The interesting headstones and epitaphs in Mississippi’s Natchez City Cemetery teach visitors about the area’s pioneering families. The cemetery was established in 1822, at which time many bodies were moved from older burial grounds, including those on plantations. More or less curious local character are buried there, including the little Florence Irene Ford and the victims of a 1908 huge explosion, commemorated by the so-called Turning Angel.
However, there is one headstone that raises only questions, that of a woman locally known as “Louise the Unfortunate”. Her headstone bears no information other than her name, but legend has it she died during the reconstruction era just after the end of the Civil War. The only thing anyone knows for sure, thanks to that epitaph, is that her supposedly short life was not a happy one.
As story goes, Louise arrived in Natchez as a mail-order bride but couldn’t find her fiancé once she got to town. It’s not real clear where she came from, but New Orleans is mentioned as well as some cities in the distant north. She came here by steamboat, landing at Under-the-Hill, a very busy but rowdy section of Natchez.
It is said that Louise asked around for her fiancée, both around Under-the-Hill and in the more refined part of town on top of the hill.
At this point, however, the story gets a little fuzzy and goes in a couple of directions.
No one knows why the hypotetical fiancée never showed up to meet her, or even if he actually existed. Louise may have fallen victim to a scam, or he may have been in the crowd on the docks and changed his mind at the last minute.
Other stories say she learned that her fiancée had died she didn’t have enough money to pay for passage home, while some say Louise found her fiancée, but if so the story again spins into other two versions. One is that they had a severe falling out and the other is that Louise discovered that he was already married with another woman.
But, for some reason, Louise found herself stranded in Natchez with no place to go. Too proud to return home, she stayed in Natchez and found work as a seamstress and a maid. However, as time passed she became a “Woman of the Night” at one of the many brothels Under-the-Hill.
After a squalid life of prostitution in the seedy brothels, she died in her late twenties. It seems that a wealthy man who had once fancied her services, a doctor or a wealthy plantation owner depending on the story you hear, put up the money to cover her funeral expenses.
Whatever Louise’s story is she must have gained someone’s attention because she received more than most destitute people of the period, because she is buried with a tombstone, even though there is no date on the stone.
In any case, if this is possible, the story of her supposedly ghost is much more colorful. Some believe her ghost, seeking to avenge the injustices that led to her premature death, returned as the infamous Southern prostitute known as Molly Hatchet. Legend has it that Molly made her way across the south starting in the years after the Civil War. Strikingly beautiful, and with a body few men could resist, Molly used her good looks to lure men to her clutches, the same men that were known to lose their heads for her. Literally. Once in her chambers, she beheaded them with a hatchet.
Many Southerners that lived during the time of Molly Hatchet believed that she was a ghost, a demon of sorts, sent to punish the men of the South for their participation in the Civil War. Others felt that she was sent to punish men in general for the wickedness that existed in society during the Reconstruction years. No one knows for sure.
According to some, Louise the Unfortunate returned as Molly Hatchet to seek revenge for the injustices dealt to her by the men she crossed paths with in her short life. Yes, far-fetched. And Molly was really a ghost? We may never know. The only ones who can answer this question are the men who paid for her services, and for obvious reasons, they tell no tales…
Images from web – Google Research