Compliments of Ann Mays Harlan
View of the cemetery from below the hill. From this view one must walk around to the other side of the hill to locate an easier climb up to the cemetery.
I called Ted Riser at 3:15 this afternoon when I arrived at the Holiday Inn. My brother Larry and I were invited to meet him at his home. When we arrived he asked us if we were ready for a hike. We walked from his house to the cemetery. This was quite a walk through the woods and brambles up and down steep inclines. Ted, his German Shepherd "Sandy" Larry and I made the hike.
Ann Mays Harlan, Webster Parish Sheriff Ted Riser and Sandy
The entire area is so overgrown with trees and brush a person has to know where to go to get there. The road mentioned in Wanda Head's book is no longer navigable by auto. Possibly a 4-wheeler might work. But walking (hiking) is the best way. It is not a SHORT or EASY hike. The cemetery cannot be seen from the road. The cemetery is fenced but one can no longer enter by a gate. You must go through the fence with someone holding it in such a manner for you to crawl through the wires. All the stones except two are totally destroyed. I was so dismayed to find the stone of Judge Richard M. Drew broken into several pieces, laying on the ground, and of course, covered with leaves and sticks.
Born Jun 26, 1822
Died July 11, 1850
His public and private virtues
Have survived his death and
Will endure when this dumb
Marble shall have faded
Richard Maxwell Drew was a son of Newett Drew, who came to the Overton area in 1818 and set up a store and grist mill where Cooley flows into Dorcheat. This was the lower landing, and a steamboat shop. I-20 cut thru the side of the cemetery and a dozer broke his stone while digging gravel. The family of Mr. Drew would like to buy this 1/10 acre so they can keep the cemetery up but it is not for sale at any price. The Police Jury would clean it up, but they would have to have ownership first.
RICHARD CLEVELAND DREW (According to John Agan's Images of Minden's , page 13) , was admitted to the Louisiana in 1872. The Drew family's legal tradition includes having had a family member on the bench since 1850, covering 1850. R. C. Drew served as district attorney, parish judge, and, eventually judge of the court of appeals.
HILANDE INGALSBY, born in Warren Couny, Pa. according to Clif Cardin. He may have been born 28 Aug 1838 This stone has had repair work done on it.
Lucien Bonnner, (d/o of Sarah A Reed & J. L. Bonner)
Sacred to the Memory of
H. S. Newman of Warren Co. Pa.
died August 1859 AE 39 yrs.
The sculptured marble- the according tomb Shall moldering perish- in the lapse of time; But with thy friends thy name shall live While memory lasts and pity has a tear.
Dr. Newman's tombstone showed up at Minden High School one day. No one knows how it got there. The Neighborhood Museum has it now. Now there are only two standing cemetery markers at Overton Cemetery. He was the doctor who treated Little Cordelia Remer. When he died they buried him beside her grave. We have never known which side. If you know e-mail MindenMemories@aol.com and tell us.
IN MEMORY of CORDELIA REMER
who departed this life
DECEMBER 14, 1856 & 7 YEARS AND 7 MONTHS
OVERTON CEMETERY is located 2.7 miles South of Minden, Webster Parish. Take Hwy. #7 South of Minden on private property. In 1951, Miss Reynolds social studies class was so interested in the Overton Cemetery she and a group of students hiked to the spot where the village once stood. They found the grave of little Cordelia Remer, the steamboat Captain's little seven-year old daughter who made the trip from New Orleans up the Mississippi, Red River, Loggy Bayou and Dorcheat to Overton. According to history, Cordelia died from bites of the mosquitoes. This was before medical science knew that malaria and yellow fever were caused by mosquitoes. The village of Overton and the old steamboat captain were heartbroken over little Cordelia's death. Dr. Newman who followed his little patient three years later in death is buried beside Cordelia. The old captain wanted to carry Cordelia's body to New Orleans to bury her beside her mother but could not do so as they did not have ways to preserve her body . The old Sea Captain buried her on the high hill at Overton. When his ship would travel thru he could see her grave as he passed by.
