Nathan Beauregard drawing by Gary Tennant

A Walk

Amongst the


Part II

By Emily Hilliard

The cornerstone of the Shiloh MB Church

On Sunday October 9th, I once again visited Shiloh MB Church in Ashland. Though I had made the trip a few times the past few weeks, this time felt different, because this was the day I presented our case to mark the grave of Nathan Beauregard to the congregation. The night before, MZMF executive director Dr. DeWayne Moore had offered a few talking points. Yet, while driving to the church, I continued to go over in my mind what exactly I would say once in the church. 

The grave of Pearl Bogard
The grave of Pearl Bogard
The grave of Eliza Mason Bogard
The grave of Eliza Mason Bogard

As I pulled into the church parking lot, I thought about all the work we had done up to this point. All the research trips, the phone calls, the previous visits to the church–all of which had culminated to this moment–the moment I was finally given the chance to speak to the congregation face to face. I could not afford to mess it up.

To say I was a little anxious was an understatement. 
The grave Sister Freddie "Sis" Bogard
The grave Sister Freddie “Sis” Bogard

Walking into the church, I didn’t know what to expect. Up to this point I had only seen the outside of the building. As I made my way through the doors, I was taken aback. The church looked as if it had been preserved in a time capsule. The building, though old, had been very well maintained. I noticed the congregation was very small, which immediately made me stand out like a sore thumb.

Every member of the congregation knew one another. Even though they were very hospitable, as an outsider I felt that I really stuck out. Yet, from the moment I stepped into the church, I was treated like one of their own. As accepting as they were, I was not exactly sure how they might receive our request.
When the time finally came for me to speak, it was deathly quiet. You could have heard a pin drop, hit the floor, and crash around to a rumbling stop as I walked to the front of the building. Once I made it up to the front without falling down, I abruptly turned around to face the three dozen or so people in attendance that Sunday. I explained our mission at the Mount Zion Memorial Fund, and I emphasized our efforts to preserve the cultural heritage of African Americans in Mississippi. I told them that our work was about much more than blues music. Indeed, the music was more like a soundtrack to our historic preservation initiatives. I was well aware that I was standing on holy ground that afternoon, and I did not want to overemphasize our relationship with the blues–or, as some folks have called it, the Devil’s Music.
Nevertheless, I provided a brief biography of Nathan Beauregard, particularly about his family and their ties to the church. I also made sure to stress the importance of establishing our WebAtlas of historical sites related to African American history, and I explained how we could help digitize and preserve the important records of the church. By supporting our efforts to memorialize Nathan Beauregard, the church would also preserve its rich history and turn the adjacent cemetery into an international tourist destination.
Once I concluded my presentation, I breathed a sigh of relief as several members of the congregation graciously nodded in approval of my efforts.  I answered a few questions about the previous efforts of the Mt. Zion Memorial Fund, and I assured them that we planned to assist with the maintenance of the cemetery. We have never abandoned any of the 25 memorials erected to date. Since several deacons were not in attendance, however, I would have to wait to learn how well my speech had been received. Nevertheless, I walked outside the church that day with my head held high.

PART III – Coming Soon