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A History of Silver Cross Cemetery

From Madison Journal March 20, 1996

Courtesy of Josephine Phillips Hodge


About 25 years ago great effort was made by local citizens to save an ancient oak tree which was growing near the entrance of Silver Cross Ceme­tery. At that time a "Heritage Tree Fund" was started and sponsored by the very active Madison Parish Chamber of Commerce and the Tallulah Jaycees, another very active organization.


During the Civil War; Grant's army, marching down the bayou to devastate what was then the parish seat, Richmond, passed by the oak. At the time of the drive the tree's limb span was approxi­mately 125 feet and its age was estimated to be between 125 and 150 years old.


It is sad to say, that though valiant efforts were taken to try to save the landmark, it became a victim of time and it was final­ly taken down. However, that effort shows just how much people in our community really can pull together if they have a good cause!


The Silver Cross Cemetery is again sponsoring a drive for con­tinuing support in keeping Silver Cross Cemetery a place of peace and beauty. It is the resting place of many Tallulah Citizens of the past and almost every family is somewhere connected with loved ones there or at least remembered friends.


The following article was written 25 years ago by Mrs. Erie Read which tells the early beginning and history of Silver Cross.


"The town cemetery was not founded until many years after the founding of Tallulah. In the years prior to the Civil War and for some time after, each large plantation had its own family burying ground. The Indian mounds in and around Tallulah were also used for the interment of the dead, especially in flood times.


"It was not until the 1880's that a cemetery was established for the Village of Tallulah. Mrs. Henry B. Holmes, the Kate Stone whose Journal was the basis for the book Brokenburn and several other public spirited women rec­ognized the need for a communi­ty cemetery. They went before the Police Jury with the request that an appropriation be made for the purpose. The request was granted. According to court house records, a triangular area of three acres, taken from the family plantation on the bayou, was donated by the Ziegler fami­ly, with the stipulation that plots would be reserved for the family.

"As soon as the cemetery was established, Mrs. Holmes, her sister, Miss Amanda Stone and Mrs. Charles Coltharp supervised the planting of magnolia and cedar trees.


Miss Amanda Stone, who served as secretary for many years assigned the lots and col­lected for the sale of the lots. The Police Jury paid for the maintenance of the cemetery and was responsible for enclos­ing the property with a wrought iron fence.


wpsevier cemetery plot.jpg
1910 Cemetery lot receipt signed by Miss Amanda Stone


"The entrance of the cemetery is marked by four tall red brick columns. Between the taller columns and spanning the main gate is a metal arch which bears the name, Silver Cross Cemetery: Above the name and in the cen­ter of the arch is a Maltese Cross -- all with a silver finish. At the time when the cemetery was begun, a circle of King's Daugh­ters, an international order for spiritual and philanthropic ser­vice, flourished in Tallulah under the leadership of Mrs. Holmes. The emblem of the order is a sil­ver Maltese Cross.


When the question of a name for the cemetery arose, Mr. and Mrs. Holmes immediately decid­ed upon Silver Cross, and thus it has remained.


"Some of the oldest graves reveal familiar Madison Parish names: Amanda Susan Ragan, Wife of William Patrick Stone, Born March 12, 1822, Died March 12, 1892. This Mrs. Stone was the grandmother of Kate and Amanda Stone. Other names appearing on older graves include Mt Andrew T. Lane, Mrs. T.B. Goff and several of her daughters, and Mrs. Blanche Stackhouse England, all of whom were among the victims of the last terrible yellow fever epidemic of 1905.

Some of the oldest tombstones in Silver Cross were not placed there originally. Long ago there was a small cemetery at Milliken’s Bend, a little village and busy landing on the Mississippi. When the swift currents of the river began their destruction of the bank on which the ceme­tery was located, the graves were moved to Tallulah. Among them was a 'Sacred to the memory of Mary I. Hawkins, daughter of Antonine and Caroline N. Morancy Hawkins, Born October 9, 1853: Died November 7, 1856’. Another tall monument, apparently from Milliken’s Bend, is in memory of James C. Hope, who was born in Peebles, Scotland on February. 29, 1832, and died in Milliken’s Bend on July 25, 1902. On the same stone is also written 'James C. Hope, Jr. Born Milliken’s Bend, June 21, 1874, Died July 24, 1893'.


Silver Cross was formally organized on March 23, 1926 and is still functioning. The origi­nal officers were Mrs. Charles Coltharp, president; Mrs. George W. Sevier, vice-president; and Miss Amanda Stone, secretary. The first board of directors included Mrs. J. S. Agee, Mrs. J. L. Cason and Miss Queenie Erwin."


Today's board of directors include John (Jay) C. Byram, President, W.W. Ziegler Jr., James D. Sevier, Gay Gustafson, and Mary Nettles, Secretary-Treasur­er. An up-to-date chart of all cemetery plots is on file at the Madison Parish Library. Since the expansion of the population of Tallulah and Madison Parish through the years, a new ceme­tery, Memorial Park Cemetery was opened several years ago on the south bank of the Bayou greatly increasing the availability of burial plots.