The stone of Cordelia Remer is still standing and has been repaired with concrete support to preserve it. Another stone, Hilande Ingalsby has also had this same repair work done on it, Dr. Newman's grave marker was missing. The cemetery has not been cared for over the years. Such a shame for this part of Minden's history.
When Overton was abandoned after the yellow fever epidemic of 1839 the parish seat was moved to Athens. Most of the inhabitants moved to Minden.
Thank you Sheriff Ted Riser and Ann Mays Harlan for this fantastic journey to Overton and the beautiful pictures.
By: John Agan, Webster Parish Historian, and columnist for the Minden Press-Herald
One standard feature of any school is one or more bookrooms. In them you can always find the expected items, plenty of textbooks, various classroom and office supplies, stored records, and tombstones. Yes, you read correctly, I did say tombstones.
Actually, that isn't a standard feature of a school bookroom, yet one bookroom at Minden High School did contain an actual tombstone a few years ago. Not only was the tombstone real, it was in fact historic, as one of the last physical remnants of an important Echo of Our Past, Minden's long-vanished sister community of Overton.
At the conclusion of this week's column, we will briefly discuss how a tombstone ended up in a school, but for now, here is part of the story of the tombstone and the nearly vanished Overton community and cemetery.
The settlement of Overton had its beginnings in about 1822, when Newitt Drew established a sawmill and a gristmill at the confluence of Cooley Creek and Dorcheat Bayou.
For more than a decade, Drew's location was the northern terminus of navigation on the Bayou and a business community grew up around the mill. Eventually, the town developed and became the Parish seat of old Claiborne Parish in 1836.
The village was named for the judge whose district sat there, John H. Overton. Overton beat out Charles Veeder's newly formed town of Minden in the competition for the parish seat.
Although the community was economically healthy, its physical location on low, swampy ground proved to be its undoing. On two different occasions,1839 and 1841, outbreaks of yellow fever or malaria struck the population. Some accounts place the death toll from these epidemics at more than 350.
It soon became clear that Overton's future as a community was limited because, as local historian Thomas Lorraine Campbell stated in a 1972 article,"the cemetery, on a hill about a quarter of a mile north and east of Overton, grew nearly as rapidly as the town."
As the population waned, Overton lost its status as parish seat to Athens in 1846, and by the end of the Civil War, almost all traces of the community were gone.
The site of Drew's enterprises, known as Minden Lower Landing, continued to flourish until the end of the steamboat era in the 1880s, but no one dared live on the unhealthy ground.
In fact, as Mrs. Campbell also mentioned, some bodies were even moved from the Overton Cemetery to the Minden Cemetery so family members would avoid the trip to the swampy site of the former village.
A Last Reminder
As the years passed, and gravel excavation created the "bar pits," the site of Overton was gradually swallowed up by the diggings.
Some local residents can recall seeing the piers that supported the old warehouses still standing near the bayou, but even those are gone today.
The last reminder of the lost town of Overton was its cemetery on the hill, but even it was not safe from destruction. Sections of the cemetery, which once contained dozens of graves, disappeared, either from the effects of commercial activity or from the wear and tear of time.
In addition, many of the graves had been unmarked as the bodies were buried with the haste necessary in a time of epidemic. By 1930, when local historian Dr. Luther Longino wrote his account of Overton's Cemetery, he found only three tombstones remaining in the graveyard: Cordelia Remer, Philander Inglesby, and Dr. H. S. Newman.
In 1971, Mrs. Campbell was able to view those same three markers, plus the stones of Lucian Olivai Bonner, daughter of J. L. and Sarah Reed Bonner, and Judge Richard M. Drew, son of Newitt Drew.
