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Cemeteries on Private Land

DID YOU KNOW?
... If you have ancestors buried on private property or government land that the law (at least in Texas) says that you have the right to visit their graves at least twice a year (First Sunday in April & First Sunday in October) from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. This year it is April 6, 2003.

Section 711.041 of the Health and Safety Code provides you the rights of visitation during reasonable hours and for purposes associated with cemetery visits; however, the owner of the land surrounding the cemetery may designate the routes for reasonable access. If you cannot find the owner, or if the
owner is an absentee landowner, check with the county tax appraisal office for the name and address of the owner.

Save Texas Cemeteries, Inc.  has the guidelines to follow.


Cleaning Headstones 

Excerpted from "Preserving Historical Cemeteries, Texas Preservation Guidelines" published by the Texas Historical Commission.  Read the PDF Version of the book.

CLEANING STONE

Before cleaning any stone, carefully check its condition. If the surface readily falls away, or you notice other conditions that indicate the stone is brittle or vulnerable, do not clean it. Cleaning may irreparably damage the surface.

The Cleaning Process

1. Use a non-ionic soap. One of the most readily available soaps is Orvus®, commonly used in association with horse and sheep husbandry. It can be found in feed stores. Mix a solution of one heaping tablespoon of Orvus® to one gallon of clean water (it comes in either liquid or paste form).

2. Pre-wet the stone thoroughly with clean water and keep the stone wet during the entire washing process.

3. Thoroughly wash the wet stone using natural bristled, wooden handled brushes of various sizes. The use of plastic handles is not recommended, as color from the handles may leave material on the stone that will be very difficult to remove.

4. Be thorough. Wash all surfaces and rinse thoroughly with lots of clean water.

5. When cleaning marble or limestone, one tablespoon of household ammonia can be added to the above mixture to help remove some greases and oils. Do not use ammonia on or near any bronze or other metal elements.

6. Lichens and algae can be removed by first thoroughly soaking the stone and then using a wooden scraper to gently remove the biological growth. This process may need to be repeated several times.

7. Not all stains can be removed. Do not expect the stones to appear new after cleaning.

8. Do not clean marble, limestone or sandstone more than once every 18 months. Every cleaning removes some of the face of the stone. However, occasionally rinsing with clean water to remove bird droppings and other accretions is acceptable.

9. Keep a simple treatment record of the cleaning, including date of cleaning, materials used and any change in condition since last cleaning (such as missing parts, graffiti and other damage). These records should be kept at a central location where the condition of the stones can be monitored over time.

Developed from data supplied by John R. Dennis, Dallas Museum of Art Conservation Lab


5/4/2003 BILL YOUNG: Making the local cemetery rounds

I want to thank everyone who has told me about a cemetery. The following people have shared information about specific cemeteries they were either personally aware of or they knew the general area where one might be located. Helen Varnell told us the general area where we might find the Carroll family cemetery that we were searching for. That same night she called back to tell me about two others, the Ramsey and Harris cemeteries. Even though she did not know the exact locations, she could tell us the general locations. Mrs. Henk took us to the Caleb Green cemetery. Bobby Henderson told us of a cemetery across the fence from his place. Mr. Head took us to the Elijah Anderson cemetery. Marilyn Knight wrote about a couple of cemeteries and even included the listing of all of the people in the Akers/Brown cemetery. She also mentioned another one that we do not know the location, but for the moment, she doesn't recall exactly where it was located. She referred to this cemetery as the White/Matheson Cemetery. Mr. Jim Allen called me the other night and told me of several in his area including four new ones. Mrs. Hazel Holloway called to tell me the location of the Monroe family cemetery. Mr. and Mrs. Kenneth Kilcrease gave us precise directions to the Weathersbee family cemetery buried on their land. Their son also mentioned another one nearby that we haven't tried to locate. B.L. Hagle informed us exactly where the old Hagle family cemetery is located. I am sure there are others I failed to mention but I will note these at a later date.

