Attending the marker dedication were relatives of church founder Sam Smith, members of First Baptist Church, families of people buried there, the Fernandez family and the St. Bernard Sheriff’s Office Honor Guard.
Photo Courtesy of Charles D. Jackson
By Charles D. Jackson
The Rev. Raymond Smith, pastor of the First Baptist Church-Verret, dedicated a historical marker in the church’s cemetery on Sunday, Feb. 27 as part of the church’s Black History Month celebration.
Located near LA 46 highway in Verret, the marker and wrought-iron cross were presented by Tony Fernandez who researched and discovered a burial plot of enslaved people, whom he calls “The Unknown Heroes,” lying beneath the modern cemetery site.
St. Bernard Parish Historian Bill Hyland announced that the Office of Tourism is planning to nominate the church and cemetery for inclusion on Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser Office of Tourism’s “Louisiana African American Heritage Trail.”
“Throughout the three centuries since people of African descent first arrived in Louisiana, they have made great contributions to the state,” according to the Louisiana Office of Tourism web site on nomination for the trail. “From the early introduction of the African technologies of rice and indigo cultivation, and metalworking; to the preservation and creolization of African musical, linguistic, and culinary traditions that distinguish so much of what is celebrated about Louisiana today; to military acts that determined the political fate of the land; to artistic and literary creations; to the invention of the multiple-effect evaporator for sugar refining; to the fine building craftsmanship that holds together and enlivens the state’s architecture; to the election of the first African American governor in the U.S; to the invention of the sugarcane-planting machine, the Louisiana African American Heritage Trail is being updated to tell these stories and many others.”
Among burials at First Baptist-Verret cemetery are: Church founder Elder Samuel Smith, who fought in the Civil War and later elected the first black police juror, justice of the peace and school board member in St. Bernard Parish during and after Reconstruction; Blacksmith Jake Hamilton, a resident of Verretville who made several wrought iron crosses which adorn burial places in the cemetery; and St. Bernard Catholic Cemetery; Veterans of World Wars I, II and the Korean War.
Attending the marker dedication were relatives of church founder Sam Smith, members of First Baptist Church, families of people buried there, the Fernandez family and the St. Bernard Sheriff’s Office Honor Guard. The historic church, at 3737 Bayou Road, St. Bernard, La., celebrated its 151st anniversary in January. The cemetery is located directly behind the church.