Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Mobile Church Street Graveyard - Free!

(Another catch up post)

The last two free places we visited in Mobile were Church Street Graveyard and Magnolia Cemetery. Church Street Graveyard is very easy to find. It's tucked away on a side street, just behind the Mobile Public Library.
The graveyard was opened in 1819, to replace an older Spanish cemetery that used to exist where a cathedral now stands. William Kennedy sold the land to the city, which divided the cemetery into three sections. One for the Catholics, one for the Protestants, and a potter's field for 'strangers'.
The cemetery is 4 acres and at first glance, appears to be pretty empty. There are actually at least 1,000 people buried here. In fact, the graveyard was closed in 1898 because it was already full. One of the reasons was a yellow fever epidemic that hit Mobile shortly after Church Street Graveyard opened. It's estimated at least 250 people, about 10% of the population at the time, died.
Although the cemetery is officially closed, the city has continued to inter bodies that have been found during different construction projects in Mobile. They have also allowed a few of the city's more famous citizens to be interred here.

The most popular grave is that of Joe Cain, who re-established Mardi Gras after it was banned during Reconstruction. Edward Walter, a well-known Mobile Renaissance man, who worked to have Joe re-interred in Mobile, is buried next to his friend. One of Mobile's Mardi Gras traditions is to leave beads on both men's graves.
Douglas Smith's grave. He was a well-loved member of the Comic Cowboys, a (controversial) Mardi Gras tradition in Mobile.
Most of the gravestones are Neoclassical, and although the graveyard is not attached to any one church, it's plan follows the older tradition of having the graves enclosed by a wall. 
After Magnolia Cemetery was opened in 1836, the graveyard became less and less important. In 1993, the Historic Mobile Preservation Society stepped in and created a new organization to protect and preserve this cemetery.
Boyington Oak (in the back, by the wall) is quite possibly the most famous tree in Mobile.  According to locals, this oak is haunted!
Charles Boyington was a printer and gambler.  He and Nathaniel Frost, another gambler, became friends. In 1834, Frost's body was found in the graveyard. Boyington was suspected, and he was eventually executed for the murder in 1835.
Boyington went to the gallows proclaiming his innocence. According to legend, he told the people of Mobile an oak would grow from his grave to prove he didn't murder his friend.
 Boyington couldn't be buried in the cemetery, since he was a murderer, so the gravekeeper buried him in his own garden at the very edge of the cemetery. Soon after, an oak began to grow from Boyington's grave, and locals began to hear footsteps and and crying sounds coming from the tree. 

We didn't see any ghosts, and Boyington's gravestone has disappeared (if he was ever buried here at all), but it does make a good story! 


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