By JB Clark/NEMS Daily Journal
BALDWYN – Bethany Cemetery visitors on Saturday learned about what it was like to live through the Battle of Brice’s Crossroads and be a resident of Baldwyn and Guntown in the 1800s.
Friends of Bethany Historic Cemetery hosted a Walk Through History to educate the community about cemetery restoration efforts and enlist help.
The cemetery was started in 1852 as a part of the Bethany Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church, which is now located across the street. The earliest known grave is from 1853, belonging to John M. Nelson.
The cemetery also is home to a mass grave of about 30 Confederate soldiers killed in the Battle of Brice’s Crossroads.
Patrick Shell portrayed the role of an unknown soldier who was a member of either the 55th or 59th infantry division.
The unknown soldier was a black soldier from the Union Army found among Confederate troops. It is believed he and other black soldiers protected the retreating Union troops during the Battle of Brice’s Crossroads.
Shell read a letter from one of the retreating Union troops, “In a 31-mile retreat, the only compact regiments I saw was that of the Negroes.”
Steven Havens portrayed the Rev. James Young, the pastor who moved from South Carolina to north Mississippi to establish the Bethany Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church.
He recounted moving from South Carolina for the promise of fertile earth in the Baldwyn area. He and members of his church, which included Letitia Simpson Todd Agnew’s family, moved to Baldwyn and established the Bethany Presbyterian Church.
He talked about when “The Flux” (dysentery) struck his congregation and killed 19 members.
Mallie Fitzgerald, chair of Friends of Bethany Historical Cemetery, said the goal for members is four-fold: restoration, preservation, maintenance and interpretation.
She said they are working to stabilize the soil around the monuments and restoring the monuments that are damaged. They will work on a long-term preservation plan, ensure the monuments and grounds endure minimal future damage and explain the significance of the cemetery in conjunction with the community and the battlefield.
To learn more about the historic cemetery or join Friends of Bethany Historic Cemetery, go to www.BethanyHistoricCemetery.org.