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Update on Cemetery Restoration Project

peter-hutchins-marsalisRestoration of the Marsalis cemetery is very close to being completed. In August of this year, we hired the Brookhaven Monument Company, Inc. to place stones on the graves of Peter Hutchins Marsalis, Mary Magdaline Gordon Marsalis, John Henry Marsalis, Mary Marsalis, Phoebe Marsalis Dickey and Robert Brown Dickey, which was completed on October 30th (Pictures attached). This was made possible by several generous donations from family members.

Wicker Engineering & Surveying Services, Inc., who did the original survey, will be updating the survey to include three of these names which we did not have at the time of the survey.

We have two more projects to bring the restoration to a total and final conclusion. We need to have a brick mason rebuild the two small brick vaults of the children John Henry and Mary Marsalis at a cost of approximately $1400.00, when funds are available. We also need to place some kind of very inexpensive marker on the remaining graves identifying the buried ancestor in each as “Unknown”. These graves were located and are shown on the survey,

It would be good if these two last things could be accomplished before we set a date for the dedication service.

Mayor of Ripley, Mississippi

chris-marsalisIt’s not every day that one of the Marsalis “clan” not only enters the field of politics but wins his first time out.  Chris Marsalis was elected mayor of Ripley , Mississippi in March of 2012.  He was raised in Vicksburg, Mississippi and after graduation he entered the University of Mississippi in Ripley, MS where he graduated with a B.A. degree in Education.  He settled in Ripley and taught physics, biology, and technology at Ripley High School for six years.  He left the teaching field to enter into communications with Dixie-Net as a partner in their management team and continued there for fourteen years.  During that time he established and owns Marbiz Corp which is involved in outdoor furniture manufacturing and technical services consulting.  Some of his furniture was shown in the August 2010 edition of Better Homes & Gardens.

Chris is married and has three children and two grandchildren.  He is past president of the Ripley Rotary Club, past chairman of Ripley’s Historic Preservation Commission, past chairman of Ripley’s Zoning Board, and current board member of Koons Care, Inc. and Tippah County Good Samaritan Center, Inc.  He is also a current lay leader of Ripley First United Methodist Church.

Chris and his dad were the first volunteers at the Marsalis Cemetery.  They arrived with chain saws, axes, and weed killer.  Wielding the chain saw, Chris attacked the over-grown wooded area that the cemetery had become and made a substantial dent in the existing tangle.  The cemetery project would not be where it is today without the initial work of Chris and his dad.

Chris’ lineage is as follows:

John Christopher Marsalis     4 July 1966 –
Richard Lynn Marsalis     27 December 1940 –
Luther Calvin Marsalis, Jr.     25 December 1916 – 29 July 1972
Luther Calvin Marsalis     19 January 1888 – 29 July 1957
Ephraim Ezra Marsalis     8 January 1855 – 23 February 1947
James Enoch Marsalis     14 February 1828 – 27 July 1915
Ephraim Marsalis    21 October 1807 – 19 December 1883
Peter Hutchins Marsalis     1774 – July 1846

Michael Davidson Scottish-trained Master Stone Mason

During February of this year my cousin, Tommy Wixon, and I began looking for a brick mason to rebuild two of the four brick vaults within the Marsalis Cemetery.  Since we weren’t very successful, Tommy contacted the Mississippi Department of Archives and History in Jackson, Mississippi for possible suggestions.  They provided us with the name of Michael Davidson who turns out to be a Scottish-trained master brick mason conservator.  After visiting the cemetery he agreed to do the work.  He not only rebuilt two of the vaults but also repaired the broken tombstones and reset them at the proper graves.  Pictures of his work are attached.  Visitors to the cemetery have been very impressed with the work as have we.  I would personally recommend Michael to anyone interested in historical preservation and restoration.

Several examples of Michael’s prior work are as follows:
1.  Renovation projects at the Louvre Museum in Paris, France.
2.  Cathedral of St. John the Devine in New York City.
3.  Salem Witch Museum in Salem, Massachusetts.

