Preservation of Springhill Cemetery

Why Save Springhill as an Historic Memorial Garden?

As the population of Desoto county is growing rapidly, and is expected to continue to grow, there is an ever-increasing need for public green space. It would be much better to preserve this historic site as parkland near the center of Hernando now than to have to buy land for parks later. Springhill lies along a proposed pedestrian and bike route. There are young woods, grass and a few old trees on the lot now, and kudzu control has begun. The cemetery about 90% nineteenth century markers, with very few after 1900. As such, it is probably eligible for the National Register of Historic Places and for designation as a Mississippi Landmark.

Springhill is a significant cultural remain from the first days of Hernando. Southern cemeteries are architectural monuments, in a folk tradition that had both tradition-structured placement of materials and use of formal design elements. For instance Springhill still has some of the traditional cedars, vinca and other flowers as well as the native hardwood timber. Cemeteries can also be “read” at a symbolic level as the outcome of social and economic forces. The most obvious instance is the fact that white people got the top of the hill while black people got the side and bottom of the hill, as is almost always the case, even if the “hill” is only a foot high.

The nineteenth century was a time of great mobility, as as the cotton frontier expanded, many families from the old colonies spent some time the Desoto County before moving further west. While Springhill has artistically important monuments to early officials of the city and county, and other prosperous tradesmen and merchants, not all members of society were afforded tombstones; very few slaves and most Freedmen and poor working, widowed and orphaned whites were not represented with stone monuments, but they may have had wooden markers, artifacts or plants on their graves. It is likely that remotes sensing would reveal hundreds of their unmarked graves. Preserving the old public burial ground as public green space with the native and historic vegetation would be a fitting tribute to the our ancestors who first cleared and settled North Mississippi.

In Georgia, in 2011, Columbus city council and managers are considering making the African-American cemetery begun by slaves in the 1830s (contemporary with Springhill) into a tranquility garden. Emory University in Atlanta has a African Origin project and webpage using the legal cases of thousands of African rescued from slave trades after the slave trade was outlawed to try to connect the tribes raided by slavers with modern regions, languages and ethnic groups.

Tombstone Repair

Monument conservation needs are varied. Some monuments only need leveling or re-erection while others are heavily damaged and need considerable work. Current best technology for historic marble tombstone repair is being researched at the National Park Service Center for Preservation Technology and Training at Natchitoches, Louisiana. If funding for repairs is obtained, the skills can be passed on to city employees or volunteers for use in future restorations.

Archaeological Remote Sensing

Hernando is in the loess bluffs, and the cemetery is on gullied Memphis silt loam soil, a soil type developed in deep, unconsolidated, yellowish-brown wind-blown silt. Loess presents a special problem in that it is a deep, very homogeneous material, without marked soil horizons. All remote sensing methods rely on a contrast between matrix and feature, which may prove to be very subtle in these soils. Loess soils generally have limited soil horizon development, but there are enough clay-size particles that slightly indurated illuvial horizons can sometimes be identified; breaks in these slight hardpans may provide the required contrast. Also, deep loess is nearly neutral (pH 7, with few soluble salts), which indicates that the conductivity/resistivity methods might not be successful, as they require cation exchange. However, if soils do prove to have low acidity, bone preservation should be good, at least in adult graves, and these skeletal materials provide the free ions necessary for success with conductivity.

Become a Sponsor or Volunteer

Public gardens always need financial contributions, but we also need donations of materials such as:
Landscape timbers, crossties, poles and logs
Mulch and woodchips
Manure and organic soil
Landscape filter material
Bricks/brickbats and stones
Gravel/crushed limestone for parking lot
Benches and picnic tables

Most of all, we need volunteers to work. Volunteer days are second Saturday morning and third Sunday afternoon.

Springhill Botanical Garden