The Mannings were typical of many families living in Holly Springs, Mississippi during the late 19th-century. Van Manning was a lawyer and former Confederate who arrived in Reconstruction Mississippi in the 1860s. His wife Mary was a local Holly Springs girl from a well-to-do family. Van built a successful legal career and later served in the United States House of Representatives from 1877 to 1883. However, his life was filled with personal tragedies.
In 1861, the Mannings lost their infant son, William Manning. The boy’s death haunted Mary, who prayed that she would never have to bury another of her children. Their daughter Mittie Manning was born in 1871. In the early spring of 1875, the four-year-old girl became gravely ill from an unknown disease. Van and Mary watched in horror as their little girl succumbed to the illness.
On April 22, 1875, Mittie died. When it came time to bury her second child, Mary had a breakdown. She refused to allow Van or anyone else to place her daughter into the ground. A compromise was made and Mittie Manning was buried in a sarcophagus above ground.
However, this did not fully console Mary, who wanted to be able to see the face of her daughter. In the marble slab that covered the tomb, a sliding window was installed, allowing Mary to see her daughter.
According to some local legends, as Mittie’s body began to decompose, Mary became insane from grief and refused to leave the grave. Eventually, Van was forced to bury Mittie underground. The original slab, with its window, was left in place.
The Manning family eventually left Holly Springs, leaving the grave behind. Over the next 150 years, the town of Holly Springs adopted Mittie Manning and her unusual grave. In 2020, the badly-deteriorated and damaged tombstone was repaired by local citizens.
Know Before You Go
Mittie Manning's tomb can be found in Hill Crest Cemetery, not far from the main gates to the cemetery located at the corner of Elder and Market Streets.