The Drew family plot, that once contained at least 4 graves, had been destroyed by either gravel digging or road construction years earlier, but family members had returned the only remaining marker, that of Richard Drew to the cemetery site.
In March 2001, Mike O'Rourke of Doyline inventoried the cemetery once again and found four of the five gravestones that were present in 1971 were still at the site, with only the bookroom stone missing from Mrs. Campbell's list. Our story will deal with the three graves Dr. Longino viewed in 1930.
All play a part in the story of the bookroom tombstone. The story of that stone is intertwined with one of the best-known accounts of Overton, the story of Cordelia Remer, recounted in local legend and first recorded by Longino.
Dr. Longino had the opportunity to talk with several residents who had been born or lived at one time in Overton, and they recounted this tragic story that he preserved for future generations. George R. Remer was a riverboat captain.
He piloted vessels on the Mississippi, up the Red River into Loggy Bayou, Lake Bistineau and eventually up Bayou Dorcheat, in those years when such navigation was possible. Remer invested in property and businesses in Overton and considered the village an unofficial home, even though he spent nearly all his time on the water and had a wife living in New Orleans.
In the early 1830s, the wife died, leaving Remer with a small daughter, Cordelia, who had been born in 1829 in New Orleans. After the death of Mrs. Remer, Cordelia lived with her father on his boat. While such an atmosphere might not seem proper to rear a child, Remer wanted to keep his daughter close, and had apparently sold his home in New Orleans.
We don't know how long this arrangement lasted, but little Cordelia probably enjoyed the exciting trips up from New Orleans on the Mississippi past Baton Rouge, into the Red River and past the growing town of Alexandria, and eventually to the end of the line at Overton.
In December 1836, Remer piloted his ship into port at Overton once again. However, this stop was not "business as usual."
Shortly before reaching Overton, Cordelia Remer had fallen ill with what has been reported to be a case of yellow fever.
Whatever the malady, by the time the vessel reached Overton, she was gravely ill. Dr. H. S. Newman, the village's physician was summoned to care for the little girl.
The doctor, who had received excellent medical training in his home state of Pennsylvania, did everything he could. Unfortunately, the disease was too far advanced and Cordelia was too weak.
She died on December 14, 1836, at the age of seven years and one month. With no way to preserve the body for the long trip to bury Cordelia by her mother in New Orleans, George Remer decided the child would be interred in Overton. Tradition says hers was the first grave in Overton Cemetery, and it was lovingly marked with a marble tombstone.
Although the marker has been disturbed several times over the years, it still remains on the old cemetery site, overlooking the bayou that the father and daughter traveled together. So it is not Cordelia's stone that can be found in the bookroom.
But what of Philander Inglesby and Dr. Newman, what were their stories, and why were they in this little village on the bayou. H.S. Newman had been born about 1805 in Warren County, Pennsylvania, along the northwestern border of Pennsylvania and New York.
The son of Jeremiah Newman, he was trained as a physician and by the mid 1820s settled in the county seat, also named Warren. Here he married Sarah Ditmars, daughter of a family that had moved into the area from New Jersey.
On July 30, 1827, while giving birth to their first child, Sarah Ditmars Newman died, along with the infant.
The heartbroken physician buried his little family in the Old Fifth Street Cemetery along the Conewango Creek in Warren. It seems the memories of his loss, combined with the opening of the new frontier to the west, sparked a westward move for H. S. Newman.
He most likely came down the Ohio River, into the Mississippi, then into the Red for the long trip that ended at Overton. Circumstantial evidence would indicate he brought as a traveling companion, Philander Inglesby, a younger son of one of the most prominent families in Warren. It seems too much of a coincidence that two residents of the same small Pennsylvania community ended up in Overton by chance. We know that Newman had reached Overton sometime between 1830 and 1836.
