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Today is October 24, 2021

Coast cemetery tours bring legends to life

By Nancy Jo Maples

Coast cemetery tours bring legends to life

Skip and Betty St. Amant act as Marie DuPont Krebs and John B. “Celestine” DuPont, Jr. at the 2020 Krebs Cemetery tour. Photo by Nancy Jo Maples

Historical tales abound among souls resting in Griffin and Krebs cemeteries of Jackson County. Such stories come to life each fall with reenactments of deceased figures’ lives.

Progressive tours are put on by the Jackson County Historical Genealogical Society and local history buffs who organize the events, research the characters and act the parts wearing time-period costumes. Moss Point’s tour is its ninth; Pascagoula’s tour is its 15th.

The Historic Griffin Cemetery Tour in Moss Point will be Oct. 23. Tours are 9 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. starting on the hour and half-hour. Located at the west end of Dantzler Street, Griffin Cemetery has recorded burials since 1848 and indications exist of possible earlier interments.

Griffin’s tour always centers on Moss Point families. This year’s tour includes six presentations at gravesites depicting the lives of icons like Edward Khayat and his wife Eva. Khayat was an educator, banker, and 32-year member of the Jackson County Board of Supervisors. The Khayats will be portrayed by their grandchildren, Dr. Matt Murray and Deborah Frost Coulson. Another Moss Point figurehead to be represented is Frank Jefferson Hammond, Jr., depicted by Roy Lang. Well-known attorney Hammond was a World War II veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps. Tom Getz will play Marion McKay Evans, a former lieutenant governor. The Goleman and Rasmussen families will also be presented. Folk musicians, The Great Speckled Birds, will entertain, and local vendors will sell plants and pottery. Golf carts are available for those unable to walk the terrain.

The tour at Krebs is Oct. 28. A United Service Organization (USO) style show with costumed hostesses will kick off the event at 4:30 p.m. Cemetery tours run 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. beginning every 10 to 15 minutes. Located at 4602 Fort St., Pascagoula, Krebs Cemetery is the oldest active private family cemetery in the United States. Original tombstones date to 1820 with the marker of a 15-year-old girl written in French; however, burials are recorded for the cemetery as far back as the 1700s. The cemetery sits adjacent to the LaPoint-Krebs House. Dating back to 1757, the LPK House is the oldest, scientifically-confirmed standing structure in the Mississippi River Valley.

The Krebs tour theme changes yearly. This year’s portrayals will focus on World War II in keeping with Pascagoula’s current effort to become an American World War II Heritage City. In addition to contributions from citizens and veterans during wartime, the city’s shipbuilding enterprises supplied many of the nation’s war vessels. Warren Gautier will portray his father, Hermès Frederic Gautier, local draft board chairman. Richard Lucas and Tee McCovey will portray Army and Army Air Corps members Mason Gray Farrell and Leonelle Bonam. Farrell is buried at Krebs. Bonam, Pascagoula’s only Tuskegee Airman, is buried at Biloxi National Cemetery but grew up near Krebs Cemetery. Harold Gautier and his sister Mary Elizabeth Gautier Mahaffey will depict Skip and Bettie St. Amant. Both served in the Marine Corps and are buried at Krebs. Two sailors buried at Krebs, James Thomas Kell, and William English Nolan, Sr., will be portrayed by Scott Logan and Arthur Portas.

The Pascagoula event draws 200 to 500 guests; Moss Point’s tour draws more than 100. Admission is free to both. For more information on the Moss Point tour see its Facebook Page, Historic Griffin Cemetery Tour, or call 228-218-5239. For info about the Pascagoula tour, call 228-249-2697.

 

Award-winning journalist Nancy Jo Maples has been writing about Mississippi people and places for more than 30 years. Contact her at nancyjomaples@aol.com.

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