Mittie Manning's Sarcophagus, Kind of Creepy, Kind of Sad
As I slowly slid back the small hinged cover on Mittie Manning’s sarcophagus, part of me felt disturbed, that somehow I was violating the sanctity of a child’s final resting place.
Simultaneously, another part was anticipating a screaming demon to come flying out, entering my body, stealing my soul, leaving me in a pile of ashes and proceeding to reign terror upon the poor unsuspecting villagers of Holly Springs, Tennessee.
The tale of Mittie Manning’s sarcophagus begins 10 years before she was born when, in 1861, her brother William died while still an infant.
William and Mittie were the children of Vannoy “Van” Manning and his wife Mary. Van was a former Confederate soldier and lawyer who moved to Holly Springs, where he met and married Mary, who came from a rather well-off family. Van would later serve in the United States Congress from 1877 to 1883.
When their son William died, Mary was understandably grief stricken, praying she would never have to bury another one of her children.
It wasn’t until 1871 then, that their daughter Mittie was born. Tragically she became ill and died just four years later on April 22, 1875.
This is where the sarcophagus comes in.
Mary broke down following second child's death and remembering back to her prayers to never bury another child, she refused to allow Van to bury Mittie.
Knowing something had to be done, Van offered a compromise, rather than bury Mittie they would place her above ground, in a sarcophagus.
Even this, though, wasn’t enough for the despondent mother. Mary insisted she not only be able to visit her daughter, but that she be able to see her as well.
So a window was built in the top of the sarcophagus upon which an oval-shaped marble covering was placed that Mary could slide back, look through and see Mittie’s face whenever she visited the cemetery.
There are various accounts of what happened next. One says Mary became increasingly distraught as she visited Mittie, witnessing her slowly decomposing body and eventually Mittie was buried.
Exactly where Mittie is buried isn’t entirely clear, whether it’s below the sarcophagus or somewhere else.
Looking at the photo of the sarcophagus you might be wondering why the bricks around it are so new.
Not surprisingly, after close to 150 years the sarcophagus began to crumble away. Do a Google search and you’ll find photos of it with little left but a half dozen columns, holding up the large slab covering the top.
Local residents thought enough of the sarcophagus and its unique history that volunteers stepped forward and rebuilt it in 2020, replacing most of the bricks but the slab covering is still the original.
Visitors are allowed to visit Mittie’s sarcophagus in Holly Springs, slide back the marble covering the hole and look in.
It’s located in Hill Crest Cemetery. Enter through the narrow entrance, it’s just wide enough to get a car through, near the intersection of Elder and Market Streets. Look straight ahead, not far after the lane reaches a T-intersection, and you’ll see Mittie's sarcophagus up the hill.
Don’t be afraid. No demons were released when I pulled back the cover. This time.
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