Not every phone call about a possible cemetery location turns out to be correct. Recently, I received a call about 10 or 12 graves with small stones here within the city limits. The next day, I happened to run into Charles Harrison who has been dealing in tombstones for many years. When I told Mr. Harrison the story, he was very familiar with this little cemetery. It seems that over the years the original landowner had a number of prized dogs. When one of the canines died, it was buried in this private pet cemetery and the owner would have Mr. Harrison put a new stone for the dog.

Listed below are some of the other cemeteries that Bruce and I have visited since mid-January. Most of these require at least a second visit before we can finish the paper work needed to officially record each cemetery. Part of the problem is the new spring growth that has sprung forth in the past month. After the growing season commences, it becomes very difficult to spot one of these small cemeteries and it is even worse to check for the total number of graves contained within one of these cemeteries. It is common to find several graves that have only small local native stones marking each grave. Even worse are the totally unmarked graves that must be located either by seeing or feeling the grave depression or witching for the graves using small metal rods. In our part of Texas, witching for graves is usually fairly successful depending on how much it has rained recently. Water will move downward in a grave shaft until it reaches the bottom where the water remains trapped because of the dense clay soil that underlies the top soil. If you have ever observed someone witching for a water pipe or possibly the location of spring water, the process is the same for a grave. In reality, we are witching for the water at the bottom of each grave shaft.

The following list is not in consecutive order, either alphabetically or in the order by which Bruce and I viewed them. Rest assured that each and everyone will be registered with the Texas Historical Commission. Just like the list noted in last weeks article, if a cemetery is known by one or more names, I am listing each name.

Wesley's Chapel/DeArmond -- Northeast of Powell; Burnett/Barnett -- south of Frost; Owen/Waters -- Corbet area; Dixon -- Emhouse area; Marvin's Chapel/Campbell -- Powell area; Union Hill -- south of Frost; Cosgrove -- Retreat area; Brooks Family (three abandoned graves) -- Powell area; Old Jones/Crab Creek -- Navarro area; Jimmerson/Jameson/Owen -- Kerens area; Wm. Love -- Angus area; Carroll Chapel -- Curry area; Akers/Brown -- Curry area; Bright/Boyd -- Navarro area; Owen family/Weir -- south of Elm Flat; Melton family -- Dresden area; James Green -- Blooming Grove area; Elijah & Ruth Anderson -- Eureka area; Wm. Davidson family -- Eureka area; Sweatman/Blackman -- Winkler; Eden/Eaton Grove -- Hester; French -- Navarro Mills area; Gunn/Johnson -- Eureka area; Johnston/Dunn -- Eureka area; Dunn/Hancock/Bird -- Eureka area; Carroll Family -- Blooming Grove area; Hagle family -- Dawson area; Mary Powers and two daughters -- Curry area; Williams -- south of Frost; Un-named on H & TC RR -- Corsicana; Amanda Wilson -- Corbet area

Combining these 31 cemeteries with the 19 I wrote about last week makes a total of 50 cemeteries located in the past four months. When I see this total, my first thoughts are how well we have done. However when I look at the master list that still contains another 150, I realize just how long this project may take.

Anyone who happens to know the location of any small cemetery, please give me a call during the day at (903) 874-6882 or at night at (903) 874- 7067.

Next week: The Wilson-Leonard site, 12,000 years of occupation

Bill Young is a Daily Sun columnist. His column appears Sundays


11/30/2003 BILL YOUNG: R.I.P. doesn't always stand for 'Rest In Peace' only

Most persons familiar with the three letters R.I.P. think of these letters as representing "Rest In Peace." It is not uncommon to see either the abbreviation of RIP or the entire saying engraved into tombstones if you spend any significant amount of time walking about in a cemetery. This epitaph means a lot to me since I would prefer to be left entirely alone to "Rest In Peace" when I pass away. It is a plain and simple, down-to earth saying that should apply equally to each and every cemetery. More than any other epitaph I can think of is one of the main reasons we are searching and recording every cemetery we can locate here in Navarro County even if the cemetery only has one grave. Whoever is interred there should be allowed to rest in peace.

