A Walk Amongst
By Emily Hilliard
It All Comes Full Circle
The work of the Mt. Zion Memorial Fund has become more arduous in recent years, and our campaign to mark the grave of Nathan Beauregard demonstrates the truth behind this statement. Not only did this project take several years, requiring a great deal of research to uncover the facts behind his death and burial, but it also witnessed the debilitating impact of the Covid-19 epidemic on the African American community, and it required numerous visits to the city of Ashland to walk the cemetery and determine the proper location to install the marker. In addition, I endured a host of setbacks in my attempts to contact and establish a relationship with the congregation at Shiloh Missionary Baptist (MB) Church. You might say that storm clouds hovered over the project from the beginning, always threatening to unleash a torrent of rainfall, inundating us and stopping us in our tracks.
Thankfully, we persevered after countless hours of research, hundreds of miles of travel, so many phone calls, and numerous discussions with the congregation. Perhaps it was the fact that we encountered so many obstacles along the way that made the installation of the memorial on January 8, 2023 so satisfying.
And it was satisfying. This project–so many years in the making–finally came full circle.
All Hands on Deck
Dr. Moore woke up early that morning, picked up the headstone in Arcola (at the home of master stonemason Alan Orlicek), and drove to Water Valley to pick up MZMF fiscal agent Corey Crowder, who provided digging tools for the project. Then he drove to my house in Oxford, and we secured some cleaning supplies and water needed for the installation. On our way out of town, we met up with Abdul Ajibola, and he got into our vehicle to ride almost two hours to Benton County. Our spirits were high on the drive north through Holly Springs, and the excitement was palpable when my colleagues and I arrived at Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church.
Having taken years of hard work to reach this point, we wanted everything to go smoothly at least once. Dr. Moore drove his vehicle through the cemetery along a worn path right up to the location of the marker. Abdul pulled out the shovel and other implements of internment, and each of us took a turn breaking the earth that holds forever close the remains of Nathan Beauregard. His grave is located beside Rose Beaugard’s grave, which sits directly behind the church and served as the model for the new memorial.
All hands were on deck when it came to installation.
We had arrived early to install the marker and cover it respectfully. Yet, not long after we started installing the headstone, New York filmmaker Augusta Palmer arrived with a family member, carrying a bouquet of flowers to place on the grave. Shiloh MB Church member Verdie Cathey also arrived prior to the official start time to check out the installation process. Miss Cathey played a very instrumental role as our liaison to the deacons of the church. Had it not been for her kind disposition and diligent service to the congregation, we might very well have not succeeded in our efforts. We appreciate her willingness to work with us on this project.
Thank you so much Miss Cathey for contributing to the memorialization effort at Shiloh MB Church.
Over the next thirty minutes, we smiled as Memphian Tom Claypool (who previously attended the dedication of the Charlie Burse memorial in 2019) arrived with his wife. It was refreshing to welcome supporters all the way from Tennessee in rural Benton County. Although we did not expect a huge turnout at the church, especially since the members of Shiloh MB Church planned to organize a more lavish dedication ceremony at a later date, we gratefully welcomed everyone who attended the small ceremony.
Indeed, the size of the crowd did not take away from the importance of why we were there. Dr. Moore and Dr. Ajibola installed the marker admirably, and once it was in the ground and covered with the official MZMF shroud, which has been at every single dedication event since 1990, everyone was ecstatic.
In the film “Good Mornin’ Blues”
Respect for a Blues Legend
Nathan Beauregard departed from this earth on May 25, 1970. His remains were carried back to his hometown of Ashland for burial alongside the remains of his family. In the final years preceding his death, he made an indelible imprint on the Memphis blues community, particularly on the blues revivalists who “discovered” his talents, recorded them for posterity, and gave him the opportunity to perform in front of so many blues enthusiasts at the Memphis Country Blues Festivals.
It took over fifty years to install a proper memorial on the grave of Nathan Beauregard. It took almost five years for the Mt. Zion Memorial Fund to complete its ethical process of memorialization, but thanks to the vision of Dr. Augusta Palmer, the diligent work ethic of Dr. Moore and his research team, and the organization’s dedication to responsible community engagement, the grave of Nathan Beauregard is marked forevermore and serves as a boon for the preservation of the cemetery at Shiloh MB Church.