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Vicksburg History

Cedar Hill Cemetery

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Cedar Hill Cemetery

cedar hillConsecrated sacred ground when the first burials took place in 1837, Cedar Hill Cemetery is one of the largest and oldest cemeteries still in use in the United States. Walking among the gravestones, artistic monuments, and vaults, one can get a sense of the complex diversity of Vicksburg’s past from its early conception as a river port city. Vicksburg was a gateway to the world; an oddity for an area that had only just recently been settled by the early pioneers seeking to establish themselves on the western frontier of the country. (A city whose people for almost 200 years have dealt with the conflicts and resolutions of philosophical differences, fended off plights of disease and war, suffered and recovered from the destruction of natural disasters, all while trying to establish the identity of Vicksburg as it shifts and melds with the passing of time.) While their stories live on within the community they helped shape, Cedar Hill has become the final resting place for many of them. Hallowed grounds that serve to remind us of those who came before and paved the way for our existence today.

Before the City Cemetery was established, most burials took place on private land. Warren County has a plethora of abandoned family cemeteries scattered throughout, many of which have been overtaken by vegetation. Church burials were another custom that originated in Europe and were brought to early Vicksburg. The churches did not set aside plots for families though, and this often meant that family members were not buried together. The first “community cemetery” that was established in Vicksburg resided in a city block downtown where Clay Street intersects with Locust, Farmer, and First North Street. Its use was short-lived, and only speculation exists today as to why its use was discontinued in 1836. However, we do know that the graves were reinterred to Cedar Hill.

cedar hillFarm land purchased by City officials from J. M. Taylor and James Bland, in what was considered the “distant county” in 1837, would become Cedar Hill Cemetery. It was made official on May 1st of that year when an ordinance was passed by the mayor and aldermen declaring the newly purchased land be set aside as a community graveyard. The land was organized by the same system we use today. Divisions marked a section of the cemetery, squares designated a section of that division, and lots divided the squares. As the cemetery grew in size, divisions were surveyed and added. The original Division A of the cemetery now resides within a section of what is known as Division B. An 1838 survey map of the original squares also shows land set aside for a Potters Field to the north, and to the east was a section designated for black burials.

Around the turn of the 20th century, an organization known was the Vicksburg Cemetery Association was formed by the Ladies of Vicksburg with the purpose of tending to the cemetery. They were responsible for the paving of roads, the creation of two lakes, planting flowers and trees, and upkeep of the grass. Their beautification work of the grounds had transformed Cedar Hill into a hallowed garden, in which locals became frequent visitors. All of their work had been accomplished through the selling of lots and donations. Their work was halted in 1945 due to a lack of workers and funds, and the cemetery was given back over to the city for upkeep.

Cedar Hill has expanded extensively over the years and now consists of eleven Divisions. Beautifully decorated and arranged lots are owned by individual families, fraternal orders, religious groups, soldiers, ethnic communities, and all make up the incredibly diverse melting pot that is Vicksburg.

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