No doubt he was kept busy by the many outbreaks of disease that plagued the village. We can only guess that the tragic death of little Cordelia, and her burial near a small stream brought back memories to Dr. Newman of his own loss nearly 10 years earlier. Then on August 28, 1838, his friend Philander Inglesby, died at the age of 31. It seems likely that one of the mosquito borne diseases claimed Inglesby during that summer, and once again Newman faced a tragic loss.
Inglesby's tombstone, although showing the effect of years and many disruptions, is still on the site of the Overton Cemetery.
Dr. Newman only continued his medical practice in Overton for about one more year. On August 6, 1839, during what would have been the first great yellow fever epidemic at Overton, H. S. Newman was claimed by the diseases he had fought for the last few years.
He was buried there in the Overton Cemetery near his friend (probably from childhood), Philander Inglesby. The epitaph carved on Newman's tombstone was strangely prophetic of the fate of the Overton community and cemetery.
In 1972, Mrs. Campbell used that epitaph as the opening for her article in the North Louisiana Historical Journal. It read: "The sculptured marble, the according tomb shall moldering perish in the lapse of time; but with thy friends thy name shall live while memory lasts and pity has a tear. Peace to thy ashes forever rest in peace."
By 1971, the prediction about the stone was true, Mrs. Campbell found it dislodged from its base and propped against a tree. The base was lost, so the original spot of Newman's burial was lost to time.
Unfortunately, the monument of his memory seemed also to be lost, as no one in the local community, even by the time of Dr. Longino had any memory of Dr. Newman, other than his role in the death of Cordelia Remer.
In the summer of 2001, I received a phone call from Morris Busby, the Principal of Minden High School. He reported that he had a tombstone in one of his book rooms, and it belonged to a Dr. H. S. Newman.
That call started my research and led to this story. It is interesting to note that while Dr. Newman's final resting place was at one point disturbed by road construction, the construction of streets in Warren, Pennsylvania disturbed the graves of his wife and child. In 1863, a bridge was constructed over the Conewango Creek and the town expropriated the land occupied by the Old Fifth Street Cemetery, where Sarah Newman and her baby were buried. All the graves in that cemetery were moved to the Oakland Cemetery in Warren.
Now for a little bit of modern mystery we will return to the MHS bookroom. In 1971, Dr. Newman's tombstone was still on the site of the Overton Cemetery. In 2001, it was in a bookroom at Minden High School.
The question is when and how did it change locations. Today, the stone has been moved from the high school to a location where it can be preserved as a memory of the journey of Dr. H. S. Newman from Pennsylvania to Louisiana on to becoming a haunting Echo of Our Past.
John Agan is a local historian and adjunct instructor at Bossier Parish Community College. He also works in the Louisiana and Genealogy Section of the Webster Parish Library and is a published author. His column appears Fridays in the Minden Press-Herald.
I asked Ted about the rock house on the Crichton/Treat property. It is still standing and in good repair. The Chrichton family still uses the house for private family gatherings. The house has never been "lived in." It has always been the family "party house." It was built in 1932. Ted volunteered to take us on a tour on the entire 300 acres. I got pictures of the rock house, the rock boat house and some of the lake on the property. I ran our of film and Larry ran out of storage on my digital camera. My film and memory strip were in my car back at the Riser's home The entire acreage is well cared for and a beautiful place. What a great afternoon. Ann.
BOAT HOUSE: When Overton was abandoned after the yellow fever epidemic of 1839 the parish seat was moved to Athens. Most of the inhabitants moved to Minden.
Thank you Sheriff Ted Riser and Ann Mays Harlan for the fantastic journey to Overton and the beautiful pictures.
Webster Parish Centennial 1871 - 1971
Written by the Police Jury
Submitted by Ann Mays Harlan
FEBRUARY 26, 2011
Yesterday Drew White(son of Beth Drew White, MHS 1960) two of his fine young friends, and I made the long-awaited trek to the bluff of Overton Cemetery.
