Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Historical marker tells of Old Church Street Cemetery in Mobile, Alabama

'Old Church Street Cemetery' historical marker in Mobile.
This week’s featured historical marker is the “OLD CHURCH STREET CEMETERY” marker in Mobile County, Ala. This marker is located on the southeast corner of the intersection of South Scott Street and Government Street in downtown Mobile, Ala.

This marker was erected by the Historic Mobile Preservation Society in 1950. There’s text on both sides of the marker, but both sides are the same. What follows in the complete text from the marker:

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“OLD CHURCH STREET CEMETERY – 1819 – Established 1819 by city of Mobile for yellow fever victims. Buried in raised tombs are Spanish and French citizens of early Mobile, and many pioneer Americans.”

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I’ve been to this old cemetery a number of times and in my reading about this old burial ground, I’ve run across a few interesting facts. Here are a few that I think you might find interesting.

- The cemetery’s four acres (some sources say five acres) are enclosed by a brick wall that was first built in 1830. The property was originally owned by William E. and Joshua Kennedy, and the Kennedys officially sold the property to the City of Mobile on April 4, 1820.

- Prior to the establishment of the Old Church Street Cemetery, the city’s main graveyard was the Campo Santo, which was located near the present day South Claiborne Street in Mobile. Today, the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception sites on the site of the old Campo Santo graveyard.

- The cemetery was closed to burials in 1898, but a few, special exceptions have been made since that time. Post-1898 burials include Mardi Gras revivalist Joe Cain, Mobile musician Bob Shultz and artist Eugene Walter.

- Catholics, Freemasons, Odd Fellows, Protestants, the poor and veterans all had their own sections of the cemetery at one time.

- The cemetery also includes a “Poets Corner,” which presently contains the graves of Cain, Walter and author Julian Lee Rayford.

- There are 20 rows of graves in the cemetery, and more than 1,000 people were buried in the graveyard during its nearly 80 years of official service. There are about 14-1/2 graves per row of grave in the cemetery.

- The cemetery was first established during a yellow fever epidemic that claimed nearly 300 victims in Mobile, which was about 20 percent of Mobile’s population at the time.

- The present entrance to the cemetery is located on the cemetery’s north side, but the original entrance was on the south side of the cemetery. That entrance opened off of what was called the Old Choctaw Road.

- Some sources say that the Old Church Street Cemetery is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, but this is something I haven’t been able to verify.

In the end, visit this site next Wednesday to learn about another historical marker. I’m also taking suggestions from the reading audience, so if you know of an interesting historical marker that you’d like me to feature, let me know in the comments section below. 

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