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.