Springhill Cemetery was established in 1836, with the founding of Desoto County and its seat, Jefferson, now known as Hernando in the newly-taken Chickasaw Cession. It was the public burial ground for residents of the town, free and slave, until churches and other groups established separate cemeteries. By the time of the last major yellow fever outbreak in 1878, there were hundreds of graves, many or most unmarked today. Only 6 monuments date after 1900. During the later part of the 20th century, the old public burial ground became a pasture and woodlot. Today, efforts are being made to conserve the 100-odd 19th century monuments, conduct historic and archaeological investigations, and beautify the site with native vegetation and Victorian ornamentals and make it an historic and recreational asset for all residents.
Many early officials of the city and county, as well as merchants and tradesmen, and their families and servants are buried here. While there are only around 100 grave markers, and these mostly represent the most prosperous families, there are probably 500-1000 burials present on the site. Probably, many graves were marked only with wood boards or posts, plantings, or earthen mounds decorated with the deceased’s cup, bowl, bottle, or other personal effects like conch-shell calling horns. After Emancipation, several prominent Freed men and women had monuments erected to their memory.
Nineteenth century Mississippi had very high mortality rates—so high that life insurance companies added a surcharge for policies for policies in places like Mississippi. Infant and childbirth deaths were especially common. Many deaths can be attributed to two common mosquito-borne diseases, malaria and yellow fever. Slaves and poor white laborers in particular were exposed to lumbering and ranching accidents. Frontier housing was often primitive. Doctors were few, and their knowledge was often limited. Most people could only obtain plant medicines.