McLemore Cemetery

Trail Marker

Intersection of 6th Street & 16th Avenue, Meridian, MS

McLemore Cemetery is considered Meridian’s oldest cemetery and its oldest surviving historic site. It was founded by Richard McLemore, Meridian’s first permanent white settler, in 1839. In 1979, it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. In addition to McLemore, many victims of Meridian’s race riot of 1871 are believed to be buried here.

The story of the race riot is multifaceted, and it varies greatly depending on which account you consult. Even the official government inquiry into the events surrounding the riot is filled with conflicting testimony. However, a few facts are certain. The Civil War left Meridian devastated. Extreme poverty, along with the changing social and political roles of the Reconstruction era, led to an escalation in racial violence. In March of 1871, three Black men, Warren Tyler, William Clopton, and Aaron Moore, went to trial for making “inflammatory speeches” shortly before a fire broke out that destroyed much of Meridian’s business district. During the trial, shots erupted in the courtroom, and mob violence spilled out onto the streets. As a result, the presiding judge, two of the defendants, and as many as 30 others were killed.

The riot signaled the end of the Reconstruction era in Meridian, though the goals of Reconstruction were far from accomplished. It remains the bloodiest day in Meridian’s history, and it foreshadowed the racial tension and violence that were yet to come.

Directions to next marker (Newell Chapel CME): Take next right onto 11th Street and another right onto 17th Avenue, continue to 14th Street, turn right on 14th Street, continue to 13th Avenue, and turn left; marker immediately on right.

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