Two or three previous attempts were unsuccessful as the area now is fairly well overgrown. As Ann Mays Harlan mentioned in her wonderful story about the cemetery, the trek is interesting at the least and a challenge at best, physically.
The family's purpose for going to the cemetery was to bring back and get repaired the tombstone of Richard Maxwell Drew. That will be done and it will be placed in the Drew Plot in the Minden Cemetery. A new tombstone will be put in its place at Overton.
We took great pause in looking at the tombstone of little Cordelia Remer, buried at age 7 years one month. That is bothering me to the point of trying to get some professional restoration on that tombstone and of the others. There were many more graves in earlier times but the bulldozers managed to clear them off quite well with searching for gravel and building I-20. Most of those buried there died from Yellow Fever in the many epidemics that plagued the area.
The push now is, as Ann has mentioned, to have the police jury establish that hallowed ground as a memorial place. It is in fact the first cemetery of Overton. And, Overton was the first parish seat of Claiborne Parish(there was no Webster Parish at that time). The amount of land is miniscule, I estimate 1/20 of an acre, perhaps 40' by 50'.
My brother Richard has approached the owners of the land but things have not worked out in that regard.
If any of your readers have any interest in preserving the history of Overton it would be helpful for them to approach the Webster Parish Police Jury and let their feelings be heard.
I had heard of this cemetery my whole life.It now is the time for another attempt by my age group to work on this. In a few years, it will have to be the work of others.
(I am about to forward pictures, some or all you may already have)
Richard Maxwell Drew Tombstone Recovery Effort Feb 26, 2011
Lower half of R.M. Drew tombstone
This one gave us great pause - Memory of Cordelia Remer
3rd. full tombstone still present
One afternoon Ted
Riser gave Ann Harlan a tour of the cemetery. She asked him
about the rock house located on the Crichton/Treat property. The entire acreage
is well cared for and a beautiful place located on three hundred acres. They may
be the owners of the cemetery.
Dr. Newman's stone is in the Dorcheat Museum after it ended up in the book room at MHS during the 1980s. Hilande Ingalsby came south to Overton with Dr. Newman after Dr. Newman's wife and child(children?) died in Warren County, Pennsylvania. Many thanks to the Drew descendants for their efforts to save this cemetery. I know that they were the only ones who tried to do anything when the construction of I-20 devastated the cemetery and I surely hope Richard will be successful in his negotiations with the present owners so the small portion of the cemetery that remains can be preserved.
John Agan, Webster Parish Historian
I thought I read it was in a museum, I asked Richard about it and he said he did not know
Wonder if a replica should be made of that one and place back atop the bluff?
We are going to ask Judge Drew to take an active part in trying to have the police jury do something about the oldest cemetery in the parish seat of Claiborne Parish. Stay tuned.
Tom Carey, Class of 1965
One of her sisters was
Georgianna Remer, wife of John Andrew Jackson Inabnett
My MHS classmate was John Inabnett, presumably the Great(?Great) Grandson of J.A.J. Inabnett and Georgianna. (Henry was a few years ahead of Johnny at MHS)
George R. Remer (Abt. 1805-1869) Born in Oneida County, NY married Jane A.(last name unknown) of NY. (It is believed that his middle name is Richard).In 1837 he was in New Orleans,LA where at least one of his children was born. In April 1843 he purchased 79 acres in Section 10 of Claiborne Parish, LA..In the 1850 Census for Claiborne Parish, LA he is listed with his wife, mother and children. All children are listed as being born in LA. His mother is Elizabeth Remer (b. Abt. 1784). He is the father of Margaret A. (1837-) married James M. Jones in Bossier Parish, LA on 1/6/1857.; Georgianna (1838-before 1900) married on Sept.27, 1859 in Bossier Parish to John Andrew Jackson Inabnett (1834-1908)
Submitted by Dr. Tom Carey, Class of 1965
