Historic marker unveiled at Madison cemetery

Historic marker unveiled at Madison cemetery


MADISON — Montgomery Memorial Cemetery is the latest designation here as a historical landmark due to its rich history and significance to the community. 

City officials, including alderman and Mayor Mary Hawkins-Butler, representatives from the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, members of the Madison Methodist Church Cemetery Committee, Madison police and firemen, and family members of those buried in the cemetery, gathered to witness the historical marker unveiling Wednesday morning. 

The cemetery was established in 1841 on property owned by Lafayette F. Montgomery, who was a well-known citizen and political figure. At least 28 members of the Montgomery Family have been laid to rest there, along with Betty McArthur, an early Impressionist and founding member of the Mississippi Art Association, and 2nd Lt. Richard Stewart Averett, who was killed in action at Guadalcanal in 1943. He is one of many veterans buried in the cemetery. 

Official ownership of the cemetery was transferred to Madison Methodist Church in 1986.

Leon Stewart, co-chair of the cemetery committee at Madison Methodist Church, spoke and said the marker was funded mostly by the committee and thanked the city for its contributions to helping get the marker installed. 

“We received cemetery ownership from the city around 1986, and the Montgomery family originally owned it,” Stewart said. “The oldest birthdate in the cemetery is Mary Cameron, born in 1783. This continues to be an active cemetery, and some of us here have reservations here.” 

Jim Woodrick, historical marker coordinator for Mississippi and a retired member of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, also spoke and talked about how deep the Montgomery Memorial Cemetery history goes. 

“This historical marker recognizes not just the significance of the cemetery, but to the development of this community as a whole,” Woodrick said. “When we unveil it, it will be the latest of more than 1,100 historical markers across Mississippi.” 

Woodrick said Leon Stewart and Elbert Hilliard, director emeritus of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, were driving forces behind the marker. 

He added the cemetery isn’t just a burial place, as it is also a place of history since the people buried there have rich and historic stories. 

“People buried here include Thomas Nicholson Jones, who was born in 1855 and died in 1920,” Woodrick said. “Not only was he the first president of the Bank of Madison, but he also purchased the dogtrot house in the village, and that house became known as the Montgomery House. There’s a marker there for it as well and it’s also a landmark.” 

“Another veteran buried here is Edward Potts, who was in the Fifth Missouri Infantry during the Civil War, and he liked this area so much that he moved here with his wife and raised a family of six children and lived well into the 20th century,” he said. “These are just a few of the many stories that can be told. They are all examples of those who have made a lasting contribution to this community and made it the place Madison is today.” 

Mayor Mary Hawkins-Butler credited Elbert Hilliard for educating her on the history of Madison. 

“How do we know where we’re going if we don’t know where we’ve been?” Hawkins-Butler said. “Mr. Hilliard talked to me about all of the history and the buildings and what we needed to do, and we wouldn’t have the Madison we do today if not for him. He gave me insight and courage during all of my battles and told me how important it is to preserve this community. He is my mentor, and God bless you.” 

Hawkins-Butler said the cemetery is sacred ground and it is an intricate part of Madison and the very fiber of what makes the community. 

“As we celebrate these sacred grounds, we know that our ancestors are not here, but with our Lord,” she said. “They have seen and are living all the promises that we know are real. And one day, we’ll join them at the gate. Until then, we will visit these sacred grounds and remember the impact they had. Thank you to all of you who have loved this community way before I knew anything about it.” 

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