In a recent publication put out by the Texas Historical Commission, one article pertaining to cemeteries gives us a new meaning of R.I.P. In this particular document, they state the letters should stand for Record, Investigate, and Preserve regarding every cemetery located in the state. In fact the government is so serious about this endeavor that the Historical Commission received a grant to Record, Investigate and Preserve cemeteries in the faster growing counties within the state. I am sorry to say we do not fit into this category but Bruce McManus and I are not going to let this discourage us. I know from my point of view, we could add a second "R" to the R.I.P. making it read R.R.I.P. This first R would stand for Research. Then the phrase would read Research, Record, Investigate and Preserve. Several of the cemeteries we have recorded required a lot of research before we could even go look for them. And we have been very fortunate to have met a lot of knowledgeable people who pointed us in the right direction, helping us to locate many of these missing cemeteries.

To date, 11 cemeteries in Navarro County have been recorded, investigated and preserved. The preservation part means Bruce and I have sent the application along with written history, black and white photographs, aerial maps, and quad maps. We also include in the package another type of aerial map acquired for the Navarro County Appraisal District that shows the tract of land where the cemetery is located in relation to surrounding landowners. We also have a survey of all of the stones within each specific cemetery and who owns the land where it is located unless the cemetery is set aside in a separate deed. If this happens to be the case, a copy of the deed is attached. Also included in the package is a check to the Texas Historical Commission in the amount of $25 to officially record the cemetery. Once the application goes through the review process which takes from 75 to 90 days, if everything in the application package is approved, the Texas Historical Commission issues a legal deed stating the cemetery is now officially recorded in the State of Texas. They mail this document back to Bruce who then passes it to me to take to the county clerk's office to be officially filed. In a few days, they mail the document along with the book and page number back to me to be returned to Austin for their files. After the Texas Historical Commission receives the filed copy, they issue a certificate for the cemetery. I mentioned above that 11 cemeteries are preserved which means that these 11 cemeteries have gone through the entire process and we now have a certificate for each one. The following list names those 11 cemeteries. Please note if a cemetery is known by more than one name, even if it is a nickname, we included all of the names on the applications.

McCord/Hightower

New Pevehouse

Old Pevehouse/Cry baby

John Stovall Grave

Whitehead/Meazell

Caleb and Nancy Green

Dr. William Anderson

Shelton Family

William Love

Sloan Family

Long Prairie/Alligator

Eighteen more cemeteries have been mailed to the Texas Historical Commission that are going through the review process. Some are nearly complete while others were mailed this past week. The 18 cemeteries are listed below but not in any chronological order as to when each might be completed.

Weathersbee Family

Mooney Grave

Garner Family

Davidson Family

Brooks Family

Dunn/Johnston Families

Bledsoe Children

Buggy Axle Grave

Mexican Migrant worker

Elijah Anderson

Corsicana State Home

Candalerio Garcia Family

Jefferson Owen

James Wilson

William F. Bowen

Dixon Family

James and Sarah Green Family

Mary Catherine Martin


12/7/2003 BILL YOUNG: Help us find other cemeteries

When we started work on finding, researching and filing the appropriate papers to preserve each cemetery, we were aware of 128 cemeteries in our county when we looked at the Navarro County Genealogical Society's cemetery books. These volumes have aided us whenever we have checked one of the known cemeteries listed in the books because each listed cemetery gives us a beginning guideline to check our data against. Of course all of the active cemeteries have added numerous burials since most of the volumes were complete but they give us something to start with.

Last week I listed the cemeteries we have processed and sent to the Texas Historical Commission along with a separate list of the ones totally complete. Last January when Bruce McManus and I started this project, Bruce had heard of other cemeteries from individuals who had mentioned them to his grandfather, Malvin Keathley, many years ago before he passed away or to Bruce himself. Since then the list has both grown and shrunk. About the time we think we are making headway on the unknown list, someone comes forward to tell us of another one he or she either knows the exact location of or have heard about. The old saying "two steps forward and one step back" fits our situation appropriately although I think the reverse may be more accurate. Just when we find a new one, we hear of two more. Sometimes these new ones check out only to be a rumor while others have somehow acquired a new, previously unknown name but each and everyone is worth the effort to verify.

