TRIP: Locust Hill Cemetery, Pontotoc, MS and a new twin cousin

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After the amazingly unexpected mini family reunion on Sunday, my next stop was onto meet a newly found cousin. Our 3ggf’s were brothers. Ironically my ggf appears to have been named for hers. The naming tradition in this family is really creating headaches but I’m honored to learn about the man Howard felt so important he named his second son for. What I was about to experience though was incredible. This stranger I just met, and I felt instantly comfortable, even as if I’d known her for quite some time. (Disclaimer: we had been emailing back and forth for a short time beforehand). Her name is Monica and she was an incredible hostess, especially if anything Buchanan, Kelly & Pontotoc County was on your interest list. Her knowledge of the area, land, history, directions, even local cuisine, was well above expectations! Her lovely family was also very welcoming. Very honored to call them family!

Housekeeping: If you’re new, you’re highly encouraged to read (or at least peruse) this overview of the trip. These posts are out of order so the context won’t make sense until all of them are written. The TRIP series links at the bottom of each post are in the order of occurrence but as of the writing of this post, all the stops have not yet been written. Not to mention we’re now in a new year but these posts have been in draft mode, and I’ve since made a new trip to Tupelo & Pontotoc-even another quick visit with Monica & her hubby Les… and El Veracruz (hehe twice actually)! Let’s begin, shall we…

As we turned off the highway and made a right, this sign was right in the open, with those large pine behind it. The land while undeveloped, was lovely to look at. We are losing so much of “land” and building a world of buildings. I wish I’d grabbed more pictures. Next time for sure.

As we started on our way, she began giving me the land history of her John Franklin Buckhanan, hundreds of acres of their family land is still owned by them today. She showed me where he was reported to be buried and the story behind the location, even the level of commitment she was willing to go to in an attempt to have him moved. I admire Monica SO much! As we wound up the road, she stopped to show me the home he built for his family and the one down the road her family member (aunt if memory serves) had once lived in. Both are now uninhabited but even just seeing the homes, the land and driving on the half mooned drive, time stood still if only a moment. The experience was truly entrancing. What a vision John Franklin had, and love for his family. Think about it. That’s 6 generations, 8 if you count down to her grandchildren. He’s close to 200 years old. Our country just barely older than he. Very impressive.

As we continued, the theme of dogs would follow us the next few stops. First there was the beautiful white Great Pyrenees with big black seal eyes. The next were three, one who looked exactly like my youngest dog, who chased us a bit down the road. She warned me they would also visit us at the cemetery… and they did. Bless their hearts. Our next stop, Sherman Cemetery, oh my. First, the woman walking wearing earbuds not even knowing I was driving right beside her on the way in. Then as we left, a dog literally bit my rear tires then raced to the front of my car- in front of it- while I was driving. I was terrified I was going to hit him. Confession: this city girl isn’t used to country road dogs. But back to our drive up to Locust Hill Baptist Church cemetery.

There, around the turn, was the church sign and parking lot, with the cemetery to the left of the church, by facing. The sun was peaking just above the tree tops and the sky was beautifully blue. Monica even gave perfect stopping instructions so I could get this beautiful gate shot once I got out. I mean perfect. Brava Monica! It was gorgeous. Wait till you see the photo below of the church I sent her for private use, primarily as a thank you for the day. She named it and wished it to be shared with y’all. So generous.

The knowledge, history and care she has for this cemetery and church is incredible, especially given her young age. I was truly impressed. To have generations like this in one place, where you can touch things your 3ggf made, where they lived, a church he helped build and a cemetery your family are forever in rest, and you were “the one” chosen by the ancestors to share that history… to me that is amazing. Not all of us are that fortunate. Families move. Life takes us to places we never expect, but we need our roots to remain grounded. Many of us seek those roots with gusto. Monica is deeply grounded. And her love of this land, and family, was truly inspiring. I’m still so disappointed I had to bow out of our planned trip to the Pontotoc Library. But there will be so much to do when I come back. I can’t wait! (Spoiler alert: I made it to the Pontotoc library with Monica during my next trip in June).

As she gave me a tour of each stone, who her family was, history of the stones, I tried to keep up and grab photos as we went. I was soaking it in. I could have literally spent an afternoon just listening to her talk about each family and more of the church history. Her sincere care to ensure the markers were cared for, including the broken one below, was palpable and heartfelt.

