Copyright © Janice Tracy, Mississippi Memories

Monday, November 30, 2009

The Restoration of a Cemetery: Conner Cemetery in Attala County, Mississippi

Thanks to Jane Swanson, a Conner descendant who lives in Texas, it is possible for me to write this post about the restoration and dedication of Conner Cemetery, one of Attala County's historic cemeteries. During the past few weeks, I have written posts here and on Cemeteries of Dancing Rabbit Creek, that included photos provided by Jane of Conner family members, along with information about the Conner family cemetery located north of Kosciusko. But what I did not know until a few days ago was the vital role that Jane played in the restoration of her ancestors' cemetery. Below is an excerpt of how the cemetery's restoration came about a number of years ago, as Jane related it to me:

"Along about the year 2000 I became very interested in genealogy. Stopping by Kosciusko, Ms on a return trip from Atlanta to Houston, I tried to find where the Conner (my ancestors) property use to be, since I had heard that there was a family cemetery. I located a book, on local cemeteries, at the library in Kosciusko, and met an older gentleman who actually gave us directions. I had to laugh. He told us to go down through the “hollow”. I had no idea what a hollow was!

I was very disappointed in the condition of the cemetery. Most of the tombstones were blackened, broken, falling over and trees down everywhere. After returning (home) I couldn’t get it out of my mind. Upon further investigation I found several relatives on internet genealogy sites. There was one posting from a Sonny Cade (descended from Boley’s daughter Lucy) calling all descendants of Boley Conner. He was disturbed at the condition of the family cemetery, following yet another storm; and was asking for help. So, over the next few months, several of us banded together: Ramona Winer (descended from Boley’s son William) Sarah Childress (descended from son Thomas) Nancy Bradford, Suzanne Dougherty and myself Jane Swanson (sisters, and descendants from daughter Julia)

To make a long story shorter. We appealed to all descendants of Boley and Ann Conner to make donations to restore the cemetery. We also wanted to have the cemetery declared a historical site. The historical marker was fairly expensive, and it became apparent we were barely collecting enough money to pay for it. Romona contacted the Sons of the Confederacy, since there were Civil War veterans buried in the Conner cemetery. They took on the cost of most of the restorations as their club project. The monies we collected, paying for the marker.

On Nov. 2nd 2002 we had a re-dedication ceremony at the cemetery. It started with a lunch at the Kosciusko library. There were about twenty five Conner descendants in attendance, along with members of the sons of the Confederacy and their families all in full civil war regalia. We later all trekked to the cemetery where a musket salute was done, a toast and a poem that was written and read by Dr. Patrick McGraw (descendant of daughter Julia). Romona Winer placing a stone bench beside Williams’s twin’s grave (he is buried elsewhere) it was a beautiful day and we felt such pride at what together we had accomplished."

Jane wanted me to be certain to give credit to others for the restoration of the Conner Cemetery. In an email to me, she stated, " was truly an effort of distant cousins (and my sisters).....Romona Winer doing much to the research we needed for the marker, and of course distant relatives who trusted us enough to send a donation."

(Photo courtesy of Jane Swanson)

A few days ago, Jane emailed me this photo of an item made for her by Sonny Cade, a Conner descendant mentioned in her story above. Made of wood in the shape of the State of Mississippi, Cade presented the keepsake gift to Jane and other Conner cousins as a reminder of the successful completion of the cemetery's restoration. An explanation of the keepsake, in Jane's words, appears below:

"Even though I only met Sonny Cade for a few mins. the day of the cemetery dedication. Sonny was the one who got the ball rolling with his plea for help. He brought a gift for me,as a thank you, and I believe the other cousins who worked so hard to get the cemetery restored. In one of those pictures I sent you, it showed our gg-grandfathers tombstone (Boley Conner) toppled by a huge tree. Sonny cut that tree up and made little paper weights in the shape of the state of Mississippi. He etched into each one a map of how to get to the Conner Cemetery. I am not sure what kind of wood came from that tree. But he polished it up and it is such a nice keepsake. I can't help thinking that that tree was once small and maybe was planted near (actually too close) to his grave when he was buried in 1898. Amazing that a piece of that tree now sits on my desk in Texas....."

Although the restoration of Conner Cemetery is no longer "new" news in Attala County, it was the first time I had heard the story. Thank you, Jane, for sharing this amazing story with me and for allowing me to post about it here on this blog.

Note: Watch for other posts about the Conner family including more photos, here on this blog.

Copyright © by Janice Tracy

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