Tuesday, March 14, 2023

Turning Angel Statue of Natchez

It's said that the angel watching the graves of 5 young women in Natchez, Mississippi moves on its own. That it will turn and watch cars driving by. It's said to be most noticeable at night as headlights shine on it around the bend of the road. On June 23 2020 someone vandalized that statue rocking it back and forth until it fell off its pedestal estimating the damage to be $40,000. 

The story behind the deaths of the women start at the Corner of Main and South Union St. in Natchez,  where the Natchez Drug Company was. It was originally the Temple Opera House but was purchased by John H. Chambliss and made into the Natchez Drug Company. An accident will bestow the five-story building.

On March 14, 1908, a gas explosion caused the whole building to collapse. That morning workers of the company complained about a gas smell and a plumber, Sam Burns, arrived that afternoon to look for the leak. He had used a candle and searched the basement. The light from the candle would cause a gas explosion.

The shock from the explosion could be felt for several blocks, and buildings shook. Some even thought it was some sort of earthquake. A second and third explosion would follow crushing the adjoining buildings.

There were still people in the building and many would survive, but 9 people would lose their life. Those who lost their lives were Cleaveland Laub (25), Uriah Hoskins, Eliza Kitteringham, John Carkeet, Luella Booth (teenager), Mary “Lizzie” Worthy (12), Carrie O. Murray (22), Inez Netterville (teenager) and Ada White (teenager). 

None of the deaths were easy. Cleaveland a pharmacist for the Drug Company would be found under a mattress likely trying to protect himself from the flames that would eventually kill him. Uriah a carpenter working on the third floor died when he jumped out of the window to escape the fire. He had died from impacting the ground. Eliza and John were both bystanders who had died due to the explosion. John was standing in front of his own building and flying timbers would penetrate his legs later causing him to die in his home.

John Chambliss would feel guilty about the explosion and tried to share condolences with those who lost their loved ones. He would buy a lot in the Natchez Cemetary and pay for 5 of the girl's burials. Luella, Mary, Carrie, Inez, and Ada would be buried together. The tombstones would simply state their last names, but he would commission of a stone angel to watch over the young ladies. 

The Vintage News June 30, 2022

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