On Wednesday, October 23rd, fifteen members of the Jefferson Junior Historians gathered at Collins Academy to set out on an excursion to visit the historic African- American, Union Chapel and Cemetery at historic Smith’s Landing six river miles downstream of Jefferson. Collins Academy Director, Gary Endsley gave the students 5 tasks to complete while visiting the cemetery: To find the oldest marked grave, the earliest birth dated grave, the number of unknown graves, symbols inscribed on headstones and what those symbols may indicate, and lastly, to watch out for snakes.
The students were shown on a map an historic wagon cut road below the cemetery where area farmers drove heavy wagons laden with cotton and to old Smith’s Landing where the Black Cypress Bayou empties into the Big Cypress Bayou. The students enjoyed an afternoon snack before heading back into Jefferson.
Joshua Fultz and Eli Kendricks said they love getting to go out in the woods and look around. They enjoyed finding the very old grave sites and look forward to coming back to find more. They said, they suspect the open area of the cemetery to contain early enslaved people’s graves. Some were possibly without headstones while some were simply marked with rocks. “It was neat looking,” they said.