By Natalie Covher
The American Cemetery came alive during the Natchitoches Historic Foundation’s Customs, Characters, and Crypts Tour Saturday, October 1.
Characters including Louis Juchereau de St. Denis, Dame D’Artigue, Susan Harling and many more told their stories and guided over 100 guests through the oldest cemetery in the Louisiana Purchase. Displays of mourning memorabilia featured many items including an antique embalming kit, hair jewelry and antique coffins.
Guides explained pre-Civil War traditions surrounding death and burial and shared some interesting old superstitions. Some superstitions mentioned are still around today; one should never wear anything new to a funeral, especially shoes; and if one spills salt, throw a pinch over your shoulder to prevent death. Some were lesser known like, if rain falls on a funeral procession, the deceased will go to heaven; a diamond-shaped fold in clean linen portends death; and that if you see yourself in a dream, death will follow.
New to the tour were NSU dancers dressed in white and wound with lights. They appeared as spirits and performed to ethereal music. A small child dressed in a pre-civil war dress skipped and played amongst the graves. In addition to NHF members, actors included students from the Louisiana School for Math, Science and the Arts.
The NHF will conduct a similar tour Wednesday, October 5 for Natchitoches Parish 8th grade history students. The NHF developed units aligned with the Louisiana State Social Studies Standards that will be given to participating teachers for use in 8th grade classrooms. Unit topics range from The Great Raft to Women in Natchitoches, as well as a unit focusing on the history of the American Cemetery and the persons interred there.