Recently, Bruce and I were studying our copies of the 1901 map of Navarro County when he noticed there were two cemetery symbols located on the western edge of Dawson. One was slightly north and west of the other but both symbols were close to each other. We determined that the southern symbol is the present location of the Dawson cemetery. Bruce went to the Navarro County Appraisal District and looked up the owners of the land to the north. Then he contacted the owner of the tract we deemed the most likely tract to contain the previously unknown cemetery. In this particular case, the landowner has acquired the tract in the past 10 years. He told Bruce he had heard from several sources there might be a small cemetery located on the eastern perimeter of his land near a branch but he had not been able to find the cemetery. In turn, he gave us permission to search the area with the only requirement being to get back to him with any information if we were able to find the plot. He also stated he wanted to fence the cemetery if we were successful in our search. In the meantime, I spent several hours going back through the deed records at the courthouse in an effort to try to determine who might be buried on the land. My research determined there was an outside possibility of a separate Onstott cemetery. Several members of the Onstott family are buried in the Dawson cemetery but there are others that I cannot account for. One of the daughters ended up with the tract of land in question so I felt that she and immediate members of her family might have had a separate plot.

Bruce and I made one trip out to Dawson and spent several hours wading around in knee-high grass along with nice sharp briars and a lot of trees, some large but most were definitely young, second growth trees. Along both sides of the branch were many large cedar trees and since many of the early cemeteries had cedar trees planted inside or around the perimeter, we had to check each and everyone. Eventually we spotted a couple of stones standing up on the western side of the branch near a large cedar tree so we went back to the truck and drove around to the location. It turned out to be the location of two dogs that recently passed away and the owner started his own little pet cemetery. Then we went back to talk with home owners who lived on the eastern side of the road. One lady who had heard the same story took us back into the wooded area along the branch to one old fence corner where she thought there might have been a cemetery. We took the witching rods and after a few minutes of witching for graves, decided this was not a cemetery. Then we walked some more looking for any sign that might indicate the presence of a small cemetery and eventually called it a day. We promised ourselves that someday this winter, we would return and try again. The visibility is usually better in the dead of winter when all of the leaves have fallen. Of course, keep in mind that cedar trees are evergreens so we must deal with that problem but the smaller scrubby trees will be barren and this helps to open up an area.

At the Navarro County Historical Society meeting held last month, Sarahbeth Thompson from Dawson attended the banquet and I told her of our predicament. She said she remembered a funeral home telling her they had encountered an unknown burial while digging a grave over in an offset section of the Dawson cemetery which just happens to be the most northern part of the cemetery. There wasn't any record of a grave ever being located in this section and no stones are visible today. Thanks to Mrs. Thompson, our search may have ended with success even though it's not what we were expecting.

I am appealing to each and every reader, if you are aware of a small unused cemetery anywhere in the county, please contact Bruce McManus at (903) 875-0988 or me at (903) 874-7067. Help us preserve our historical cemeteries since each is so valuable in helping us to understand our rich heritage

 


1/18/2004 BILL YOUNG: We are still searching for those missing cemeteries!

There isn't a day or night that goes by that Bruce McManus or I don't think about one or more of the missing cemeteries we have heard about. Almost every night, we have a telephone conversation about the ones we are currently researching along with any updates about the missing ones.

Recently I received several phone calls about several cemeteries individuals knew about. For the most part, we were aware of the cemeteries but one individual, Abe Baston, provided some very useful information about one cemetery located in the Corbet area. We were told about this small cemetery in the spring of last year but there was no useful information about the cemetery. We could not determine if this was a white or black or mixed cemetery.

Mr. Baston solved this problem by providing us with a couple of facts. First, the cemetery was used by several black families as a burial ground. Second, he knew the name of one man who was buried in the cemetery in the early 1960s because Mr. Baston had helped dig the man's grave. With this information in hand, we were able to located the man's death certificate. Once we had the death certificate, we discovered the cemetery was called Corbet Cemetery in 1964 when the deceased man was buried there by Calhoun Funeral Home.

