(b 1795 VA; d after 1870 Monroe County,
written and submitted by
Terry Thornton, Fulton, MS
I was born in 1939 at Parham, Monroe County,
Mississippi. Within an easy walk down the gravel road west
from my house was New Hope Cemetery, a favorite gathering
place for the children of our community, and location of
one of the oldest burial grounds in the county. The large
trees provided good shade and the many large tombstones
made excellent places on which to sit and think. One small
marker almost hidden by the overgrown bushes near the edge
of the cemetery was said to be the oldest marked grave in
all of Monroe County, the grave of Charity Standefer. Legend
stated that her marker was erected about the time of her
death in 1826 --- but did she die in 1826?
The question about when Charity Standefer
died probably started with the writing of Dr. W.A. Evans,
Jr., in 1939. And for the past 68 years, the statements
of Dr. Evans have been told and retold to the point that
many have confused the issue completely. I was about six
months old when Dr. Evan’s article about Charity Standefer
first appeared --- and I was 67 years old before I noticed
that his statement could possibly be incorrect.
Here is what Dr. Evans stated in his January
19, 1939, article “The Oldest Marked Grave”
from his “Who’s Who in Monroe County Cemeteries”
as reprinted on page 128 of MOTHER MONROE: “Charity
Standifer Born Oct. 1795. Died Sept. 10, 1826. To a woman
belongs the honor of burial in the first marked grave in
the county. At least the first over which the monument still
stands. When Charity Standifer died, Monroe had been a county
just five years. The Cotton Gin settlers had been in the
county just ten years.”
But if Charity died and was buried in 1826,
who was the Charity Standefer who continued to live in Monroe
County until after 1870? Have we been misinformed about
her early date of death? Was the written material incorrect
with the statements that Charity Standefer died in 1826?
And have the countless others who have passed on this information
as fact all been incorrect? What an interesting and baffling
set of circumstances!
Here is some of what I have come to know
about Charity Standefer (or Standifer as some folks spell
1. Charity Standefer was born in Virginia
in 1795, the daughter of Luke Standefer and Mary Ann Price
Standefer. There is some evidence that the Standefer family
arrived in Monroe County about 1817. The Standefer family
owned land near what is thought to be the extinct post office
village of Walls Tan Yard, now present-day Parham.
2. Charity Standefer was named as a child
of Luke Standefer in the estate papers filed after his death
in 1834 in Monroe County.
3. Charity Standefer was named in 1842 in
the will written by her mother, Mary Ann Price Standefer.
That will was filed in Monroe County in 1848.
4. Charity Standefer is named in a Standefer
family Bible was being born October 1795 in Virginia.
5. Family history indicates that Charity
Standefer never married, was a strong influence in her family,
was a Methodist Missionary, and a very devout person.
6. Charity Standefer, in her old age, lived
in a small house in the yard of relatives, the family of
Addison Fletcher Burdine of Monroe County. Mrs. Burdine,
nee Ruth Henrietta Standifer, was her niece.
7. Charity Standefer shows on the Monroe
County Census for the years 1850, 1860, and 1870.
A. In 1850, “Charity Standefer” age 40 is listed
in the household of Ben C. White and Judith Standefer White,
her sister and brother-in-law, in the Easter Division of
Monroe County. In 1850, Charity Standefer’s age was
B. In 1860, “Ch. Standifer” age 55 is listed
in the household of Sarah Suggs in the Eastern Division
of Monroe County, Aberdeen Post Office. The lands of Sarah
Suggs were just west of those owned by the Standefer family
near present-day Parham. Her true age would have been closer
to 65 in 1860.
C. In 1870, “Charity Standifer” age 70 is listed
in the household of Judith Standefer White in Township 12,
Smithville Post Office. Judith and Charity were sisters.
In 1870, Charity Standifer would have been 75 years old.
On all three census records, Charity Standefer’s age
varies slightly because of mistakes make by whoever gave
the information for her or by design.
8. The grave marker at New Hope Cemetery
for Charity Standefer reads:
Born Oct. 1795
Joined the Methodist Church Mar. 18, 1821
Obtained the blessing of sanctification Sep. 10, 1826
9. No where on the marker is any reference
to a date of death.
10. The early Methodist Church often had
a period of time between joining the church and being accepted
into membership of the church. The concept of “sanctification”
as defined by Methodist leader John Wesley, and according
to several church historians with whom we have consulted,
almost never means “death.” One researcher states,”
Instead, it [sanctification] is a term describing the transformation
of the Holy Spirit following salvation, which leads to Christian
perfection.” For Charity Standefer to have placed
upon her stone that she obtained the blessing of sanctification
in 1826 did not mean that she had died, rather it means
that she recognized through God’s love that her transformation
It seems obvious that Charity Standefer,
daughter of Luke and Mary Price Standefer, early Methodist
Church member and resident of the Walls Tan Yard (now Parham)
community of Monroe County, lived past 1870. “Miss
Charity” was a 75-year old spinster in 1870, the last
census record of her existence. The report that she died
in 1826 has been widely republished.
I wish I could say that my home community’s
burial ground was the location of the oldest marked grave
in Monroe County but based upon the above, I think that
would be a mistake. It was interesting, however, to learn
about the life and times of Charity Standefer, born 1795
in Virginia and died sometimes after 1870 in Monroe County,
Mississippi, buried at New Hope Cemetery. It was also most
interesting to learn about her belief in the blessing of
Since I first saw Charity Standefer's grave
so many decades ago, the burial ground at New Hope Cemetery
has been cleared of many of the trees and bushes that once
made finding the older graves almost impossible. Today,
thanks to those who have cleared this historic cemetery
of its overgrowth of trees and shrubs, Charity Standefer's
grave is easily accessible. Standing in front her grave
marker puts one in contact with a person born more than
210 years ago; reading her stone about her beliefs and her
church and of her blessing of sanctification puts one in
contact with some of the notions upon which this great country
of ours is founded --- the freedom to worship, to believe,
and to express oneself.
And I now believe that Charity Standefer
didn't die in 1826 but rather she died after 1870 having
lived a full and rich life of between 75 and 80 years. And
I believe she was then buried at New Hope among her friends
and family, especially her sisters and her parents who are
Thanks to the following for assistance in
preparing this report: Rita Thompson for providing the Chancery
Court record that showed Charity Standefer surviving past
1826 in Luke Standefer’s estate papers; Mary Anna
Riggan for sharing an 1984 photograph she made of the grave
marker of Charity Standefer; Judy Westbrook Sullivan for
making two trips to New Hope Cemetery to verify the wording
on the tombstone; Jerry A. Harlow for information about
Charity Standefer in the years 1850 – 1870; Lori Thornton
for information about early Methodist Church history, membership,
and sanctification and for the 1850 census image showing
Charity Standefer; Debra McIntosh, Librarian at the J.B.Cain
Archives of Mississippi Methodism, Millsaps-Wilson Library,
Jackson, for her help with defining sanctification; Bob
Franks for links to establish census data on Charity Standefer;
Carol Lee Yarbrough whose Internet page, Standerfer, etc.
Research Site, is an excellent source of Standefer information
including the will of Mary Ann Price Standefer as well as
the will of Luke Standefer; and James Alverson for his assistance.
Without help of the members of the Monroe County Discussion
Group, this project would have been impossible.