Monica’s 2ggf. The spelling of the last name is such a conversation starter, and stopper. 😂 I would love to know why part of this line changed it to the k, and in this case double n’s. But fear not. They are our line (I have more than confirmed this via DNA).
Her 2ggm. Georgia Lessel.
How this broken stone is kept together, the way she handled it, ensuring no more damage would come to it. This photo was the epitome of her truly deeply rooted love of the land and the people below it. And to those like myself who want to know more than a few clicks on the computer.
If there are Long’s in cemeteries, I took photos.
Howard Pink (not Pinkney) Buchanan, the son of James William “Bill” and Ellen Devier (Kelly) Buchanan. Howard was named for my 2ggf, Howard Pinkney, who is Bill’s brother, making Howard Pink his nephew.
Ellen Kelly and Monica’s 3ggm, Harriett Holcomb are half sisters, via Nancy Allen. She md Bartholomew Kelly (Ellen’s father) and John Holcomb (Harriett’s). To say the Kelly’s & Holcomb’s are intertwined is the same as the Bryant’s and Dillard’s (which also intertwine with these other two lines. Following DNA trails in a nightmare!)

After we finished walking the cemetery, we went out to the parking lot and she started telling me the history of the church. How her John Franklin helped build the church ‘back in the day’. While she was inside with someone, I snapped a quick pic of the church, not realizing what an amazing shot I captured. It was truly a gorgeous day outside, and that sky. WOW. But the sun’s position was pure perfection. This is the gift to Monica she has gifted along to you, God wink.

Locust Hill Baptist Church
Title credit Monica: “God Wink”
photo credit: StonzNBonz ©2021

Next we traveled back down the winding road, getting a very good eyes view of the deep sides covered in Kudzu. Monica laughed, “no one would find you down there. The Kudzu would grow over and cover you completely. Car and all.” That gave me more reason to keep my eyes focused and the car on the road.

We then popped over to Sherman Cemetery. First, as we traveled near the entrance was a woman who was doing her daily power walking, complete with Air Pods. But she was in the middle of the narrow 2 lane road. Slowly I creeped behind her, trying to gain her attention without scaring her but thankfully she finally saw my large crossover and giggling in embarrassment, said “sorry, I was just out for my walk”. “no problem,” we replied as we were anxious to get to the Cemtery before we ran out of daylight (& Monica’s hubby & son called to say they were too starving to wait for us for supper!)

Monica knew this cemetery too, and walked me around to her kind and as I walked I noticed other names (& of course more Long’s) when from across the parking lot came our power walking friend. Monica spoke to her as they had many common acquaintances (& I believe family too, but it’s been a hot minute since I started this post). Sadly I learned there were other headstones I needed to visit but didn’t make it there on my last trip in July.

This post was started from my November trip and my first meeting with Monica. I’ve since been back, in July as you’ll soon see, and I was lucky enough to see Monica and Les again (El Veracruz of course). Monica and I also stole a few hours away at the Pontotoc Library in the genealogy section. (I haven’t got through the paperwork I copied yet).

After our adventures, we met her husband and son at a lovely Mexican restaurant which has become a must stop place I go every time I come. El Veracruz in Tupelo (1177 N Eason Blvd, Tupelo, MS 38804 (662-844-3690). I *highly* recommend the fajitas and table side guacamole! Monica recommends the margaritas! (I do too but had to drive so next time I’m getting a driver! 😂)

I am truly enjoying getting to know her, and her family- even when we have but a few minutes to spare. But I can’t wait till I’m there and we can go researching & graving much more frequently. I love hearing her family’s story, and seeing the land in which her stories unfolded upon.

Here’s to two John Franklin Buchanan’s & the dna that ties our blood as family. Cheers Monica!

And, in case you started with this post, there are more in this trip series. (And more still to come). Here they are so far.

TRIP overview, a first must read.

Old Rondo Cemetery, Texarkana, AR

Weatherbee Cemetery, Franklin County, AR

Potts Camp & Bethlehem Church Cemetery, Outside Potts Camp, MS

Guntown, MS

Trees of the cemetery: a combination of sites

6 thoughts on “TRIP: Locust Hill Cemetery, Pontotoc, MS and a new twin cousin

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