Mr. Baston also told us that no one ever provided a headstone for this man who was killed in an automobile accident. Instead the grave was marked with one of those temporary metal markers furnished by the funeral home. This information provided by Mr. Baston helped us clear up some of the questions we had about this cemetery.

Mr. Baston told me about several other cemeteries we were familiar with in the eastern part of the county. He then informed me of a new one in the Eureka area that is located between two known cemeteries. We have made a preliminary trip to the location but very little is known at this time about this cemetery.

He also told me about another one located in Ellis County where there used to be a self-sufficient community known as Sand Town. This was a turn of the century farming community complete with its own store and school. One east/west railroad crossed the Trinity River nearby and passed through this settlement. I have been to this location one time, several years ago, but I haven't been able to devote any research to this site. I am assuming when the railroad abandoned its right-of-way, the settlement started to decline. Today, a sand and gravel mining operation is slowly but steadily eradicating any evidence of the town.

Every time we locate a new cemetery, we must deal with a rather long and extenuating process so the cemetery can be officially recorded. First, we must map every grave we can identify. Some are marked with headstones while others may have a piece of local native rock marking the grave. Still, there are others that have a metal funeral home marker and finally there are the unmarked graves. Needless to say, this last category leaves us grasping at straws trying to determine who might have been buried in these unmarked graves.

Then we measure the perimeter of the cemetery along with a GPS reading from somewhere near the center of the cemetery. GPS stands for Global Positioning System. Originally started by the military, GPS machines are small hand-held devices that can pinpoint where you are anywhere in the world.

The type Bruce and I utilize is accurate to within about 16 feet if the cemetery is not covered in trees. However, if there are some overhanging limbs, the accuracy is reduced to around 25 feet. I will try to explain just how a GPS system works. Whirling around in space overhead are a number of satellites our GPS device can lock onto. The more satellites the machine can "see," the better the accuracy. At almost any given time, there are five or more satellites available for the machine to look at. On a few occasions, my GPS has been able to locate eight or nine at the same time. If we are able to lock onto eight or nine at the same time with each emitting a strong signal, the accuracy is always around 15 or 16 feet.

I might mention the military has the capability to measure within an inch or two. Some of the satellites have filters that restrict the amount of signal received by the general public's GPS systems.

Once we have finished with all of the measurements, we are required to note any type of vegetation that is not native to the location. One of the most common types of vegetation is flowers, especially iris, usually white or yellow. These two color varieties are common and quite dependable about blooming each year. Iris generally will spread though time and may cover large expanses of a cemetery even though the original plants may have been set next to a family plot.

Another very common blooming ground cover found in many of our local cemeteries is vinca. This plant looks similar to several of the species of ivy but it has its own traits. Normally, vinca has small single purple or white flowers scattered about in the vines. The flowers are not "showy" but they do add some color to the site. The most noticeable characteristic of vinca is the fact it can spread over a wide area. It differs from ivy in that vinca is not a climbing vine but it will provide a dense ground cover.

One negative thing about vinca is it may hide tombstones, especially if the stones have fallen over. It never fails when we are walking through a cemetery covered in vinca, I am constantly trying to avoid getting my feet tangled in the vines causing me to fall.

Occasionally we find evidence of other perennials such as day lilies and daffodils. Then there are the cemeteries that have the good old standard crepe myrtles. These plants have been used for at least a 150 years in our region but as the crepe myrtles keep maturing, the amount of blooms is steadily reduced. The older un-trimmed crepes tend to produce mainly foliage rather than flowers.

Probably the most common plant observed in our old local family plots is the cedar tree. Some of the cedars we have seen are huge and probably date back several hundred years. One Christian belief is that the cedar tree represents everlasting life since a cedar is evergreen all year long. In England, the use of the willow tree is prevalent for the exact same reason but willow trees in our area must have a continuous water supply.


