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Perhaps Shreveport's most celebrated madam, Annie McCune, is among Oakland's occupants.
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Adopt Me signage adorns a number of the grave sites.
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Some of the simpler monuments in need of repair and restoration.
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Son of a former slave, Dickerson Alphonse Smith, and his mother "reside" on the Christian Street side of the cemetery. He was Shreveport's first recognized black physician.
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Cast iron grave covers are a rarity. Oakland contains six of them.
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Local musical group Airheart performs music that the cemetery's inhabitants likely would have recognized.
Shreveport's oldest cemetery, Oakland, is the resting place of Shreveport’s pioneers and early prominent citizens. Established in 1847, it is located at the intersection of Milam Street and Grand Avenue on the edge of the business district. Oakland Cemetery got a major renovation this year and perhaps a program where individuals and/or businesses will help to protect and revitalize this landmark.
A new main road through the cemetery's center gives safer access while protecting historic sites and landscaping. Paving cover on the original "streets” encourages visitors to walk on firmer surfaces.
An upgraded security fence completely surrounds the venerable cemetery, increasing safety and lessening the likelihood of vandalism. A water system enables easier upkeep. A parking area for mobility impaired individuals and tree pruning/replacement plus new plantings resulted in a more park-like atmosphere.
Work began with a ground-breaking ceremony last February at the cemetery entrance attended by local dignitaries, but the real work did not begin until June, 2013. Oakland Cemetery officially re-opened two months ago in November when costumed "residents" Rufus Sewall, Annie McCune and Dickerson Alphonse Smith told their stories to visitors, and musicians performed music of the past century.
Although the cemetery is in far better shape than it was, there is still more work yet to be done. Gravesite markers have toppled, and some have become targets of mischief makers. Tombstone lettering on many have become indistinct. Heat and drought over the past few summers have damaged the turf as well as fixed vegetation.
The evidence of time and the forces of nature have made their effects known. Families of the deceased have died themselves or moved away. Relatively few descendants or other relatives regularly come to Oakland to clean around a family plot or bring flowers. Few with an intimate connection visit to notice whether the monuments have ceased to be truly vertical or if weeds are invading a specific enclosure.
The Adopt-A-Monument campaign attempts to remedy the loss of connectivity. In return for a pledge of specific amounts, individuals, families and/or clubs receive a photo of "their" gravestone and information about the deceased. As a “Friend of Oakland," they receive the Oakland Cemetery Preservation Society newsletter and updates, with adoption recognized on the Oakland Cemetery Web site.
-- By Lani Duke