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Once-abandoned cemetery offers historical perspective

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Updated: 5/10/2013 11:12 pm
PRENTISS COUNTY, Miss. (WTVA) -- Call it a living history lesson: students portraying figures considered pivotal in the formation of what is now Prentiss County.

Each of those portrayed is also buried at a place called Campground Cemetery.

The fact that more than a hundred people could even find it is pretty significant, too.

"We came up here and the cemetery was just totally overgrown, just majorly overgrown. You couldn't even get to markers to see who was here," Prentiss County Genealogical and Historical Society Vice President Gloria Smith said.

"It was hard to get in. You know, you couldn't find some of the grave sites. If you were looking for a relative, it was hard to find," Maj. Gen. Augustus Leon Collins said.

The cemetery may be almost 200 years old, but did you know that it was integrated, even in the 1800s?

That's because church members, many of whom met there were also buried there, both black and white. These details probably would have been much harder to uncover if the cemetery itself hadn't been uncovered.

With it, an important part of Prentiss County history has been brought to life as well.

"The founders of this area really were buried here," Smith said.

That includies members of the Boone family, of which Booneville is named.

For Collins, adjutant general of the Mississippi National Guard, a personal tie brought him here.

"It was personal for me in the fact that my grandfather is laid to rest over there," Collins said.

During the ceremony, a junior high student played Collins' grandfather.

These students' participation is what really impressed him.

"The fact that these kids made this a project is something that they'll remember because it's something they gave service to someone else when it didn't even benefit them," Collins said.

At the same time, it also draws attention to a problem, Smith says: abandoned cemeteries.

"There's no telling how many are in north Mississippi," Smith said. "I would say at least eight abandoned cemeteries are here with people who are of historical significance."

Smith adds maybe these efforts will make others realize the importance of those final resting places.

"If we let these cemeteries die, that piece of history is gone," Smith said.
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