The Mississippi Gulf Coast has a rich and deep history, but did you know that the oldest known French Colonial Cemetery in the South, and second oldest in the United States, can be found right here in Biloxi?
The French Colonial Garden, also known as the Moran Site, is the resting place to approximately thirty-two French Colonial settlers from the 1700s that were discovered there. Located near the present-day Biloxi Lighthouse and Visitors Center, human remains were found after Hurricane Camille in 1969 during foundation repair to the damaged Moran Art Studio that stood there. Local archaeologists, under the direction of Dale Greenwell, identified twelve burials whose remains belonged to settlers in France’s colony of "Nouveau Bilocxy.” The burials were left in place, but the public could view some of them through a plexiglass window placed in the floor of the studio.
After Hurricane Katrina devastated the Moran Art Studio in 2005, archaeological and bio-archaeological exploration took place until 2012 by Dr. Marie Danforth, professor of anthropology at the University of Southern Mississippi, and her students. Discovering twenty more burials, it brought the total number to thirty-two. Most of the individuals were young adult males, with only two females present. Two of the individuals were buried in coffins, the rest were buried in shrouds.
The French Colonial settlers were re-interred to their original resting ground on December 20, 2013, with a rose garden being planted. The French inspired garden, designed by Allred Architects and Christian Preus Landscape Architecture, can be entered via three different entrances. Paying tribute to the settlers that are buried on site, the garden is a place where you can relax for a few moments of reflection, or spend an entire afternoon.
The MS Gulf Coast National Heritage Area delivered a Weeping Angel carved from Carrera Marble by an Italian sculptor to reside over the garden in March of last year. They will be back on site discussing the significance of the memorial garden during the Spring Pilgrimage event on April 4, 2018 from 9:00 am until noon.
Visit the French Colonial Memorial Garden and Weeping Angel at 1050 Beach Boulevard in Biloxi, MS. For more information on the National Heritage Area, please visit msgulfcoastheritage.ms.gov