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Sunday, November 11, 2007

Four cemetery tours of Fort Polk, Louisiana

Cemeteries, home sites revive memories

Guardian Staff Writer

In the late 1930s and early 1940s, with the United States preparing to go to war against Japan and Germany, a decision was made to use the southwestern portion of Louisiana for the training ground of a rapidly expanding Army. The Families who lived on those lands, many which had been there for generations, were told they had to move - either voluntarily or by legal process.

The Families who were moved off their land so that Fort Polk could be built were honored Nov. 3 at a Heritage Day ceremony that included the dedication of a memorial and trips to old home sites on the post.

Four cemetery tours were offered to areas of Fort Polk that were once inhabited by the Families of those honored on Heritage Day. The tours included:

-- Mill Creek and Haymon/Watson Cemetery tour which included the former site of a grist mill on the north central portion of Fort Polk;

-- Davis, Zion Hill and Hunt cemeteries, Whiskachitta School and Zion Hill Church sites, also on the northwestern portion of Fort Polk, which included the sites of an old school and church;

-- Holly Springs and Smith cemeteries and Jetertown, Swain's Mill and Six-Mile School sites on the northeastern portion of Fort Polk.

-- Peason Ridge, including Merritt Cemetery, an area that encompasses the extreme northern portion of Fort Polk.

Linda Moreau took the Mill Creek and Haymon/Watson Cemetery tour.

“I think it's nice,” Moreau said. “My mom and dad have always talked about the old homeplace, Mill Creek School and other areas out here.”

Moreau said her mother, who turns 84 next June, was excited about once again seeing the area where she grew up.

“She wants to see the old home place one more time,” Moreau, a descendant of the Haymon and McDaniel Families, said. “I'm excited to see it for the first time.

“Mom called at 10 last night and at 6:30 this morning to make sure I hadn't forgotten about it.”

During the Jetertown tour, a plaque was dedicated marking the location of the area.

As he fastened the final bolt holding the plaque, Frank Jeter, who once lived on the site, said he was moved by the ceremony and recognition given his Family.

“This means a lot to me, knowing that they haven't forgotten our Families and what we gave up,” Jeter said. “It brings it home to actually see it; it makes it real.”

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