1/25/2004 BILL YOUNG: How smallpox affected our cemeteries

My only experience with smallpox occurred when I was vaccinated as a child for the disease. My memory of the incident is that the vaccination left an ugly round scar on my shoulder. I also remember everyone saying don't touch or scratch the scab until it was completely healed. As a teenager, I was very self conscious of the scar especially when we went swimming. I really don't know why I had these thoughts since everyone I knew had a similar looking mark. After the destruction of the World Trade Center and the damage at the Pentagon Sept. 11, 2001, the government was talking about the possibility everyone might need a booster vaccination for smallpox. I tried to recall all of my childhood experiences with the vaccination, and even though I cannot remember much about the incident, I know for sure that it was something I did not like!

Today, here in the United States, an occurrence of a smallpox case is rare but prior to the development of the vaccine, the deadly disease took a tremendous toll on the American people from time to time. I can't offer any explanation as to why smallpox did not appear every year, but research shows it came around this area about every 10 years. I don't know if this was the trend for the entire United States but there isn't any doubt that epidemics in this area occurred about 10 years apart.

We know there was a major outbreak in the southern part of Navarro County in 1895. A series of cemeteries we have looked at is the direct result of a smallpox epidemic in that year. Starting southeast of the old town site of Curry is a small family plot for a few members of the Shelton family. Someone put up a new chain link fence around this little cemetery several years ago. They also had new headstones erected for the individuals interred in the plot. Then just to the west of the Shelton family is another small plot located in the ditch next to the Union Pacific Railroad track. Keep in mind that the Union Pacific used to be the Southern Pacific and before that was known as the Houston & Texas Central. This was the first railroad to arrive in Navarro County in 1871.

The little cemetery next to the track is called the "Mary Powers and 2 daughters" cemetery. There isn't any doubt that all three of these individuals died from smallpox because the word "Smallpox" is engraved on their common headstone. This cemetery is also surrounded with a chain link fence that may or may not have been erected by the same people who put the fence at the Shelton graveyard.

Located further to the west is another small cemetery where two children who were members of the Bledsoe family were buried. These two graves have an old-style fence surrounding their graves. Even though this cemetery has its own one-acre deed setting the cemetery aside forever, other members of the Bledsoe family are buried in the Wortham Cemetery. I would venture a guess it was impossible to get a gravedigger to open up a grave shaft anywhere near where someone who had previously died of smallpox was buried.

Then farther to the west along Pisgah Ridge are four other known small cemeteries associated with smallpox. The first of these is a single-marked grave for a member of the Magness family.

Several members of the current day Magness family told us that the Magness gentleman buried in this location died of smallpox in 1895. When we went to measure this cemetery and make photographs, we also decided to see if there were any unmarked graves nearby. After making several passes with the witching rods, we discovered there were two other graves located to the east and northeast of the Magness monument. We will never know who these people were but we have to guess that smallpox brought on their demise. In the next pasture to the west are two more Magness graves also associated with smallpox. According to C.E. Magness, the entire family was quarantined due to the presence of the disease among their family. People would bring them food and supplies leaving the items at the crossroad nearby. Until the family was clear of the malady, no one ventured anywhere near them.

Continuing westward into the very next pasture is a single grave marked with two buggy axles, one at the head and the other at the feet. Since we do not have any type of formal headstone with an inscribed name, we have resorted to calling this single grave by its two unique markers: The Buggy Axle Grave. There is a possibility that the person buried at this location may be a member of the Matheson family. According to Kenneth Butler who owns the land where the grave is located, the Matheson family lived nearby. Also the Mathesons had married into the Magness family.

In the same pasture as the Buggy Axle Grave but on the next hill to the west is another single grave cemetery marked only with two large relatively native stones, again, one at the head and the other at the feet. Mr. Butler knew the story pertaining to the person buried at this location. According to him, the burial is that of a Mexican migrant worker who lived in a small house to the north of this plot. He became ill in the dead of winter and succumbed to smallpox. Since this is all we had to go on, this single grave cemetery is now formally known as the Mexican Migrant Worker Cemetery.

We know of several other cemeteries where people died due to smallpox or other epidemics but I will save these until next week.

