Lexington Odd Fellows Cemetery (LOFC), previously known as Odd Fellows Cemetery, is comprised of several conveyances of property; therefore, it is illustrative to trace those conveyances in order to understand its history. Prior to the formation of Odd Fellows Cemetery in 1851, the Independent Order of Odd Fellows (IOOF) chartered the B. S. Tappan Odd Fellows Lodge No. 22 on April 10, 1849, in Franklin, Mississippi.1 IOOF is, and was, a non-political and non-sectarian international fraternal order of Odd Fellowship.2 It was founded in 1819 by Thomas Wildey in Baltimore, Maryland, but had evolved from the Order of Odd Fellows founded in England during the 1700’s.3 The central idea behind the IOOF is that they will “visit the sick, relieve the distressed, bury the dead and educate the orphan.”4 In a time where there wasn’t much or any of an established healthcare system, one of the main goals of the IOOF in their beginning was to bury the dead. That mission is the reason that IOOF created so many of the cemeteries in the United States.
The first recorded deed pertaining to Odd Fellows Cemetery is dated November 1851 (exact date of execution left blank), by deed acknowledged on November 27, 1851, and recorded in Deed Book L at page 546 in the Holmes County Chancery Clerk’s Office. Benjamin T. Owen and wife Mary Owen conveyed what was the original section of today’s (2019) LOFC to “James M. McLean Noble Grand, + Joseph N. Spencer Vice Grand, & Abner V. Rowe Secretary of B. S. Tappan Lodge No. 22 of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, “and their successors in office forever.” In addition to the location of the subject parcel (“containing three acres & fifty seven hundredths”) within the confines of the fence as it is located today (2019), as depicted on the survey plat of the whole cemetery by Ronnie Chisholm completed in June 2018. This parcel served as the original cemetery is evidenced by the statement in the deed that the grantee “would make a cemetery on the lands hereunto to be conveyed, which condition has been fully complied with.”
On March 14, 1899, by deed recorded in Deed Book 18 at page 668, N. L. McLeod conveyed to the Town of Lexington a “parcel of land … to be used for cemetery purposes . . . on south side of the Grave Yard known as the Odd Fellows Cemetery, containing about two (2) acres.” Reference in the deed was made to a survey plat by J. W. Mercer, which could be the plat recorded in Deed Book 18 at page 307. On May 17, 1900, by deed recorded in Deed Book 19 at page 256, for the sum of $60.00, B. S. Noel and wife K. L. Noel conveyed to “the Town Council of Lexington, Miss.” that “tract of land … on the East side of the Lexington and Bowling Green Road West of and adjoining to the Cemetery Lot and North of the McLeod Place being that triangular piece of land East of the road used for hitching horses and leaving teams upon by those going to the Cemetery.”5 The acknowledgement was signed by J. B. Cunningham, Chancery Clerk, by J. E. Cunningham, Deputy Clerk.
Although within the confines of the Odd Fellows fence, the Jewish section of the cemetery is separately owned by Temple Beth El. On June 6, 1902, by deed recorded in Deed Book 20 at page 452, for the sum of $100.00, J. H. Watson and wife F. M. Watson conveyed to I. Flowers, Isadore Hyman, Sam Herrman, Morris Lewis, Abe Herrman, Sol Auerbach, S. J. Fisher and H. A. Rosenthal “as Trustees of the Hebrew Cemetery and to their successors in office” a parcel which is bounded on the west by Rockport Road (“Cemetery Street”). A copy of the plat of the Jewish cemetery is recorded at page 453 immediately behind said deed.
On September 28, 1945, by deed recorded in Deed Book 63 at page 5, for the sum of $279, Mrs. Belle Farmer, widow and sole surviving heir of I. B. Farmer, conveyed to the City of Lexington 3.72 acres of today’s cemetery, by metes and bounds, bounded on the west by the Lexington-Bowling Green Road, and on the north by the Jewish cemetery. Mrs. Farmer reserved the right to use as pasture whatever the City was not using for a cemetery, but it was understood that eventually the City would use it all for cemetery purposes.
Finally, on July 18, 1964, by deed recorded in Deed Book 99 at page 448, the City acquired the last portion of today’s Odd Fellows Cemetery. Jack B. Farmer and wife Doris N. Farmer, for the sum of $1,785, conveyed to the City of Lexington 5.1 acres lying south and east of the cemetery as it existed on that date. A plat of that conveyance is recorded with the deed, at page 450.
The City of Lexington decided in 2017 to cease operating and maintaining Odd Fellows Cemetery effective the end of 2018. Following the publication of that information, a group of concerned individuals with ties both to the City and to Odd Fellows Cemetery organized a new corporation, Lexington Odd Fellows Cemetery, Inc., which now owns the property, approximately 17 acres, less and except the portion owned by Temple Beth El, by virtue of a deed from the City dated July 10, 2018, and recorded in Deed Book 2018 at page 1891. The City of Lexington donated the subject property to Lexington Odd Fellows Cemetery, Inc., along with some $35,000 in accumulated funds set aside for cemetery maintenance. Lexington Odd Fellows Cemetery, Inc. has been officially approved by I.R.S. as a tax-exempt 501(c)(13) corporation, so all donations to it are tax-deductible.
5 See photo of old hitching post, which is still in existence.