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John Cole, my great grandfather, was born in County Longford, Ireland in 1820. By the time he was a young adult, and just prior to the Great Irish Famine of the early 1840s, he decided to join thousands of other Irishmen in search of a better life in America. Not only did John desire economic security, but more importantly, he wanted to escape the political instability in Ireland which was the result of restrictive laws imposed on the Irish people by England.
Once he attained US citizenship, John moved to Natchez and worked as a clerk in a mercantile establishment. Seven years later he owned stock in the business and was beginning to gain the financial security he sought. In another five years he was a full partner. John’s younger brother, James, had come from Longford to live in Natchez as well.
The first five years in Natchez were wracked with sadness and suffering for my great grandfather. He lost his first wife, Matilda Gordon Cole, a bride of only three months, her mother, and his young brother to the Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1853. He had the fever as well, but survived. In four years he re-married and within a year lost that bride as well. Rose Anna Meekham Cole died in childbirth as did the baby.
The obelisk which is the focal point of this burial plot memorializes Matilda (1st wife), her mother, Elizabeth, and Rose Anna (2nd wife). John wrote an epitaph for each woman and young James as well. . I am told that it is rare to see the name of Mary the Mother of Jesus on a grave in the cemetery. You can see that Elizabeth’s epitaph contains words from the Magnificat. In letters John later wrote to my great grandmother it is obvious that he had a great devotion to Mary. He especially loved Our Lady of Sorrows and our St. Mary Cathedral (now St. Mary Basilica) which is dedicated to her. [If you notice down here on the right side of the base, the obelisk was made here in Natchez by Natchez Marble Works.]
After Rose Anna’s death John, began a correspondence with Maria Garvey the younger sister of a County Longford friend. In January 1861…..four years after Rose Anna’s death, John and Maria were married in Longford and returned to Natchez shortly afterwards. Maria was twenty-three years of age and was nineteen years John’s junior. John and Maria had ten children……eight sons and two daughters. Four sons died as infants. [The four babies are buried here at these markers across from John and Maria]
My grandfather, William Henry Cole, was born in 1871, and was named for the Bishop of Natchez., William Henry Elder. He was the only child of John and Maria to marry. He married Carrie Schwartz in Natchez, April 15, 1903. They had three children: Williams Charles Cole, my father, James Avery Cole, and Carolyn Andrews Cole. My father married Edrie Scott Cole in 1935. I am Kate, their eldest child. I have two siblings….James Joseph Cole, who lives here in Natchez with his wife Ruth Scudamore Cole and another brother, William Charles Cole, Jr. (Billy) who lives in Paducah Kentucky.
When Bishop Richard O. Gerow had the sanctuary of St Mary Cathedral (now St. Mary Basilica) renovated in 1930, the communion rail and the steps leading up to the communion rail were donated by James J. Cole and Denis Aloysius Cole in memory of their parents, John and Maria, and their sister Rose Mary Cole.
My grandfather and grandmother, my father and mother, along with my father’s brother Avery and his wife, are buried in Old Catholic Plot 1 of this cemetery. Additionally, aside from the four babies buried here and my grandfather, whom I just mentioned, John and Maria’s other 5 children are buried in Plot Zurhellen 2