Time has re-claimed one of the oldest cemeteries in Morehouse Parish, but the personal stories behind the site are being preserved for future generations.
“If we don't try to preserve what we know, it's lost,” said Davine Roberts of Jacksonville, Fla., who helped organize a gravesite marking ceremony last weekend for her ancestor, Morehouse Parish Confederate veteran Peter M. Moore.
Through genealogical research, the Moore descendants located and marked his final resting place in Kelly Cemetery, an all but forgotten burial site concealed in the woods north of Chemin-A-Haut State Park. Roberts said about 50 people – including Moore descendants from five different states and members of the Sons of Confederate Veterans and United Daughters of the Confederacy -- attended Saturday's marking ceremony.
“The path to the cemetery was too overgrown for vehicles, and not everyone was able to walk the quarter mile to [the cemetery],” she said. “So we decided the best place to have the ceremony was in the park, overlooking the water.”
As part of the ceremony, Roberts read a biography of Moore, who was born in Ouachita Parish in 1834 and was living in Morehouse as early as 1860. Having lost most of his family to a yellow fever epidemic in 1862, Moore enlisted in military service that year and served in Company F, known as the “Morehouse Stars,” of the celebrated 12th Louisiana Infantry. Moore returned to Bastrop after the war and fell victim to a second yellow fever epidemic in 1878, survived by only one of his children.
“We had a wonderful ceremony,” said Roberts. “It was a beautiful day and the location was beautiful. It was a very moving experience.”
She said the SCV and UDC members were “all decked out” in period dress, and served old-fashioned lemonade and tea cakes for refreshments.
Talking to the owner of the property where Kelly Cemetery is located, Roberts learned the cemetery once encompassed a large area and had mostly wooden grave markers dating back to as early as the 1850s, all of which have been lost to time. When Moore descendant Lisa Franklin of Houston visited the cemetery in December to place stone markers for the Moore family, she had to guess as their exact resting places.
“Except for one grave dating back to World War I, the forest has just claimed the cemetery,” said Roberts.
Participating in Saturday's ceremony were Sons of Confederate Veterans Capt. Thomas O. Benton Camp No. 1444 of Monroe, Maj. Thomas McGuire Camp No. 1714 of West Monroe and Lt. Elijah H. Ward Camp No. 1971 of Farmerville. The UDC chapters who participated were the Martha Reid Chapter 19 of Jacksonville, Fla., Col. John Milton Sandidge Chapter 2353 of Bastrop and Benton's Bell Battery 2672 of Monroe.
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While in Morehouse Parish over the weekend, Roberts also visited the grave of Moore's only surviving child, Jefferson Davis Moore, who is laid to rest at Causey Cemetery a few miles north of Chemin-A-Haut. Jefferson Davis Moore was born in 1861 and passed away in Bastrop in 1948.
The Moore descendants are currently doing DNA research to locate other relatives and to continue piecing together the historical-genealogical record.
“Every time you find something new, it leads to more questions,” said Roberts. “Personally, it's very important to me to preserve whatever past we can. If we don't, then we've lost our heritage.”