One of the most visited grave markers in the Natchez City Cemetery is a statue commemorating the city's worst catastrophe and has come to be known as The Turning Angel.
The statue is such a landmark that it inspired the title of the novel “Turning Angel” by bestselling author Greg Iles.
On the evening of March 14, 1908 a plumber was called to investigate a gas leak at the Natchez Drug Company. Using a lit candle to determine the source (apparently, standard practice at the time), he found it in the basement.
The ensuing explosion claimed twelve lives, the Natchez Drug Company building and ten surrounding structures.
The local newspaper described it as such:
"The explosion tore away the rear wall of the building, which in falling crushed an adjoining tenement building. Immediately following the explosion the wreckage caught fire, a stiff wind which was blowing carrying huge sparks to the north and west, setting fire to eighteen residences, ten of which were destroyed. All business has been suspended and the city has been placed under martial law, with local companies of militia on duty. "
Eight employees lost their lives that night. Seven were girls. Four were teenagers. One was twelve (Mary E. Worth). The newspaper gently states they were "sent into eternity".
The owner of the drug company was so distraught that he paid to have this memorial erected.
On the reverse is the dedication to five of the employees that are buried here.
People say at night, as cars drive by, the angel's head turns to see who is passing.
The statue stirs emotions even today, as numerous visitors leave coins at the grave. Nobody could answer for us how, when or why this tradition started but the cemetery says the money is used for the care and upkeep of The Turning Angel and the graves of the children she watches over.
Rest in peace..