You were kind to send me an email address for Henry Inabnett but try as I can, it is no where today. There will be an Overton Cemetery gathering as mentioned on December 3, 2011 at approximately 11:45 A.M.A local Minister will be present to bless the sacred grounds. The R. M. Drew tombstone has been moved to old Minden Cemetery next to his son's resting site (R.C. Drew). But, a new one will be placed at Overton for the ages. I hope to pursue the same for the other broken ones there. I am trying to gather more information for the Minister on Cordelia Remer. The other child buried there was a great grandchild of R.M. Drew's sister, Jane Hays Drew, and there is little left but maybe enough to piece together. Cordelia's stone is in fairly good shape. In short, I am trying to reach Henry or any others of that family to gather information and to see if there is interest in restoration of the tombstone of Cordelia Remer, age 7, died 1856. Any help would be appreciated. Thank You Tom Carey, Class of 1965 318-548-9400 cell 318-513-9400 office 318-255-9432 home
(as found on Overton web site: www.overtonlouisiana.com)
The weather was nice and cool for the Overton 2 Gathering. Those in attendance in the picture, are from Left to Right:
Wade Ratcliff, Don Ratcliff, Sheriff Ted Riser, Joe Ratcliff, Hermann Ratcliff, Ann Mays Harlan, and Eddie McCoy. The group spent over an hour walking to the Overton Cemetery and looking over the site. Of significant importance was the fact, mentioned by Wade Ratcliff, that the creosote posts that are stabilizing the galvanized gate had been treated with the incision method using Penta. Since Penta was first produced by Monsanto in 1936, we now know that at least the posts and probably the gate attached to them were not the same ones mentioned by noted historians in and before 1930. Herman Ratcliff says that when he walked over the site in 1945-50, that there was no fence that he can recall and that he and his friends used to count the tombstones and the # was 8-10 that were vertical and several more that were flat.
Since Harold Barrett recalls a fence being in place in the mid 1930s, it is probable that the original fence in some manner fell into disrepair and disappeared to be replaced a good bit later. Wade Ratcliff feels that the galvanized gate attached to the post and anchored by a steel chain, is similar to those used in the 1950s. Perhaps the gate that exists now was placed by the excavation crews that destroyed the cemetery, that is left for further study. Richard Carey mentioned that there are barb wire experts who can generally date such wire. A small piece of the barb wire that surrounds the cemetery will be removed for dating. We will find out if the gate and fence are from the same period of time.
After walking to I-20 from the cemetery bluff, several of the attendees noted how the graves were visible from I-20 in the late 60s and early 70s. One could see them coming from the west as several recalled.
After viewing the cemetery area Sheriff Riser took the group to look at the nesting bald eagles, a regular occurrence for the past 19 years. Thank you Sheriff Ted Riser for being so much help. Please make plans to attend Overton Gathering 3 in December 2013.
Tom Carey, Ruston, LA
It is a work in progress, of course, and
one that was done just to keep the topic somewhere in the publics
mind. It was great to have a younger person, Wade Ratcliff
present. Hopefully the next generation will have at least a few
that might keep Overton alive and well. Richard and I talked
recently about a construction employee telling him how in 1959-60
one of the men got off his grader and slipped and fell into an
open grave. They were aware of many graves being present. All of
those would now be in very late 70s or early 80s.
Whether they would have any interest in coming forward is another
story. Please advise on anything else you want changed.
Obviously, the city council is frivolity, just something that
came to mind. Richard will be glad to shed the mayors
title. anyone interested will surely be added to the council
all of that will eventually pass on if we can get some other
interest and who knows, we might. This is for the three of us and
© 2012 Tom Carey
Richard Drew Carey
Caldwell Drew Colvin
Dr. Terry Ward
Judith Barrett Ward
Emily C. Lang
R. Greg Carey
Allyn Drew Barrett
Judge R. Harmon Drew, Jr.
R. Drew White
Harold BarrettTom Submitted by Tom Carey