Sunday, July 28, 2013

Damascus Cemetery, Copiah County, Mississippi

Yesterday morning, I decided to visit one cemetery and try to find another. On Find-A-Grave, there are 12 requests for photos for Damascus Cemetery. I had never been so I thought I'd check it out. There is another cemetery I've looked for that I thought I'd try again to find, and that's the Phillip Catchings Cemetery, which is supposed to be just past Georgetown. There was actually one other request for Ollie Mae Baggett in the Lily Mae Cemetery on Highway 27 just past Georgetown. I've never been to it either.

I love going to Copiah County, and it's been awhile since I've been there. I try to avoid driving on I-55. For one thing, there isn't that much to see. For another, I really don't like driving 70 mph. You pretty much have to take I-55 to Crystal Springs, but after that you can get on Highway 51. You can drive it to at least as far as Wesson, and maybe farther. I think it actually goes all the way to Baton Rouge. Anyway, Damascus Cemetery is just as you're getting into Hazlehurst. You take Damascus Road off of Highway 51 and follow the signs. I got there fairly early. It had been raining and more rain was forecast, but at the time it was only cloudy.

Damascus is not a big cemetery really. You can walk it in an hour or so I guess. A sign for Damascus Baptist Church says the church was founded in 1824, and you could tell there were a lot of old headstones. Unfortunately, there were quite a few that had fallen over, and there were quite a few that just couldn't be read anymore. I made a couple of passes through the cemetery, but couldn't find any of the headstones I was looking for. That was really unusual. I can usually find at least one or two. I finally gave up and decided to go in search of another cemetery.

Highways 27 and 28 intersect in Georgetown, and that was where I was headed, but I thought it'd be just as easy to drive back to Crystal Springs and get on Highway 27 there to get to Georgetown. The rain was still holding off, for the most part. There were a few sprinkles heading to Crystal Springs, but by the time I got there, it was only cloudy.

Georgetown is 16 miles from I-55 and you pass through the small community of Hopewell. There's a little store in Hopewell, and a woman used to work there who knows all about the cemeteries in Copiah County but I didn't know if she was still there. I was hoping she could tell me something about the Phillip Catchings Cemetery. Hopewell is roughly halfway between Crystal Springs and Georgetown. Unfortunately, when I got to Hopewell, the store was closed. Looks like they're open Sunday through Friday. Oh well.

I drove on to Georgetown. The Lily Mae Cemetery is supposed to be visible from Highway 27 not far from town. It is, but if you're not paying attention, you can zip right past it, which I did. I realized I passed it, turned around and went back. There's no sign for the cemetery. You have to just know which one it is based on it's location in Find-A-Grave, and some of the people interred there. It's a tiny African-American Cemetery. I started at the back of the cemetery and worked my way back toward the car. Naturally, Ollie Baggett's headstone was one of the closest to my car.

After getting a picture, I was done there, and it was time to try and find the Phillip Catchings Cemetery. I headed back toward Georgetown to look around in the area I think it may be. While driving around, I noticed a woman in her carport and stopped to ask if she was familiar with the cemetery. She said she recalled there being two old cemeteries. After you cross the Copiah Creek bridge on 27, you can turn on dirt roads to the left or the right. From what she remembers there's an old cemetery both places. When I got to where I thought she meant, I turned right. The dirt road was wet, and it was that red sand and gravel. After just a minute or so of driving, I was afraid I was going to get stuck, so I turned around and headed back to 27. I crossed the highway onto the other dirt road. This led me to a white house, and the road made a loop in front of the house, and that's where the mailbox is. I thought I would get out and knock on the door. After I heard a bark from what I sounded like a big dog, headed back to the car. The dog followed me for a few yards, but wasn't threatening. I didn't push it though. I headed back to Highway 27.

My wife's computer was in the shop, and the shop closes at 1:00 on Saturday, so it was time to head on back. Around Hopewell, the bottom fell out. It rained until I got back to Jackson. It wasn't a complete wash. I did find one headstone and that's still better than none. Somebody knows where Phillip Catching is, and it'll be found and documented.

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