Cemetery in need: Descendants raise funds for maintenance

Published 7:00 am Saturday, May 30, 2015

The funds to maintain Turtleskin cemetery are depleting.  Photo by Cassandra Favre

The funds to maintain Turtleskin cemetery are depleting.
Photo by Cassandra Favre

In the early 1960s, several communities in South Mississippi were relocated when what is now known as the John C. Stennis Space Center was to be constructed in Hancock County.
Among those communities was Santa Rosa, which was located near where NASA’s north gate stands today.
Today, the Turtleskin Cemetery, which spans 10 acres in the center’s buffer zone, is one of the last remnants of the former community and funding for its maintenance is about to run out.
The cemetery is more than 100 years old and is home to 1,554 graves, Rosalind Dorr said. The cemetery was named after the Turtleskin Creek, which flows behind the grounds.
In 1996, when Hancock County Chancery Clerk Tim Kellar was elected, he discovered one of his duties was to act as custodian of the cemetery.
“Turtleskin was originally affiliated with the Corinth Baptist Church,” Kellar said. “During the 1960s, the church settled a lawsuit with the U.S. government and the cemetery was taken in as part of the buffer zone. The settlement money was placed into a fund, which was to be used for maintenance.”
Many of Dorr’s ancestors are buried at Turtleskin including her parents and grandparents.
“The earliest grave on record is that of an infant from November 23, 1814,” Dorr said. “Among those buried are relatives of local families from Picayune and Carriere, including the Ladners, Friersons, McQueens, Alsobrooks, Lees and Kellars.”
After Dorr and other concerned descendants from Pearl River and Hancock counties were informed of the depleting funds, they formed a group to decide the future of the cemetery.
The cost to maintain the cemetery is $3,000 per year, Kellar said. There are two options to continue the maintenance of the site.
“Either we find a way to raise the funds or petition the Hancock County Board of Supervisors to declare it a public cemetery and find the funding for maintenance,” Kellar said. “We are reaching out to people that have family members buried in Turtleskin.”
Kellar said Turtleskin was created as a place to bury members of the Corinth church and Santa Rosa community, so a committee needs to be formed to determine if people wishing to be buried there were tied to that community.
A cause of concern is that if funding is not found, the cemetery could fall into disrepair.
“I would like to visit my family member’s graves without having to walk through knee high grass,” Dorr said. “Maintaining this cemetery shows respect for our previous generations and I feel like it’s something we need to get done. There’s a lot of history in Turtleskin.”
Descendants of the Santa Rosa and Corinth Baptist Church communities interested in burial at Turtleskin may contact Kellar at 228-467-5406.
Donations can be mailed to Corinth Cemetery Fund, 152 Suite A, Bay St. Louis, MS 39520.
The group will be hosting a meeting Monday, June 1 beginning at 6 p.m. at The Plantation Bar and Grill, which is located at 217 S. Curran Ave. in Picayune.
“Please come to help decide the future of Turtleskin Cemetery,” Dorr said.

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