Dear Friends of LOFC,
The final sequel of Banks Shepherd’s remembrances of the Square elicited further memories of Marilyn Fincher Hathcock who recalled the following: “I remember horse troughs on every side of the Square near the courthouse so that while the riders shopped, they could water their horses. I also remember Miss Money, the librarian. She was so short that she had to sit on a Sears Roebuck catalogue to drive her car. It was a 1949 green Ford, and we always made sure we had our bikes off the road when we saw her coming.”
As we begin a new year, I am immensely grateful to Vivian Stephenson McDonagh for introducing seven new guest writers, who have shared memories of special people, family or friends buried in LOFC. Three of these contributions follow. As Vivian writes: “These stories highlight a diverse set of memories, some historical and others deeply personal, offering testimony reflecting far beyond the wrought iron gates, funeral urns and decorative angels that make Lexington Odd Fellows Cemetery a treasured place -- a place where memories come alive and remind us of the special people that touched our lives, both past and present. I selected writers from a diverse group, both male and female, young and young-at-heart, and all given the same directive -- to document their memories with someone buried in Lexington Odd Fellows Cemetery. These are their stories.”
The Mississippi legislature created Holmes County in 1833. At that time, Lexington was a small village of about 300 people. Although not incorporated until 1836, a group of men led by Haskell Barrett applied to the Grand Lodge of Mississippi in Natchez for the right to form a Masonic Lodge. On January 7, 1835, Haskell Barrett and others received the charter, establishing a Masonic Lodge in Lexington. Haskell served as the first Master of Lexington Masonic Lodge No. 24 F&AM. He was also elected Worshipful Master for the years 1836 - 1839 and 1941-1942. Haskell died suddenly on January 29, 1842 and was interred in a plot of land acquired by the Masonic Lodge northeast of Lexington. Placed on this plot was a concrete slab with the name “MASONS.” The plot was reserved for any Mason in good standing who choose to be buried there. Mr. Barrett's tomb stone simply reads: Haskell Barrett, Died Jan. 29, 1942, First Master of Lexington Lodge No. 24 F&AM 1935. There is no date of birth nor mention of any family.
Shortly thereafter, other families began using this area as a cemetery and arrangements made with the Odd Fellows chapter in Greenwood to maintain the cemetery. The cemetery known as Odd Fellows acquired land several times over the years, and today LOFC has approximately 17 acres and over 3000 graves.
Other prominent Masons buried in LOFC include Paul H. Murphy who served as Grand Master of Mississippi in 1922-23, Ephraim Cohen who served 2 terms as Grand High Priest of Mississippi (1943-44) and Robert T. Kimbrough who was Honorary Grand Master in 1947.
LOFC continues to grow, and it all started with the burial of Haskell Barrett in 1842.
Tombstone of Haskell Barrett
Philip R. Cohen, born 1937 in Lexington, graduated from Lexington High School and later received a degree from Tulane University. He served as an officer in both the Mississippi and Texas National Guards. In 1964 Phil moved to Texas where he worked as a stockbroker for over ten years before returning to Lexington to take over a family business. He is married to Sally Stein from Greenville, and they have three children and three grandchildren. In 2017 Phil closed Cohen's Dept. Store, which had served Holmes County for over 117 years and was the last Jewish owned store on the Square. Phil and his wife Sally continue to reside in Lexington.
Mary Jane and Leath began their lives in 1955. According to Marion Johnson (Mrs. Ray), my mother, and Doris Ellison (Mrs. Billy), Jeannette Dunn (Mrs. Olin) had a big bridge party at her home in Lexington. After playing bridge for a while, Faye Nichols (Mrs. Louie Beall) announced she was going to have a baby in July. My mama spoke up and said she was too. Mama always said Faye beat her telling the baby news FIRST, but Leath was born on July 15, 1955, and Mary Jane was born on July 26, 1955, so Leath beat Mary Jane in being born FIRST!
From babies through college, Mary Jane and Leath shared many fun times together, common friends, and activities. There are few people who can say they attended kindergarten through college together. The Greenwood Christmas Parade, Mississippi State Fair, Brownies, swimming at the Lexington Country Club, Mrs. Ellison’s kindergarten, Lexington Elementary, Central Holmes Academy, Cruger-Tchula Academy, and Mississippi State University are just a few common memories and activities Mary Jane and Leath shared.
