Neely’s Landing Cemetery

Coming back through Neely’s Landing, I slowed down to see if there was any trace of a cemetery I had heard was on the top of one of the hills, but I didn’t see one nor any way to get up there. I’m still curious about the mass grave for the victims of the fire aboard the steamboat The Stonewall that killed between 200 and 300 passengers in 1869. When I got to the curve behind Proctor & Gamble, I turned around and cruised back north.

I spotted a couple – Roger and Rebecca – in front of a mobile home jacked way up on concrete blocks. Rebecca was walking a pit bull sporting what looked like a logging chain. I was a little uncomfortable for a bit, because I figured an animal that required a chain that big would have been able to drag the young woman like a cartoon character. The dog was either friendly or figured I wasn’t worth eating, because he didn’t appear aggressive.

Roger and I chatted a bit about how high the last flood got – “It came all the way up to the bottom of the trailer. When a barge would go by out on the river, the wave would lap up against the bottom of the floor. We had to take a boat to go all the way around the curve to where we were parked.”

I could cut through his lot

I asked about the cemetery. He said there was a road going up to it, but it was blocked off by a gate. I was welcome to cut through the back of his lot to get to it. “Is that your wife in the car?” he asked.

“Nope, that’s my mother. She turned 91 last week.”

“I don’t think she’ll be able to make it.”

Cemetery popped into view

“I’m not sure I can make it, but I wouldn’t bet against her.”

The road WAS fairly steep, but in decent condition. It had seen chat at some time in the past and it wasn’t too rutted. Just about the time I ran out of hill and breath, the cemetery popped into view.

Tree cut down

A storm must have taken down a big tree recently, based on the fresh sawdust around the stump. It damaged a few tombstones, but the cemetery was fairly well maintained.

Quiet and peaceful

The late afternoon sun made the east-facing tombstones hard to shoot, but I like the play of light anyway.

How old was Louisa Ross?

I couldn’t be sure if Louisa M. Ross was 100 years, one month old when she died or if she was a baby one month old. It’s hard to make out if she was born in 1802 and died in 1902 or if she was born and died in 1902. When I shot the photo, I was pretty sure it was 1802 and 1902. lists 74 interments in the cemetery. There are two with the name Ross: Baby Girl Ross, daughter of S.H. and S.J. Ross, born and died June 12,1900, and Sarah J. Ross, wife of S.H. Ross, who was born Feb. 6, 1893, and who died Aug. 25, 1904. The Louisa M. marker is prominent enough and old enough that I would have thought it would have made the listing.

Not the Stonewall cemetery

I don’t think The Stonewall’s mass grave is up there..

  • There’s not a lot of flat ground in the cemetery that would lend itself to a mass grave
  • It’s a steep climb up the hill.
  • It didn’t look like it would be easy digging.
  • The locals would figure the steamboat victims were strangers, so they would probably not want to take up the limited space where their families were going to be buried.
  • A spot closer to the river would be easier to reach and easier to dig.

A view of the Mississippi

Here’s a view of the river looking to the south from Neely’s Landing. If I knew exactly where The Stonewall went aground, I might poke around while the river is low. Newspaper reports pieces of broken queensware, coal, nails, bits of iron and even bones were still being found on the Stonewall Bar 67 years after the disaster.

Photo gallery of Neely’s Landing Cemetery

Click on any photo to make it larger, then click on the left or right side of the image to move through the gallery.