Our next stop was Barbee Cemetery, located very close to the Mississippi/Arkansas border in the tiny town of Moon in Coahoma County. What earned it a spot on our itinerary was because it was alleged to have been established on an Indian mound.
Nearby is the Yazoo Pass, a small, winding stream that connects Moon Lake to the Coldwater River. Long ago, several large plantations were started near Moon Lake. Mound Place was a large plantation owned by James Lusk Alcorn, who established a post office by 1860. The Barbee family for whom the cemetery is named lived near Mount Place.
When we pulled up to the cemetery, which is off a busy thoroughfare called the Blues Highway, we did see what looked like a mound. Whether or not it is an authentic Indian mound, I don’t know. There is frustratingly little information about this cemetery. But because there are Indian mounds located in this area, it very well could be.
According to Find a Grave, there are nearly 500 burials recorded at Barbee Cemetery. The sign says it was established in 1850. The oldest marked grave belongs to Thomas Barbee, who died in 1865. There are 33 Barbees buried there.
Meet the Barbees
There’s a historical marker near the road that talks about Hunt’s Mill, the site of a brief 1863 Civil War skirmish. William and Thomas Hunt owned and operated Hunt’s Mill, which Thomas Barbee and his relatives used.
Thanks to Cliff Dean, who writes the blog My Delta World, I found a little information on Thomas Barbee. He was a local farmer who owned land near Hunt’s Mill, and his father and brother lived in the area. Dean explains that during the Civil War, Confederate partisans were common. These partisans were irregular cavalry units made up of men who would fight as regular soldiers and then return home as citizens. Thomas Barbee was a member of one of these partisan bands.
Dean’s blog post explains how Thomas got detained by Union forces in March 1863 not long after the Battle of Hunt’s Mill but returned home safely a few months later. In 1865, he crossed paths with Confederate Capt. William Forest, brother of noted Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest. Forrest was in the Mississippi Delta looking for horses and mules. He and his men took some from Thomas and then traveled to nearby Friars Point. Thomas went to get his property back, but was killed by Captain Forrest. Ironically, Forrest claimed he thought Barbee was a Union man.
An added touch of irony is that another Forrest brother, Capt. Aaron Forrest, was present at the Battle of Hunt’s Mill back in March 1863.
Thomas Barbee died at age 33, the exact day in 1865 in which he died is unknown. His wife, Susan Morgan Barbee, died in 1872 and is buried near him.
Ophelia Barbee Haynes Sanders
Thomas and Susan Barbee’s youngest child, Ophelia Annie Barbee, was born on Dec. 10, 1864. So she never knew her father, and her mother died when she was 8. She has one of the most unusual graves in the cemetery so I wanted to find out more about her.
Ophelia’s Find a Grave memorial states that she married Elisha Thomas Haynes on May 24, 1877, making her 13 years old at the time. Not unheard of in those days. She and Elisha had nine children together. Elisha died on April 13, 1899 at age 45.
Elisha’s monument is pretty interesting in itself. He must have been a member of Woodmen of the World because he has a nicely carved tree monument. I noticed there are a number of WOW graves at Barbee Cemetery. His surname is spelled out in the woodsy font WOW is known for. Not all tree monuments are WOW markers, but this one is. How can you tell? There are clues.
In the photo below, you can see the mallet and axe that were WOW symbols. Note that the bottom of the mallet is resting above the WOW motto (not easy to see through the lichen) “Dum Tacet Clamat,” which means “Though silent, he speaks.” You can also just make out a bird in the upper right corner, another WOW symbol.
But that’s not the end. There was a sweet surprise hiding behind that tree! I don’t know which came first, the circle or the tree. But it definitely reminded me of the ones we had just seen at Oxford Memorial Cemetery and reinforced my theory that this type of grave marker was a regional favorite.
Ophelia operated a boarding house in Denton (about 35 miles from Barbee Cemetery) after Elisha died, where she met her second husband, William Benjamin Sanders. He was a widower with children of his own. They wed in 1901. One of William Sanders’ daughters, Helen Josephine Sanders, would later marry Ophelia and E.T. Haynes’s son, Wendell Thomas Haynes, Sr.
Ophelia and her new family eventually moved to Memphis, where she worked as a housekeeper. She died there on Nov. 10, 1910 at age 45 due to complications from gallstones. She was brought home for burial beside Elijah. Let’s take a look at her grave.