Leath spent many nights with Mary Jane. In high school when everyone had braces and retainers, Leath wrapped her retainer in a piece of toilet paper by the sink. Mary Jane came along and instinctively threw the toilet paper with retainer in the toilet! Shrieks followed and Faye came running to find out what was wrong. Silver lining -- Faye’s house was the best place to have a retainer in the toilet as she was an excellent housekeeper, and it had to be the cleanest toilet in Lexington!
Mary Jane was the FIRST to enter the gates of Odd Fellows Cemetery where she is buried next to Mimi and Pip. Leath will follow Mary Jane to the rolling hills of Odd Fellows Cemetery one day where she will be buried in the Johnson/Stigler plot in the older part of the cemetery along with her Johnson and Stigler relatives. Mary Jane will be on one hill and Leath will be across the cemetery on another hill -- back together and resting in Odd Fellows Cemetery.
Mary Jane and Leath celebrating milestones
Second row: Donna Barlow, Leath, Barbara Stephenson.
Marion Leath Johnson, known as Leath, was born in Greenwood, Mississippi and is the only child of the late Ray and Marion Johnson. Leath lived in Lexington from birth through college and has lived in Oxford, Columbus, Jackson and Greenwood. Leath currently lives in Tupelo. Leath graduated from Mississippi State University with a double major in history and political science in December 1977. She furthered her education by obtaining a degree in accounting from Mississippi University for Women in August 1985. Leath was a Certified Public Accountant working in both public and private accounting in the automotive and long-term healthcare industries for twenty-five years. She retired in 2016. Leath is married to Guy Tate Conway, and they enjoy traveling, flower gardening and photography.
After the war, he married Mary Camille Hampton and farmed at Bowling Green until the family moved to Lexington around the turn of the century. He served one term as treasurer of Holmes County. Somehow, after the war, he managed to avoid signing the Oath of Allegiance to the Union, a fact that pleased him in later life.
Four of his eight children are buried in Odd Fellows: Catherine Moore Moss (1867-1950), Laura Moore Hammett (1878-1946), Joseph Hampton Moore (1881-1950) and Mattie Dean Moore (1884-1951). He is the great-grandfather of Harold Hammett, Jr., Gwenda Kellum, Sandra Brett (deceased), Laura Atkinson, Fran Sowisdral, Sara Lynn Bloodworth, and Maureen Moore Stone, among others.
Jamie Tate Moore is a fifth generation Holmes Countian. A graduate of Mississippi University for Women and Mississippi College, she is a former high school English teacher and Chancery Clerk of Holmes County. She has always been interested in Holmes County history and genealogy.
As the Board reflects upon this past year, it is with grateful thanks to all of you who generously supported it with treasure and talents. We have come a long way since we assumed ownership of Odd Fellows Cemetery in July 2018 by forming a 501(c)13 corporation known as Lexington Odd Fellows Cemetery, Inc. Our goal continues to be the creation of an endowment fund to provide for the maintenance and preservation of the cemetery in perpetuity. It is an ambitious goal, but with your continued help, we will reach our goal. If you have not made a tax-deductible donation to LOFC, please consider doing so. At present some twenty persons are sustaining members of the Maintenance Club by giving monthly via our website. It is a “painless” way of giving, so please consider becoming a member. The purpose of the Maintenance Club is to have sufficient donations that provide for the monthly expenditures of LOFC without having to invade the endowment fund.
Next month in addition to our monthly meeting the Board will have its annual meeting. Since COVID-19 and its continuing variants entered our lives, we have been meeting via Zoom. I am pleased to report that after a few technological glitches, we all seem to be quite comfortable using the platform and are grateful that we can continue the work that we do.
The Board joins me in sending best wishes for your health and safety in 2022.
Amanda Povall Tailyour, Editor
We appreciate your support and could not operate without your generous gifts.
To Donate Online:
To Donate by Check:
Mail your tax-deductible check to
Lexington Odd Fellows Cemetery, Inc.
PO Box 1213
Lexington, MS 39095-1213