.