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Biloxi Mississippi Walking Tour
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In 2005, Hurricane Katrina destroyed the Moran Art Studio that stood on top of an important historical site, which is now a memorial garden. Called the Moran Site after the studio, it is the second oldest known French Colonial cemetery in the country. The site dates back to the early 1720s. At that time, the Biloxi area was a staging ground from which Europeans (and African slaves) would be relocated inland in an effort to settle what was then part of the French Louisiana Colony. In total, around 32 individuals were discovered here. Most of them were male and all of them were probably from Europe. The site is next to the Biloxi Visitor Center and features interpretive panels, historical markers, and a statue depicting a weeping angel in the center. It appears that the individuals were reburied here in 2013.

Sky, Plant, Tree, Land lot

Plant, Sky, Cloud, Leaf

From 1534 to 1763, France claimed la large swath of North America that stretched from the Gulf of Mexico to Newfoundland, which is now a part of Canada. This territory was called New France and the Louisiana Colony was one of its districts. In order to solidify its hold in the region, France made a large-scale attempt at settling Europeans in the colony in the early 1720s. Thousands from France, Switzerland, and Germany made the journey across the Atlantic during this period (African slaves were brought as well). At the time, Biloxi (it was called New Biloxi at the time), was not really a settled community since it was a temporary staging area. As a result, many settlers died from disease and malnutrition as they waited to be relocated. The individuals who were buried in the Moran Site were among the hundreds who died here.

Moran Site had long been known to be a burial ground before Hurricane Katrina. Human remains were first discovered in 1914 but who they belonged to were not determined until 1969 when Hurricane Camille revealed more remains. Archaeological excavations uncovered 12 burials. The excavations conducted after Hurricane Katrina in 2005 found 20 more. Two of this group were buried in coffins while the rest were wrapped in shrouds. The relatively short stature of the individuals (an average of 5'4" for the males and 5'0" for the females) and other health indicators point periods of stunted growth during childhood. These signs suggest that these individuals came from lower class populations in Europe. The exact causes of death of these individuals died is unknown. They died before skeletal lesions caused by the effects of starvation or disease could form on on their bones. In terms of artifacts, few were uncovered. These included a crucifix, two shell buttons, and three shroud pins. Archaeologists believe this indicates that the other belongings of these individuals were given to others.

It appears that the Moran family started living and working at the site in 1952. The father, Joe Moran, was the grandson of George Ohr, who is considered to be the "Father of American pottery" (the Ohr-O'keefe Museum of Art here in Biloxi is co-named after him). The Moran Art Studio was moved to Ocean Springs after Hurricane Katrina. Before the studio was destroyed, some skeletal remains were visible to the public through a plexiglass window inside the studio. The memorial garden was dedicated in 2017.

"Archaeological Findings." The Historical Marker Database. Accessed February 8, 2021. https://www.hmdb.org/m.asp?m=102261.

Danforth, Marie Elaine et al. "Archaeological and Bioarchaeological Investigations of the French Colonial Cemetery at the Moran Site (22HR511), Harrison County, Mississippi." The Mississippi Department of Marine Resources. July 2013. https://www.academia.edu/27320452/Archaeological_and_Bioarchaeological_Investigations_of_the_French_Colonial_Cemetery_at_the_Moran_Site_22HR511_Harrison_County_Mississippi.

"Moran Site." The Historical Marker Database. Accessed February 8, 2021. https://www.hmdb.org/m.asp?m=68448.

"The Moran Site History." The Historical Marker Database. Accessed February 8, 2021. https://www.hmdb.org/m.asp?m=102257.

Perez, Mary. "Biloxi dedicates French Colonial Cemetery Park, oldest French cemetery in South." SunHerald. May 30, 2017. https://www.sunherald.com/news/local/counties/harrison-county/article153404839.html.

"Reburial of French Colonial Remains in Biloxi, Mississippi." The University of Southern Mississippi School of Social Science and Global Studies. Accessed February 8, 2021. https://www.usm.edu/social-science-global-studies/gallery/reburial-french-colonial-remains-biloxi-mississippi.php.

Image Sources(Click to expand)

Both images via The Historical Marker Database.