The Old Rugged Cross
Ophelia is interred in an above ground brick vault, covered in what I believe to be some kind of plaster. It is fronted by a monument clearly stamped with the Supreme Forest of the Woodmen Circle. This was a women’s auxiliary to Woodmen of the World. The emblem for the SFWC is a shield with stars and stripes and crossed axes. One of its very attractive benefits was life insurance for women, a radical idea in its day. Since Elijah was a WOW member, it’s not surprising Ophelia was in the Woodmen Circle. It also carries the popular “Old Rugged Cross” theme frequently seen on monuments of that era.
It would be wonderful if Ophelia’s vault were properly sealed and her monument cleaned. Here’s a side view.
Leigh Haynes (1890-1895), one of the children of Ophelia and Elijah who died in childhood, is buried beside them. Amelia Barbee Haynes (1855-1883), Ophelia’s older sister who married Andrew Jackson Haynes, is buried nearby.
One Man, Five Wives
Ophelia and Amelia’s older brother, John Elijah Barbee (1848-1912), the eldest Barbee child, is also buried in Barbee Cemetery. He was married five times, with his last wife outliving him. I can’t say I’ve ever encountered such a situation. Three wives? Yes. Four wives? I think once or twice. But never five.
Keeping track of John Barbee’s wives is no easy task but thanks to Ancestry, I think I’ve got them in proper order. There’s a note that says: “John married 5 times – his marker is in the Lula Cemetery (formerly the Barbee Cemetery). As each wife died, the previous wives were moved down the hill so that the 4th wife is buried closest to his tombstone. (The 5th wife outlived him by many years).” That’s not exactly true. His first three wives are buried at Barbee Cemetery, the fourth and fifth are buried elsewhere.
John married Sinna Fannie Franklin in January 1874, they had two sons named Thomas (1874-1891) and Willie (1876). Both are buried at Barbee Cemetery. Oddly, Fannie’s side of the grave marker she shares with John and second wife, Mary, is inscribed with the death date Oct. 30, 1874. That would make it impossible for her to have given birth to Willie in 1876. I think this stone wasn’t carved until after John died in 1912 and an error was made. I believe she died on Oct. 20, 1876 or 1877. She would have been in her mid 20s.
John married Mary C. Bird on Dec. 5, 1878. They had three children, John (1879-1899), Letha (1882-1946), and Robert (1884-1912). Mary died on Oct. 20, 1884, about a month after giving birth to Robert.
Wife #3 was Viola Stovall, and this marriage was rather quick. She and John were married on Dec. 9, 1884, less than two months after Mary died. They had three children, Fannie (1886-1969), Walter (1888-1924), and Lester (1891-1959). Viola died on March 1, 1899 at age 32. She has her own monument further down the hill at Barbee Cemetery, I did not get a photo of it.
At some point later in 1899, John married widow Inez Hill Bridger. She had two daughters from her first marriage. I don’t believe they had any children together. She died on May 21, 1901 at age 30. She is buried at Rose Hill Cemetery in Sardis, Miss. with her first husband, William Henry Bridger.
John married a final time to Jennie Gordon in 1902. They had two daughters, Amelia (1904-1983) and Ophelia (1905-1995), named after John’s sisters. John died on Jan. 9, 1912 at age 63. Jennie did not remarry and died on Jan. 14, 1936 at age 71. She is buried at Blue Mountain Cemetery in Tippah County, Miss.
Burials are still taking place at Barbee Cemetery, the latest one recorded is January 2022. The newer graves are toward the back side of the cemetery away from the mound.
It was time to leave Mississippi to cross the border into Arkansas to visit two very different cemeteries in Helena. I hope you’ll join me there next time.
Tom Johnson said:
Thanks for bringing the past to life
Don Kucinski said:
Thank you for letting us hear of your cemetery adventures and including the great photos, too.
Is it common in the area to kill the grass around gravestones? I noticed in some of the photos you provided that seems to be the case. Not at all attractive and a bit too excessive for me but probably a labor saving effort.
Hi, Don! I’m glad you are enjoying my blog posts. Thank you for your kind words!
The practice of spraying some kind of chemical like Round Up around grave markers to keep it clear of growth is a common practice in some cemeteries (as you point out) in order to keep anything from growing around the stones.
I’m not a fan of that practice at all. I agree that the results are indeed unattractive. I wish it wasn’t a popular thing to do. But it happens, unfortunately.