In the 1850s, the first Episcopal Church was built here by Elizabeth Lott Martin Faircloth. During this era, Vernon Parish had not yet been founded. The site where Elizabeth Chapel was located was in Rapides Parish. Present day Vernon Parish was then part of Natchitoches, Sabine, and Rapides Parishes and would not come into existence until 1871. Many of the first elected officials of present-day Vernon Parish are buried at Elizabeth Chapel Cemetery.
Cemeteries are great historical resources
because they are reminders of settlement patterns. Additionally, cemeteries are informational
resources about historic events, religions, and genealogy. Headstones serve as a listing of local citizens
and show the unique population of a town. Cemeteries are commonly a peaceful
place in which loved ones can reflect on memories of the deceased. Many historic cemeteries are found in western
Louisiana. While several of these
cemeteries are easily accessible, some of them are not. Elizabeth Chapel Cemetery is one of the
easily accessible and significant historical landmarks in Vernon Parish. At this cemetery, the first Episcopal Chapel
was built in the 1850s, and the oldest graves date back to the 1860s. Elizabeth
Chapel Cemetery has existed longer than Vernon Parish, and is the site where
many first-elected Vernon Parish officials were buried.
Elizabeth Chapel Cemetery, located
north of Leesville on Jackson Road, is a quiet and neatly kept site, surrounded
by pine and cedar trees. When one
approaches the entrance, there is a marker that describes the history of the
cemetery, as well as the church and the school that were once located there.
During the 1850s, the first Episcopal Chapel was built by Elizabeth Lott Martin
Faircloth at the Elizabeth Chapel Cemetery.
Present day Vernon Parish was not established until 1871; therefore, the
chapel was in Rapides Parish. Vernon Parish was still a part of Natchitoches,
Sabine, and Rapides Parishes. 1
Vernon Parish was founded in 1803 due
to the “Neutral Strip.” After France
sold its territory to America, tension rose between Spain and the United
States. Spain argued that its territory
reached all the way to the Arroyo Hondo.
The United States believed that its territory should reach to the Sabine
River. As a result, there was a large
strip of land left claimed by both countries.
Leaving the quarrel to their governments, General James Wilkinson, in command of American forces, and Lieutenant
Colonel Simón de Herrera, commanding for Spain, agreed that neither
side would allow settlers or a military expedition into the uncertain
land. This land became known as the
“Neutral Strip,” or “No Man’s Land.” 2 Nevertheless, a variety of
settlers, such as runaway slaves, criminals, and deserters from both armies,
moved into the area. For sixteen years,
crowds of highwaymen caused travel through the area to be dangerous. As a result, settlers avoided the area. 3
However, the Transcontinental Treaty of 1819 defined the western limits of the
Louisiana Purchase, and people built new settlements. By 1871, the population in the area had
grown, so John R. Smart, who had served in the Louisiana House and Senate
before and after the Civil War, introduced the act to establish Vernon Parish
from parts of Natchitoches, Rapides, and Sabine Parishes. 4
Elizabeth Chapel Cemetery graves
date back to the 1860s. In this
cemetery, many of the first elected officials of Vernon Parish and Rapides
Parish are buried. 5 For example, Sheriff William H. Moore, who
served with Company D 1st Louisiana Cavalry is buried there. Moore entered the Confederate Army as a
private, and during the war was promoted to corporal. After his unit disbanded in March of 1865,
Moore returned home, where he was elected sheriff of the new parish and became
the chief law enforcement officer. Moore and many of his family members are
buried at the Elizabeth Chapel Cemetery. 6 Dr. Wiley Kaufman
Faircloth is also buried at this cemetery.
Faircloth was an assistant surgeon in the Confederate army and continued
to practice medicine in the Leesville area until his death in 1911. 7
Visiting Elizabeth Chapel
Cemetery is a wonderful opportunity to learn about how Vernon Parish was
established. Additionally, many of the
parish’s first elected officials who contributed to developing the community
are buried there. The cemetery is in a quiet,
well-kept area, and is easily accessible. Established before the parish, the
cemetery remains significant to many members of present-day Vernon Parish.