Holly Springs is a small town that’s big on history, and boasts several homes from the past, as well as the historic Hill Crest Cemetery.
Deemed literally “one of the finest historic cemeteries in north Mississippi”, it was established in 1845, but some graves date back to 1838, suggesting that the grounds served as a burial ground prior to its official creation.
One of the most popular graves in the cemetery is that of Mittie Manning, the daughter of Van and Mary Manning.
The Mannings were a regular family living in Holly Springs during the late 19th-century.
Vannoy Hartrog “Van” Manning was a lawyer and former Confederate who arrived in Reconstruction Mississippi in the 1860s, while his wife, Mary Zilephro Wallace, was a local girl from a well-to-do family.
Van built a successful legal career and later served in the United States House of Representatives from 1877 to 1883.
Despite it seems all regular, his life was filled with personal tragedies.
In fact, in 1861, the Mannings lost their infant son, William. His death haunted Mary, who prayed that she would never have to bury another of her children.
Their daughter, Mittie Wilkins Manning was born in 1871 but, in the early spring of 1875, the four-year-old little girl became gravely ill from an unknown disease.
Van and Mary watched in horror as their little girl succumbed to the illness.
It was April 22, 1875, and also Mittie died.
Unable to come to terms with her loss, when it came time to bury her second child, Mary had a breakdown, and she refused to allow Van or anyone else to bury her beloved Mittie.
Eventually a compromise was made and Mittie Manning was buried in a sarcophagus, basically a stone coffin that sits aboveground.
But this did not fully console poor Mary, who wanted to be able to see the face of her daughter and thus, in the marble slab that covered the tomb, a sliding window was installed, allowing the destroyed woman to peer in and see her daughter’s face.
According to some local stories, as Mittie’s body began to decompose, Mary became insane from grief and refused to leave the grave.
Eventually, Van was forced to bury Mittie underground, but original slab with its window, was left in place.
The Manning family eventually left Holly Springs, leaving also the grave behind. Van died in 1892 at the age of 53, and he’s buried in Glenwood Cemetery, Washington, the same of Mary, who died on March 1907, at the age of 67.
In any case, over the next 150 years, the town of Holly Springs adopted Mittie Manning and her badly-deteriorated grave and, in 2020, a group of residents took matters into their own hands, cleaning and repairing the historic tomb.
The tomb can be found not far from the main gates to the cemetery located at the corner of Elder and Market Streets.
Images from web – Google Research