Chatfield Cemetery History
Navarro County, Texas


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Chatfield Cemetery

Chatfield Cemetery
Researched by Louis P. Hodge
Originally published in "The Navarro County Scroll", 1967
Reprinted with permission of the Navarro County Historical Society
Extracted by Roger Bartlett


There is always something sacred about a cemetery to me. I am a lover of history and I always think that most of the people that lie there helped build our country. I have visited lots of cemeteries in foreign lands. I once visited a cemetery in Japan. The graves were only about four inches long and twelve inches wide. Land in Japan is very valuable and the bodies are cremated and the ashes buried in the small graves. There are no cemeteries in India. The bodies are cremated and the ashes thrown in the Ganges river. I was told that the total cost of a funeral there was about three dollars. This covered the cost of the fuel for the furnace.

We have recently returned from a visit to Boston, Massachusetts and Halifax, Nova Scotia. I always like to visit the old cemeteries in and around Boston. On our last visit made there, I had my picture taken standing by the graves of Benjamin Franklin's Mother and Father. You [see] some very funny epitaphs on some of the old graves.

"Here lies Jane Smith, comfort to John Smith, Mother died, children four, if she had lived any longer there might have been more"

"Under this stone lies Jim Jones. Drunk man homeward bound, Evil bent, his horse stumbled and to hell he went."

"Under this stone lies Big Bill, he always lied and always will. He once lied loud, he now lies still."

"Here lies Old Frank Hize poorly lived and poorly died. He was poorly buried and no one cried."

"Here lies Pat Mote. He got a fish bone in his throat, which made him sing an Angel's note."

My grandfather, Captain Robert Hodge, rode a Spanish pony over the old San Antonio-Shreveport Trail into Texas in the summer of 1850. He crossed the Trinity river at old Taos. He was looking for a new location and headed toward Corsicana. It consisted of a log court house and a few log houses. There were three houses between Taos and Corsicana.

[p. 61] One of these homes was Mr. Spurlin's. It was about two miles east of Chatfield Springs. He spent the night at Mr. Spurlin's and told him that he was looking for a new location for his family and slaves.  Mr. Spurlin told him of 1280 acres of choice land located at Chatfield Springs where Champion Chatfield once had a trading post. Grandfather rode over this 1280 acres of land and located a place for his home. In a pretty Post Oak grove he found a lone grave. The grave had no monument. Grandfather said to himself, "I will set aside this grave for a cemetery. I will give lots for schools and churches." After he settled here, a village got started and when the Civil War got started, Chatfield was a thriving community.

Some of the Mize family came to Chatfield before the war and put a monument at the grave. David Mize was born August 26, 1823 and Died September 28, 1848. His grave was two years old when it was found by my Grandfather. David Mize lived in a one room log house just off the north west corner of my grandfather's 1280 acres of land. The Mize family were originally from Kentucky. They came to Robinson [Robertson] County in [1846?]. At that time Navarro County was part of Robinson [Robertson] County. When David Mize died, his widow married again and had some children. Mrs. L. G. Highnote and Mrs. Louise Gibson of Corsicana are great great nieces of David Mize.

The families that were buried in the cemetery before the war are:

Neals
Hunts
Herveys
Pointevans
Hesters
Listman [Lismans?]
Sands
Hodges
Sessions
Lockharts
Haynes
Aldridges
Claytons
Cages
Nelsons
Grahams and
Bartletts

After the slaves were emancipated in 1865, my grandfather gave the negroes a piece of land for a cemetery. He allowed them to build two churches on his property. The negroes later moved these churches to another property. There are several people buried in the cemetery that were born at an very early date. Henry Griggs was born December 28, 1793. He was a soldier in the War of 1812. [p. 62] His wife was Nancy Sturdivant, the daughter of an American Revolutionary soldier. One of the Revolutionary markers is on his and her grave. These people are the great grandparents of the Thorpes at Chatfield. Mr. William Thorpe's mother, Mrs. Mary Meachem Thorpe is the oldest person buried in the cemetery. She was born April 23, 1846 and died January 3, 1946. She lacked three months and twenty days being 100 years old.

Joseph Alva Clayton was born December 30, 1817 and died August 1, 1873. He served in three wars. The Texas Revolution, the War with Mexico, and the War Between the States. In February 1861, Navarro County voted 621 for secession, and 36 against. Chatfield voted 95 for and none against. Joseph Alpa [sic] Clayton was one of the three sent from Navarro County to Austin to vote for seceding. Clayton was with the twin sisters at the Battle of San Jacinto.

