Isaac L. Pennington Cemetery

Isaac L Pennington CemeteryThrough the efforts of NCHGS member Janelle Cox, the Isaac L. Pennington Cemetery was awarded a Certificate of Historical Significance by the Mississippi Department of Archives and History on October 30, 2002. This cemetery is located approximately 3.8 southeast of Decatur on Highway 503.

This designation allows for the upkeep and maintenance of the cemetery by the local Board of Supervisors, however, in the case of the Pennington Cemetery, it is most likely a moot point. The cemetery, last used as a burying ground by the Pennington family about 1890 and by the community about 1938, has long been in cultivation and the original stone markers destroyed.

Unfortunately, this is a tragedy that has repeated itself throughout the state. Under Mississippi law, the landowner has virtually exclusive use of his land, and the fact that a cemetery exists on his land provides no legal barrier to the land being used for other purposes.

In the early days of Newton County, thirty or more family cemeteries are believed to have existed in the county. The family cemetery provided a convenient place of burial for the deceased. Typically, the cemetery was located within visual and walking distance of the main house. This meant that the family could visit the cemetery on a daily basis of they desired. It also expedited burials, which were normally done within a twenty-four period following death. Stone markers were rarely used in those days, these being quite expensive. And, after all, everyone knew that Aunt Sallie was buried at the third fieldstone in the first row of graves.

Isaac L. Pennington and his wife Martha A. Humphries Pennington brought their family to this land from Attala County, Mississippi, in 1855. Isaac was a prosperous farmer, a leader in the Primitive Baptist Church, and in 1875 served in the Mississippi Legislature. Four of his sons became physicians and served other prominent roles in the county.

The family burying ground was located on a ridge north of their house and was likely first used with the death of a grandchild. It continued to be used by the family until the death of Isaac and his wife. By this time of Isaacs death, most of his family members had joined the Lebanon Primitive Baptist Church and chose to be buried in this cemetery.

The Pennington property was sold following the death of Isaac and his wife. Oscar Jones is believed to have been the first in a series of landowners. In a later sequence of events, and apparently after 1938, the cemetery was abandoned for burial purposes and converted to agricultural uses. It is believed to have been in cultivation about 1960 for cotton or corn with all grave markers being destroyed in the process. Currently, it is used as a hay field, but a house is being erected on the slope facing the road. Trees, which sprouted near some of the original graves, have provided only limited shelter to the graves, but do help identify the location of the cemetery.

A visual survey of the cemetery indicates the presence of perhaps as many as 35 graves. Black members of the community were also buried in the cemetery and were given a section, separated by a fence, and on the side of the cemetery facing Highway 503. The fence no longer exists. Stone markers that once existed and which were documented by Mae Dunagin Spivey in Mississippi Cemetery and Bible Records, Volume VI, 1955, are as follows:

Isaac L. Pennington (Father) 10/28/1810 1/17/1890
Martha Ann Humphries Pennington (Mother) 7/3/1816 7/1/1887
Isaac Milford Pennington, s/o O. A. J. &
Nancy Pennington 12/22/1867 10/14/1876
Martha Alma Pennington, d/o O. A. J. &
Nancy Pennington Dates illegible
Joseph Pennington, Infant s/o O. A. J. &
Nancy Pennington Dates illegible

According to the late Lois T. Strebeck, the following white families also used the cemetery for burials: Humphries, Scoggins, Williams, and Boatner.

Black families who buried there, according to Strebeck, used markers made of cedar. These included the original slaves of Isaac L. Pennington, in addition to Smith, Gallaspy, Norman, Rowzee, Johnson, Pace, and White family members. Specific burials given by Strebeck were those for Emma Norman, John Pace, and Mary White (with no death dates known).

The following black individuals are known to have been buried in Pennington Cemetery, as indicated on their Mississippi Death Certificate:

Autmon, Aaron #18436-1920

Black widowed male, farmer, age 68, born Mississippi. Wife: Hanna Autmon. Died on November 22, 1920 and buried on November 21, 1922 in Pennington Graveyard by neighbors. Parents: John Autmon and Mandy Autmon. Informant: Cap Rowzee. Attending physician: A. J. Pennington. Cause of death: unknown.

Blackwell, Eva #26485-1918

Black female, age 3 years and 4 months, born Newton County. Died November 1, 1918, and buried in Pennington Graveyard. Parents: Rube Rhodes and Minnie Blackwell. Cause of death: pneumonia.

Rowzee, Margaret #18437-1922

Black female, widow of Jack Rowzee, and age 70. Occupation: field work. Died on November 22, 1922 and buried on November 23, 1922 in Pennington Graveyard. Parents: Josh Day (born Mississippi) and Fillis Day (born South Carolina). Informant: Cap Rowzee. Undertaker: Terrel McMullan. Attending physician: A. J. Pennington. Cause of death: fibroid tumor in uterus, pressure

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