Michael’s contact information is as follows:
Address:  P.O. Box 873
Eupora, MS
Telephone:  1-662-552-0084

Progress Resport on Cemetery Restoration Project

cemetery-restorationWe are beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel.   Since January 2011, we have cleared the site, with the help of  the Sons of the Confederate Veterans, and completely enclosed the site with chain link fencing.  All of the graves have been surveyed.  If anyone would like a copy of the plat, it will be made available to interested parties.  This year we have had two of the brick vaults rebuilt, the sunken graves have been filled and broken headstones repaired and put back in place.  There are no stones for the graves of Peter Hutchins and Mary Magdeline Marsalis, John Henry and Mary Marsalis (children of  James and Dorcas Marsalis) and Robert Brown and Phoebe Marsalis Dickey,  and will have  to be purchased.  We have had several donations toward the purchase of stones but we are still in need of monies to complete the final plans of the cemetery.  We have had some very generous donations in the past, however,  with the cost of fencing, surveying, and vault and stone repair the coffers are very low.  Any contributions toward the purchase of the stones will be greatly appreciated.

Pictures showing the original condition of the cemetery prior to starting the project were placed on the web page sometime ago.  Pictures showing the condition as of the middle of May 2012 are attached with this progress report.  The cemetery is to be visited this Monday, June 18, 2012, and additional pictures will be posted upon our return which will show the repaired headstones.

A dedication will be held once the heat of the summer is over.  Information regarding the dedication will be posted on the web page.


Peter H. Marsalis 1840 land grant

hutchinssmallThe search into the Marsalis family was begun over 70 years ago by Mrs Lillie Saxman and has been continued by Tempe Crosby, William Carroll Marsalis, and Tommy Wixon.  William Carroll Marsalis has gone so far as to writing two books which have been published under the title of “The Marsalis Chronicles”.  These chronicles follow the Marsalis family from Holland in the 1600’s to New Jersey and then into Mississippi in the early 1800”s.  One of the questions that baffled all of them was the middle name of Peter H. Marsalis, who was the progenitor of the southern Marsalis’.  All of those involved in the research felt that his name was either Harman, being Dutch, or Hutchins.  The name Hutchins was the name favored for the following reasons:

Peter’s grand mother’s name was Hannah Hutchins.
Peter’s great uncle Thomas Hutchins, the First Geographer General of the United States, surveyed areas throughout the southern states and later settled in the Natchez area.
Peter, was an Indian interpretor, trail blazer, and Mississippi boatman.  Whenever he was in the Natchez area he ofter stayed with his other great uncle, Anthony Hutchins, who owned and operated a 1000 acre plantation called White Apple Village outside of Natchez.  In fact, this great uncle was instrumental in provided him with job opportunities, acquiring land, and eventually settling in the area.

Sharon Marsalis, wife of Michael Marsalis, has taken up the research mantle of Mrs. Saxman and Crosby and is continuing their endeavors.  A month ago while perusing Ancestry she came across the original 1840 land grant of Peter H. Marsalis, which very clearly stated that Peter’s middle name is Hutchins.  See copy.

With that solved, researchers are now looking for the

Gordon Ardis Marsalis, Sr. Obituary

Gordon Marsalis

Gordon Marsalis

Gordon Ardis Marsalis, Sr.
Services for prominent Shreveporter, Gordon Ardis Marsalis, Sr., 88 will be held at 11:00 a.m. Saturday, September 26, 2009, at St. Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral. Officiating will The Very Reverend Doctor Jacob W. Owensby, Dr. James D. Boyd will be verging. Inurnment  will be held in the Columbarium at St. Mark’s following the service. Visitation will be held at Rose-Neath Funeral Home, on Marshall St., from 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. on Friday, September 25, 2009  Click to View Full Obituary

Bill Marsalis and Tommy Wixon Revisit Marsalis Cemetery

Tommy Wixon and Bill Marsalis revisited Liberty, MS on June 21st to continue Marsalis research at the court house.  While there, they met Mickal Corkran, who is the executor to “Coot” Andrews the present owner of the property upon which the Marsalis cemetery is located.  During their conversation Mr. Corkran told them how happy he was that someone was concerned about caring for the cemetery and agreed to provide them with a notarized affidavit granting them permission to enter the property.  Since their meeting, they have heard that Mr. Corkran might know the location of a picture of the original Marsalis house.