Captain Robert Hodge took Mr. Clayton to the Mississippi River south of Memphis, in 1863. Clayton wanted to enter the Confederate Army in Tennessee, his old home state. Both had been having secret communication with friends and relatives there. Clayton had a relative that brought him a slave man that he had inherited. Grandfather had a relative that had smuggled Two dozen cotton cards through. The two men took Clayton in a boat and crossed the Mississippi river in the night for fear of Yankee Gun Boats. they went into Tennessee and entered the Confederate Army. Grandfather brought the slave man and the Cotton cards back to Chatfield with him. He turned the slave over to Mrs. Clayton and he gave the cotton cards to ladies to aid them in making cotton cloth. In 1909, my father and I had a talk with the man that brought the cotton cards to grandfather.

In the summer of 1866 Joseph Alva Clayton was building a flatboat at Porters Bluff on the Trinity River. He wanted to float a lot of cotton down the river that fall. He had several men hired to help him. Two of these men were John and Bill Fortson. The men were in the boat in the river nailing the planks and logs together. A desperado named Bess was setting on the river bank shooting a pistol over the men's heads. All of a sudden he lowered his pistol and shot into the water about two feet from where John Fortson was standing. John looked at [p. 63] Bess and said "Watch where you're shooting Bess." Bess replied I will then shot John through the heart. John fell back and said get him Bill, he has killed me. Bill didn't have a gun, but he did have a Bowie knife. He
used this to kill Bess.

John Fortson was buried in Chatfield. In 1910, Mrs Jim Fortson died and she was buried between her husband Jim, and his brother John. I helped to dig the grave. My father was helping to supervise the digging of the grave and I was digging with a grubbing hoe when I hit too near to John Fortson's grave and pulled out a large piece of thigh bone, a coffin handle and a piece of coffin wood.

Joseph A. Clayton's right arm was torn off in a threshing machine. He bought the first horse drawn threshing machine in this section. He was threshing wheat for Major McMullen. He was in bad condition and was taken into the Major's home. Mrs. Clayton was spending the day at Captain Hervey's home. The shock killed her. The next day when they brought Mrs. Clayton's Body by McMullen's home on their way to the cemetery, Mrs. McMullen closed the curtains. Mr. Clayton said "I know why you closed the curtains. I will follow her body soon." He died the next day.

The last day that I was principal of the Chatfield School, 1924-25 the graduating class and I decided to mark all of the Confederate soldiers' graves in the two cemeteries. We bought large iron crosses from Gadsden, Alabama. They weighed about sixteen pounds, and the cost including the freight was about two dollars each. Programs and plays were given to raise the money. The class members were Lenora Hervey, Ruth Nell Jones, Louise Hodge, James Hayden Finch, John S. Finch, Walter Sands, Edwin Harper and Jack Meadows. Attached is a list of the names of the soldiers in the Chatfield Cemetery.

[p. 64] J. C. Cummins
Matt Finch
Jim Fortson
John Fortson
J. R. Guynes
A. G. Hervey
James Hodge
Ben Hunt
W. F. Kenner
Lucean Lockhart
W. W. Loop
P. T. Montfort
J. A. McCants
Major Mark McMullen
R. M. McMullen
James McQueens
S. H. Neal
Jeff Nelson
Ira Pickering
Dr. O. Redden
B. F. Sands
W. M. Marshall
J. P. Thorp
Edd Graham
Jim Aldredge

[p. 65] New Cemetery
H. F. Tarrer
J. A. Weams
J. M. Harper
Robert S. Wyley
J. A. Denbow
G. L. Cayce
M. T. Edwards
A. J. Gaines
H. C. Gatlin
J. S. Kirby
E. Gowan
Nail McMullen

When I was a boy there was a man that was opposed to the Church buried at Chatfield. His children put this epitaph on his monument. "God is different from man, Man looketh on the outside but God looketh at the heart."

The first person buried in the new cemetery was Mrs. Virginia Blair. She died September 24, 1898. She was born in Kentucky December 29, 1845. The Chatfield Cemetery Association looks after the cemetery. No membership fee is charged for members. Mrs. Webb Ray is president and Mrs. Leo Sands is secretary. Most of the church members take an active part in the Association. It costs around $800 per year to keep the cemeteries worked. A picnic is given once a year around the 4th of July to raise money for the upkeep. Donations are also made by people who live here and by people that live away that have members of their families buried here. About a hundred notices are mailed to people living away from here every year in regards to the needs of the cemeteries. We are very proud of the Chatfield cemeteries and for the reverence the people have for them.

 


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Copyright March, 2009
Edward L. Williams & Barbara Knox