From staff reports
OKOLONA - The Confederate Cemetery in Okolona has received not one, but five new markers directing visitors to the historic area. The latest of these is a covered kiosk that details the history of the Battle of Okolona and the Cemetery and also lists that names of the soldiers buried there. The Jonathan Carter family undertook the painstaking work of walking each row of graves and recording by hand the names on each headstone. A dedication was held last Friday for the new kiosk and included local history buffs, government officials and one interested author.
Dr. Brandon Beck's career teaching history at Shenandoah University in Virginia led him to retire to history-rich Northeast Mississippi.
"I always wanted to retire to Mississippi," Beck said. "We settled in Columbus."
Beck is writing a book about the Battle of Okolona and was on hand for the dedication. The manuscript for his book, "Defending the Prairie; Nathan Bedford Forrest, William S. Smith and the Battle of Okolona," is due to The History Press in August and he expects a quick turn-around for the publication.
Patsy Gregory has been involved with several historical projects in the community and stressed the importance of marking areas of interest.
"Many of us who live in the Okolona area are familiar with the Battle of Okolona and the Confederate Cemetery," Gregory said. "For several years, Friends of Battle of Okolona have worked hard to promote the battle, cemetery and other sites to bring awareness to people living in other areas of Mississippi, the United States and the world. Directional signage is one way to bring awareness."
Gregory said that the group worked with MDOT to acquire and place signs on Highways 45A, 41 and 245 to direct visitors to the site and that many individuals and groups assisted with the care and promotion of the site.
"Mr. and Mrs. Jonathan Carter and Jo Anna Carter worked many hours to list these names (on the kiosk)," Gregory said. "Confederate roses have been planted at this entrance to the tombstones. There is also an historic marker inside the cemetery and several others are placed along the battle area. An anonymous donor matched funding to purchase these."
Gregory said that upcoming plans to promote Okolona's history include a driving tour to showcase the town's antebellum homes.
"All of this is necessary to ready our area for tourism," Gregory said. "People have visited our area for years and these efforts enhance their abilities to learn more and remain in the area longer. When visitors remain, economic dollars are spent and their experience is more memorable."