Sunday, November 16, 2008

Many Early County Graveyard Monuments Came Upriver From Mobile

Throughout Itawamba County, Mississippi there are many examples of grave monuments from the early part of the county’s history. Many of these monuments are crafted artistically with both wording and sculpture. One such example is the 1846 Matilda M. Cayce monument in the old Fulton graveyard. Fulton was established on the Tombigbee River during 1839 and is one of the older towns in northeastern Mississippi. It wasn’t long after the town was established that the Fulton graveyard was established next to the Fulton Male Academy. The ornate marble Cayce monument reads:

To the Memory of
wife of D.N. Cayce
who departed this life
December 26th. 1846
aged 28 years, 7 months
and 15 days
Joined angels watch her sleeping dust
Till Jesus comes to raise the just.
And then may she wake in sweet surprise
and in her Maker’s image rise.

Also inscribed in this old monument just above the ground is the monument carver’s name and location – J. Turner, Mobile. In most instances, the monument carver’s name is located on the part of the monument below the ground, but in the situation of the Cayce monument, it is well above ground-level. During years of research I have come across this monument carver’s name in early probate records of the county. For instance, in the George Shumpert probate records from the early 1850’s, I learned that Mr. Turner crafted George Shumpert’s grave stone. Payment records from his estate show $25 was paid to Jarvis Turner of Mobile for a marble head and engraving. The cost to ship the monument upriver from Mobile aboard the steamer Sallie Carson was $1.50

Jarvis Turner of Mobile was simply a logical monument carver to create many of the old ornate monuments in Itawamba County, as much commerce took place between Mobile and the county. It was to Mobile that most of the county’s cotton was shipped, and wholesale store goods were bought in Mobile by local merchants for resale in Itawamba County – all due, in most part, to easy shipping along the Tombigbee River.

So who was this J. Turner of Mobile who crafted many of early Itawamba County’s gravestones? The 1850 census of the city of Mobile shows Jarvis Turner, the stone cutter, was born during 1820 in England. Living with Turner was his Massachusetts -born wife, Marcia (aged 30) and young son Freeman (aged 2, born in Alabama). Turner was an early marble carver making many beautiful tombstones throughout Alabama’s black belt region as well as areas along the upper Tombigbee River. He had come to Mobile during 1836 and on December 11, 1847 married Marcia H. Ewers. During 1852 he was one of the incorporators of the Mechanics’ Savings Company of Mobile and in 1867 was elected as a city alderman representing the 2nd ward. After selling his monument business, during 1871 he established a planning mill that later developed into a door, sash and blind manufacturing company located at the corner of Water and St. Anthony streets. During the 1880 census year he was living on North St. Joseph Street in the city (aged 63) with his wife Marchia and children Belle, Sarah, Freeman, George and married daughter Janie Burgess with her husband Richard (cotton merchant) and their daughter Marchia. Jarvis Turner died during 1884 and was buried in Magnolia Cemetery in the city of Mobile.

Researching the early Matilda Cayce monument in the old Fulton graveyard was an interesting exercise – not necessarily because of the subject of the memorialized, but simply because of the subject of who crafted the monument itself.


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