By Jessica Gorman
On Gladney Street in Minden, across from Victory Park, stands the Fuller-Murrell Cemetery. Because of the incorrectly installed wording on the entrance to the property, many people mistakenly believe that it is the Shrine Memorial Cemetery.
The Fuller-Murrell Cemetery is considered historically significant, as noted by the historical marker located in front of the cemetery. It is here that Isaac Murrell, born 20 March 1819 in Claiborne Parish, is buried. He was the son of some of the earliest settlers in this area and said to be the first child of European descent born in this part of Louisiana. However, this cemetery began as the Fuller family cemetery.
John Marshall Fuller, his wife, and four children moved to Minden about 1839. Three years later, the family cemetery was established when John’s wife, Sarah Frances, died. He was buried next to her in 1853. Other members of the Fuller family were buried here including Elizabeth Rebecca Fuller who married Isaac Murrell. And so, the cemetery became the Fuller-Murrell cemetery. The last burial in this cemetery was that of Geraldine Rebecca Harper in 1902.
According to the memoirs of Alice Murrell Colquitt, daughter of Isaac and Elizabeth Rebecca Murrell and wife of Texas governor Oscar B. Colquitt, the fence was put up around the family graves after her mother’s death in 1875 by her father and her uncle, Thomas Fuller. She also tells of the last time they cleaned the cemetery before moving to Texas in 1884. It was at this time that Alice wound through the fence the little oak tree that stood for so many years until it threatened the cemetery and had to be removed. Alice also tells of the cemetery being neglected and, in 1938, being vandalized by boys who liked to play in the area. She remembers several graves outside of the fence marked by large rocks. It is likely these rocks marked the graves of slaves. They were located between the fence and some cedar trees, but exactly where, we do not know.
In 1947, Alice was living in Shreveport with her sister Ettie. They came to Minden to visit Dr. Luther Longino who was, at the time, involved with the organization of the North Louisiana Memorial Shrine and Historical Association previously known as the Early Settlers and Pioneers Club. This group was officially incorporated in December 1947. The first Board of Directors was composed of Mrs. Alma Bright Fuller, President; Mrs. Lucille Martin Perryman, Vice-President; J.K. Gladney, Secretary-Treasurer; Dr. J. L. Longino; E. J. Kleinegger; C.C. Toland; and H.O. West. One goal of the association was to “preserve the burial plot in Minden which is known as the Fuller cemetery and to make it a shrine for North Louisiana.” The sisters agreed to donate the property. Among the plans were “to construct an entrance gate to the cemetery, and later to construct a building to house historical records of the early life of this area.”
In December 1947, construction of the brick posts of the entrance began. In June 1949, the cemetery was cleaned, fence painted, stones reset, site graded, and discussions were had concerning the lettering for the entrance and the installation of lights on the posts. When the lettering was finally installed, the wording was backwards, reading Shrine Memorial instead of Memorial Shrine. It was never corrected. The museum that they had hoped for was never built. In January 1972, in honor of Arbor Day, three dogwoods were planted on the north side of the cemetery by the Garden Club. In 1976, the cemetery was designated as a Bicentennial landmark by the Minden Business and Professional Women’s Club and the city.
Today, this cemetery stands as a reminder of the pioneer citizens of our community. The entrance, thought by some to be an indication of a much larger cemetery, is a reminder of Minden’s first historical association and their efforts to build a museum to preserve the history of the area.
If you’d like to learn more, stop by the Dorcheat Historical Association Museum and pick up a copy of These Stones Have a Story to Tell: Stories & History Beyond the Graves of the Fuller & Murrell Cemeteries.
(Jessica Gorman is the Assistant Director and Archivist for the Dorcheat Historical Association Museum in Minden and is an avid genealogist.)
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