New Road For Last Rides -nCenter strip now paved at historic Batesville Magnolia Cemetery

Published 8:46 am Wednesday, October 19, 2022

Good intentions may pave a well traveled road in Panola County, but generous donations from local businesses and private contributions were needed for the long-anticipated asphalt overlay project at Batesville Magnolia Cemetery.

Now completed, the paved main road from Hwy. 51 to Eureka Road has enhanced the beauty of the property while improving accessibility for families during burials and the cemetery’s many visitors.

Batesville Magnolia Cemetery is a private cemetery and receives no funding from the City of Batesville or other government entities. It is operated through a volunteer trustee board and has no paid employees other than a contracted groundskeeper.

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BMC depends on contributions. Funding comes through grave sales, opening and closing fees, donations and memorials. Regular giving plus memorials  and grave sales help maintain the maintenance fund balance while some memorials and donations are directed toward a paving or improvement fund.

That fund was recently used to pay for the paving of the center road. Trustees, on the advice of county road manager Bruce Cook, had a gravel roadbed constructed and authorized the overlay to be a full three inches of asphalt, ensuring the road will be durable for heavier than average vehicles.

The paved road is 10 feet wide and is the first section of what trustees hope will become a network of paved roads connecting the various parts of the historic cemetery. The approximate $35,000 cost for the first section made apparent to board members the need for further business donations and private contributions.

The new road is about 20 percent of the roads in the cemetery. Trustees hope to complete another section next year, depending on donations.

Early usage of Batesville Cemetery was traced to around 1850, actually before Batesville was Batesville. Residents of the old town of Panola on the Tallahatchie River evidently began using the area prior to the railroad coming through in the 1850s which was the reason Batesville was founded.

An early  stone was located during the 1992 grave recording, an effort whose results appear in the Pan-Gen’s Panola County Cemetery book, showing a burial in 1845. The next oldest known burial was in 1849.

An early newspaper article reported  Mrs. Col. Vance had donated two acres of land and was willing to deed it “as soon as the citizens are ready to receive it,” in 1859.

Official unveiling of a historical marker at BMC placed at the Highway 51 entrance in May of 2020 tells some of the cemetery’s history. But some of its history is a mystery as the oldest section of the cemetery has hundreds of unmarked graves that neither historians or records can explain (influenza, war, yellow fever, neglect?)

Trustee board members are responsible for maintaining these spaces where area residents have been buried for over 175 years.

Major expenses other than routine maintenance in recent years include mapping of headstones, locating unmarked graves and removal of potentially destructive overhanging trees from the perimeter.

Two new sections of plots were added recently, one overlooking Eureka Street on the northwest corner and the other fronting Highway 51, to assure grave spaces would be available in coming years in the historic cemetery.

Current board members include Kenneth Brasell who serves as chairman, Jack King, Raymond Belk, Hal Ferrell, Danny Jones, Rupert Howell, Dorothy Lou Aldridge and Rhonda Amis.

Other improvements in talking stages include adding a columbarium, a designated structure to place cremains, aesthetic landscaping on the south boundary next to old VFW property and removing underbrush from the northern boundary.

Tax deductible contributions may be mailed to Batesville Magnolia Cemetery, c/o First Security Bank, .O. Box 1690, Batesville, MS, 38606 where they will be acknowledged and a tax # will be provided.

Funds are invested into a trust account administered by FSB Trust Department at no charge.