The American Cemetery

The American Cemetery in Natchitoches was founded circa 1737 and is believed to be the oldest cemetery in the Louisiana Purchase. It is also thought that this was the site of the second Fort St Jean Baptiste and that all occupants were buried there. None of the monuments predate 1797. I love graveyards and the sense of stillness.  This one seemed a little forlorn but reflected a long and interesting southern heritage.

This monument to Mollie Campbell Sullivan, a worthy matron, fascinated me.  It was a beautiful tomb with the little bird perched on top.   I hope that Teddy does not inscribe ‘worthy matron’ on my tombstone/crematorium jar but perhaps it meant something different back in the day.  If you zoom in on the first image, you can see a little gravestone that just says “We love you”.  Sometimes simplicity is best.

John Gideon Lewis Sr.,
Courtesy of the Natchitoches Times

The only mausoleum in the cemetery is of a famous African American educator, John Gideon Lewis, Senior.  I was somewhat surprised as Natchitoches was a Confederate town and cemeteries in the south were often segregated or separate.  Even more unusually, he established the Prince Hall Masons in Louisiana and he was Worshipful Grand Master of Louisiana until his death in 1931 aged 81.

Most of the names seemed English or Scottish in origin and there were very few French names.  They would have been buried at the Catholic Cemetery.  Emmeline Lestace, wife of Walter Gongre, was an exception.  I tried to investigate the origins of the name Gongre but I could find nothing.  Perhaps it was one of those names that was forever changed at Ellis Island.

This final gravestone of a Confederate soldier symbolized, to me, the futility of war.  My heart and thoughts are with the people of Ukraine.

25 thoughts on “The American Cemetery

  1. Love cemeteries for there stillness when no one is moving around lol. The oldest cemetery I have been to is in New Brunswick and that dated to 1764 with many loyalist buried there. One time I looked about a cemetery and found an infant grave marker where the child lived half of a day. Felt sad. Thanks for another interesting post. Hope you are having an excellent day.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. In the modern world, we tend to think of death and beauty as incompatible. But a look at some of the most exquisite cemeteries around the globe should quickly convince anyone otherwise. Cemeteries honour the deceased by giving them beautiful places to lie in repose. But by serving as public parks, sacred sites, and even tourist destinations, they also help keep the dead among us, something close to alive. Thanks for sharing and have a good day 🙂 Aiva xx

    Liked by 1 person

    • That is a perfect response, Aiva. In Egypt, many people lived in the City of the Dead, a cemetery full of elaborate tombs. They served as better housing than the usual shacks. What better way to honor your ancestors than helping the poor?

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  3. Nice post Kerry, the is something humble about the experience. I have heard the saying “Long time dead” and I use it myself now. Reminds me to live and not wait too much for tomorrow.
    The Ukrainian invasion is so sad breaks my heart.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Graveyards have differetn sense of peace, evem the modern graveyards. “The modern graveyard has a peace whichis a gift for those who are living their grief.”…a lady said this to me very recently when I was visiting my parents in law’s grave which is in a new cemetry.

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  5. An amazing place, I love hanging out in churchyards too. When doing so I always try to spare a thought for those who were buried without even a headstone, maybe before it was customary or because the family couldn’t afford one.
    Gongre seems to have been confined to Louisiana but, like you, I’d say it is a corruption of an earlier family name. Just as William Cody (Buffalo Bill) was descended from the immigrant Philippe Lescaudé of Jersey.

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  6. Like you, I enjoy the peace and serenity that one finds at most cemeteries. Whenever I visit the graveyards in Germany with memorials to all those who died during WWI and II, I think that Europe has seen enough wars and enough senseless deaths. But apparently I’m wrong. 😢

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