HISTORIC SANDFIELD CEMETERY

 

Historical Summary

Sandfield Cemetery was purchased from the Kirk family by the Town of Columbus
on 17 July 1854 as a buying ground for African Americans.  An ordinance of
28 July 1854 required African Americans, slave or free, to be buried only in this
cemetery.  After the war, Freedmen of Columbus continued honoring their dead
through burials in the cemetery.  Many of the persons buried in the cemetery do not
have gravestones or markers of any kind.  Those who do have headstones are
representative of a strong African American presence in Columbus’ history from
1865 to the 1950s.  There are no longer burials in the cemetery. 

 

Notable Persons Buried in Sandfield Cemetery

Robert Gleed Sr. – Robert Gleed Sr. immigrated to Columbus during the Civil War. 

Local residents believed him to be a runaway slave, but he would not give
the name of his owner and was thus sold to local planter John Miller per the
Mississippi runaway slave statute.  After the war, Gleed was appointed to
the Columbus city council by the military governor (1867-1872) and later
successfully ran for a term representing Lowndes County in the Mississippi
state senate (1870-1875).  Gleed operated many businesses in Columbus on
the northwest corner of Market Street (now Fifth Street) North and ???????
(now Second Avenue) North. The corner is still known today as “Gleed’s
Corner.”  Gleed was a founding director of the Penny Savings Bank, the first
and only African American owned and operated bank in Columbus.  For
political reasons and to protect himself and his family from racist backlash
because of his political prominence in the community, Gleed moved his
family to Texas.  After his death there, his body was transported to Columbus
for burial.  He is buried with his wife and two sons, Robert Gleed Jr. and
John Robert Gleed.

 

Jack Rabb – Jack Rabb was the slave of Dr. A. J. Rabb of Columbus who bought his

            freedom before the Civil War and continued to live in the Columbus area as

            a free man of color.  He began a barbershop business and ran a successful

            nursery business known as Temperance Garden or Rabb’s Garden, on the spot

where the Barrow school building is now.  He also owned and operated a

grocery store and liquor store.  His wife is buried next to him. 

 

J. M. Coleman – J. M. Coleman was the cashier of the Penny Savings Bank, the first

and only African American owned and operated bank in Columbus.  He was the
pastor of a local church and was the publisher of the Columbus Morning Star,
an African American newspaper, from 1906 to about 1914. He died in 1914.

 

Dr. Theodoric V. James – Theodoric V. James was the first known licensed medical

            doctor in Columbus, with his office in the building at 129 Market (now Fifth)

            Street North from around 1900 until 1939.  In 1939, James moved his office

            to Catfish Alley, the first block of Fourth Street south of Main Street.  He was

            the first African American in Columbus to purchase an automobile, a Model

            T Ford, though his social station did not allow him to drive the vehicle to

work.  He died in Columbus in 1917.  Today the Columbus Housing Authority
operates the T. V. James Housing Complex, named in his honor.

 

Richard D. Littlejohn – Richard Denthrift Littlejohn was born in a northern state

            and immigrated to Columbus in the 1880s.  He was active in local politics

            and his name appears many times from 1885 until 1903 in the minutes of the

            Columbus city council.  Littlejohn was a founding member of the local

African American masonic lodge and attained the rank of Grand Mason. He was the
publisher of The New Light, an African American newspaper, from 1887 until his
death in 1903. 

 

Simon Mitchell – Simon Mitchell was a former Lowndes County slave who served as

justice of the peace and as a Columbus police officer in the county during
Reconstruction. 

 

William Isaac Mitchell – W. I. Mitchell was born into slavery in 1855 in Columbus.

            He attended Alcorn Agricultural and Mechanical College (1872-1874) and

            received a bachelor of science from Central Mississippi College.  He began

            teaching at and later became the first African American principal of Union

            Academy, the first public school for African Americans in Mississippi.  He was

            co-founder and president of the Penny Savings Bank, the first and only

            African American owned and operated bank in Columbus.  He was a member of

            the Masons, the Knights of Pythias, and the Colored Independent Order of the

            Oddfellows.  He was a Sunday school teacher at Missionary Union Baptist

            Church and a member of the board of trustees of the Ministerial Institute and

College in West Point, Mississippi.  He died in 1916.  In 1924, the Columbus
school board named Mitchell Elementary School in his honor.