When Mississippi Public Television’s “Mississippi Roads” chose a theme of historic cemeteries for its weekly travel series, a visit to Columbus was an obvious choice.
At 7 p.m. today, the iconic Friendship Cemetery will be featured on the show, which is hosted by Walt Grayson.
Although the cemetery, which opened in 1849, is not the oldest cemetery in the state, it is in many respects the most famous — claiming the distinction of holding the first Memorial Day (then known as Decoration Day) — as well as one of the most iconic grave-markers in the South — the “Weeping Angel,” which was placed on the gravesite of pastor Dr. Thomas Cox Teasdale in 1891 by members of his congregation at First Baptist Church.
Friendship Cemetery almost always shows up on any list of famous Southern cemeteries.
Nancy Carpenter, director of the Columbus-Lowndes Convention & Visitors Bureau, says the cemetery rivals the city’s historic homes and Tennessee Williams birthplace as the most popular tourist sites in Columbus.
“Cemetery tours have become very popular nation-wide,” Carpenter says. “When tourism surveys are done, visiting historic cemeteries is at the top of the list. That’s certainly true with Friendship Cemetery. I would say, conservatively, we have between 3,000 and 4,000 visitors to the cemetery ever year.”
The cemetery has become a prominent part of the city’s annual Pilgrimage Celebration, where students from Mississippi School of Math and Science tell the stories of people interred at Friendship through re-enactments, complete with period costumes. The “Tales from the Crypt” program draws as many as 2,000 visitors during Pilgrimage.
“It’s one of the first things tourists ask us, ‘How do we get to Friendship Cemetery?” Carpenter said. “And the best thing about it, is that it’s open dawn to dusk every day of the year.”
Thursday’s program also travels to Natchez, where the city cemetery is the final resting place for many of the state’s first settlers, Cedar Hill Cemetery in Vicksburg, one of the country’s oldest and largest cemeteries that is still in use today.
Finally, the program takes a look at the haunting story of Henry Vick at Chapel of the Cross in Madison County, a narrative that plays a central role in that area’s history.
Slim Smith is a columnist and feature writer for The Dispatch. His email address is email@example.com.
You can help your community
Quality, in-depth journalism is essential to a healthy community. The Dispatch brings you the most complete reporting and insightful commentary in the Golden Triangle, but we need your help to continue our efforts. Please consider subscribing to our website for only $2.30 per week to help support local journalism and our community.