The next day, June 23rd, Tommy and Bill met at the cemetery with five members of Stockdale Cape #1681 Sons of Confederate Veterans.  The purpose of the meeting was for possible assistance from their group with the cemetery clean up project.  After looking at the site, Joe and James Abbott, Chuck Fredrick, Bill Simmons, and Leroy Spring all agreed that the clean up would be doable for them and that the project would be put up for discussion at their July meeting.

Bill and Lynn Marsalis had planned to continue with the clean up at the cemetery on the 24th but Lynn became ill and the heat was too oppressive to consider further work and therefore was placed on hold.

2009 Marsalis Family Reunion

The 2009 Marsalis reunion was held at the Covenant United Methodist Church in Lafayette, LA on June 6th. Forty – three people attended, which was a light turnout compared to the two previous reunions. We had “cousin” from NC, AL, TX, and LA. Carla Ashbey (daughter of Carl Marsalis) and her husband Lewis hosted the reunion and saw to the food and all other preparations. Sharon Marsalis (wife of Mike Marsalis), one of our experts on the Marsalis family, had a number of family documents on display. Bill Marsalis gave a short presentation regarding the Marsalis cemetery restoration project. Chip Marsalis said that he needed a rest from the job of reunion organizing and that someone else would need to pick-up the mantle for the coming year.

Marsalis DNA Sites

The new Marsalis DNA project is underway. Pass the word to any MALE with the last nmae of Marsalis or a variant spelled version. Details will be available at and Bill is already signed up for a 65 marker test (HOORAY!!) and Mike for a 37 + mother’s . Even if you don’t choose to participate you can watch the results and read the pedigrees and patriarchs posted.. You can also learn a lot at the two sites. If you do test at anytime be sure you do it through “Marsalis” at Family Tree. They will give you a discounted price and automatically enter you in the Marsalis page (or at least I will). Also once we are really up and running be sure to give your line of descent by the guidelines listed or email me and I will do it. I volunteered to be the administrator. Incidentally there is a great price through the 24 th.

More info from letters

When I first started researching Marsalis genealogy Tempe Fenn Crosby sent me a copy of a letter written in 1958 by May Fredricks Toney an early researcher and the daughter of Letha Ann Marsalis Fredricks daughter of James E. Marsalis (1821-1882)and a granddaughter of Peter H. and Mary Magdalene Gordon Marsalis. In part it says: “On Grandma Marsalis’ place (Amite, MS) there was a shed where dry oak bark was stacked high to be used for starting fires in the fireplaces. One morning ‘Grandma Marsalis’ went out before day light to get bark. She told mama: ‘The stars were falling!’ What a mystery that was to me as a child and heard mama tell about what ‘Grandma Marsalis’ told (saw). Since I grew up I have read that our earth passed through the tail of a comet about the year 1833. I am sure this was the time that ‘Grandma Marsalis’ believed that the stars were falling.” Mary Magdalene (Polly) Gordon Marsalis lived from 1784 to 1862. ……………………… Quote: The first report of a Leonids meteor storm was in 902 AD by Chinese astronomers who reported “Stars fell like rain”……. In more modern times Displays have been seen in 1799, 1833, 1866, 1966. The 1799 Storm was observed from Europe and South America. The storm vanished in the following years but gained strength again in 1831, 1832 and 1833. Between Nov12-13 1832 huge storms were observed …. An observer in Boston estimated a rate of 9000 meteors in 15 minutes! There was more to come however. In 1833, the following year, there would be another storm, probably the most dramatic ever seen. Huge displays were seen above the USA. Accounts from the time report that people fainted believing that the world was ending and dawn would bring the start of doomsday….