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The Old Catholic Cemetery, previously known as the Stone Street Cemetery, is a historic graveyard dating back to the mid-1850s. During the 1830s there became a rising need for graveyards within the city of Mobile due to a string of yellow fever epidemics. Bishop Michael Portier established the graveyard in 1848 after purchasing several acres of land on the northside of Stone street, now named Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. The cemetery is built in a circular plan, the design is similar to cemeteries of the time in Portier’s home country of France and is an extremely rare design in the US. A notable element at the center of the cemetery is a monument dedicated to two Sisters of Charity who perished while caring for those afflicted with yellow fever in 1853. Surrounding the monument is a plot of land that contains the graves of 60 Sisters of Charity. Beyond members of faith being buried here, there are a number of Confederate soldiers buried here.

Image of Old Catholic Cemetery as it appeared in 2008

Image of Old Catholic Cemetery as it appeared in 2008

Established on December 18 1848 by Bishop Michael Portier, this cemetery serves as a final resting place for Roman Catholic Mobile citizens. The cemetery is the second Catholic graveyard in Mobile, with the original being located in downtown Mobile around the Cathedral. As the city grew there was a rising need for graves and by the 1840s the Catholic population in Mobile had risen past 5,000. To facilitate a new cemetery Portier purchased land on the north side of Stone Street, now named Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., and west of Three Mile Creek. As part of the caretaker agreement for the land, the caretaker responsible was given permission to sell liquor from the premises but only in quantities smaller than a “demijohn”, demijohn being a large jug. The caretaker agreement was to allow for the caretaker to make extra wages while being unable to set up a full liquor store on the site.

The design of the graveyard alongside the high amount of graveyard statues and art contribute to the graveyard’s historic value. The circular design that is in the center of the cemetery is a design that is rare along the Gulf Coast. The plan itself while rare is similar to cemeteries in Portier and designer Cluade Beroujon’s home country of France. Key in the plan are three concentric rings of graves that make up the bulk of the old cemetery with a square plot taking up the center of the rings. At the very center of the cemetery lie the graves of the Daughters of Charity, members of the faith who assisted in managing the City Hospital during the yellow fever Epidemics. Several of them died of yellow fever and are commemorated here with a monument depicting two Daughters of Charity.

Notable among those buried in the cemetery is wealthy slave ship owner Timothy Meaher. Meaher was, among other actions, responsible for delivering the last illegal shipment of African slaves aboard the Clotilde in 1859. Meaher lost the Clotilde when the crew scuttled it after being discovered by the navy, abandoning it in the Mobile River.

Other notable members of Mobile society buried here are Admiral Raphael Semmes, a Confederate naval officer and captain of the commerce raider CSS Alabama. Also buried here is Father Abram Ryan, a poet-priest of the Confederacy. 

In 1866 more land was purchased by Bishop John Quinlan to the east to expand the now full cemetery. This was the last major expansion of the cemetery with smaller expansions occurring in 1903, 1910, and 1921. The Old Catholic Cemetery would see use until the 1940s when, in 1948, the New Catholic Cemetery opened on what was still available of the 1866 purchase. After years of disuse, the cemetery saw increased maintenance in the 70s and 80s and was eventually added to the National Register of Historic Places on July 3rd, 1991.

Brown, Tilmon. About Catholic Cemetery of Mobile, Catholic Cemeteries, Inc.. Accessed November 11th 2020.

“Demijohn.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 11 Nov. 2020.

Sledge, John. Stone Street Cemetery, National Register of Historic Places. July 3rd 1991. Accessed November 11th 2020.

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