Natchez City Cemetery sits on the banks of the Mississippi River, with white tombstones neatly arranged on the green grass of Adams County.
It’s a quiet final resting place, and home to a handful of notable graves. One of these is the tomb of Rufus E. Case, a large three-tiered structure that contains both his body and his favorite rocking chair. It seems that his child, or maybe grandchild, had died before him and he wanted to be buried in his beloved rocking chair beside the child. To accommodate his wishes he was placed in his rocking chair next to the child’s grave, but above ground. Then a brick structure was built around Mr. Case and It is told that prior to the renovation, the bricks had crumbled very badly and if you had a flashlight you could look through cracks and see Mr. Case’s remains sitting in his rocking chair.
Another is the grave of Catherine Linton Minor (August 4, 1770 – July 9, 1844), the wife of Major Stephen Dunken Minor, the last Spanish Governor at Natchez, known as “The Yellow Duchess” because of her fondness for the color yellow. Everything she owned was yellow. Including her clothes, carriage and furniture. She even had a flower garden full of yellow roses and she also insisted that her horses be Palimonies and her slaves mulatto.
There is also the Turning Angel, a beautiful monument that overlook five headstones, each with the same date of death and appears to turn to look at people as they walk towards it, and the grave of a woman known as Louise the Unfortunate, but these are other stories.
However, the grave with the most peculiar and arguably most touching backstory is that of little Florence Irene Ford, one of the strangest graves anyone has ever seen and, above all, a stark display of the neverending love a mother has for her child.
When Florence died, at the age of only 10, her mother made a strange request: she asked that her daughter’s coffin be fitted with a small window, with stairs leading down to the coffin.
During her short life, Florence, born September 3, 1861, had a deep fear of thunderstorms. As soon as one rolled in, she’d rush to her mother, Ellen, who would patiently comfort her until the storm passed.
In 1871, Florence died of yellow fever. Her mother, naturally distraught, couldn’t bear the thought of Florence being buried, as she still wanted to comfort her during storms, even after her death. So Ellen devised a plan to allow her to continue to stay with her beloved daughter every time a thunderstorm darkened the skies.
She ordered a special coffin that contained a small glass window for viewing. Moreover, the grave dug for Florence contained an adjoining stairway that led down to the level of the coffin and workers installed a viewing window in the concrete wall at the bottom of the staircase that allowed her mother to see little Florence through the glass. Every time a thunderstorm approached, Florence’s mother would descend the stairs to be with her daughter during the storm. She also had hinged metal trapdoors installed at the top of the stairs so she could shut them during storms, protecting her from the wind and rain as she sat by her daughter’s coffin, reading or singing to her until the storm passed.
The grave has changed very little since 1871, and the epitaph on the gravestone is still easy to read: “As bright and affectionate a Daughter as ever God with His Image blest.” Behind the gravestone lie the metal trapdoors, which can still be opened today, so cemetery visitors can still comfort Florence during storms.
The only real change came with the addition of a concrete wall in the mid-1950s, after her mother died, erected at the bottom of the stairway to cover the glass window, preventing any potential acts of vandalism.
Local folklore has it that if no one descends the stairs to comfort Florence during a thunderstorm, her ghost will rise and wander the cemetery in search of her mother, and the comfort she so desperately needs…
Images from Web – Google Research