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Bill Young is a Daily Sun columnist. His column appears Sundays


2/1/2004 BILL YOUNG: Other families affected by the scourge of smallpox

Last week I wrote about several cemeteries located near each other in the southern part of Navarro County. This week, we will take a look at a few others. The last one I mentioned last week is located overlooking Pin Oak Creek bottom on the edge of Pisgah Ridge, and we know of two other single grave cemeteries in the vicinity of Pursley that are the direct result of smallpox. One grave is that of a doctor who succumbed to the disease while treating another doctor in the Pursley area. Part of this doctor's family is buried in the Ward Cemetery. Then there is another single grave of a man who died of smallpox during the same time period. He is buried in another isolated grave enclosed in a fence on top of a hill while most of his family is in one of the Pursley cemeteries. Bruce and I know the location of both of these individuals but we have not gone and physically looked at each grave site.

Leaving Pursley, go to the Purdon area and located nearby is the Curry Cemetery. We have finished the mapping and photographing of this larger cemetery and also have compiled the written history about some of the individuals buried in this tract. Recently some descendants of part of the families buried in the Curry Cemetery hired a contractor to erect a new fence around the perimeter. Whoever did the work needs to be complimented on doing an excellent job. We were pleasantly surprised when we visited this cemetery.

In one of the Navarro County history books published by the Navarro County Historical Society, there is a narrative written about two families who migrated to the Purdon area in the 1850s. According to the person writing about her family, the two groups were members of the Curry and the Garner families. She wrote that soon after they arrived in the Purdon area, 10 members of the group died within three weeks of each other. They are all buried in the Curry Cemetery without headstones. This was in the year of 1855. Even though there isn't any mention of what caused these people to die suddenly, our guess is that somewhere along the way to Texas, the little wagon train passed through an area where smallpox was present. One of the group probably came into contact with the disease and transmitted it to the other members.

Think back to those days as to how far one might have to travel to find a doctor. Then there was another problem dealing with just how knowledgeable each doctor was with most of the diseases. On top of that was the fact there was no medicine available to combat most of the deadlier diseases of that time period. Generally speaking, all they could do was try to make the patent more comfortable knowing full well that the odds were against the patents recovery. The example mentioned above where one doctor died while trying to treat another doctor must have affected each person involved with smallpox. Who in their right mind would want to face the challenge of treating someone afflicted with smallpox knowing the odds were against you as to whether or not you might contact the malady.

Many of these thoughts must have gone through the mind of Mrs. Brooks in Powell. Her small family cemetery located nearby has yielded evidence of one of the smallpox episodes. According to members of the Brooks family living today, family history states that Mrs. Brooks took care of a number of people in the Powell area who had contracted smallpox. The Brooks descendants stated that if any of these people died while under the care of Mrs. Brooks, she allowed them to be buried next to their family plot. We were informed of this story by Mr. Brooks who resides in Barry. On the day we visited the Brooks family cemetery, we got out the witching rods to check to see if this fact was true. Sure enough, there are at least seven unmarked graves located to the north of the Brooks' tombstones. We also noted the vinca has grown into the section where these seven graves are located.

Bruce and I cannot help but wonder as to exactly where many small cemeteries are located around Navarro County that contain one or two interments as the result of one or another of the smallpox episodes. Since everyone was scared to death to come into contact with anyone who had the disease, what should we expect to find today? No cures and no answers must have caused almost everyone to turn tail and run. Then when someone within a family died from smallpox, how did the surviving members handle the process of placing the deceased person in a grave? If the examples I have mentioned lately in the southern part of Navarro County are typical, there have got to be many other isolated graves located on each ranch. We know in some areas of North America, fire was utilized by residents to rid themselves of disease-ridden cattle. Could, or maybe I should say would, a family resort to the use of fire to more or less cremate a family member in an effort to rid themselves of smallpox? We will never know all of the answers and I am sure there were other solutions attempted that we haven't thought of.

One of the harder things Bruce and I face each time we record a cemetery is the task of trying to reconstruct some history about part or all of the individuals buried in each location. Needless to say, there are usually several unmarked graves or graves that have either a brick or a piece of local native stone serving as a headstone. Since there isn't any way to determine who is buried in these plots, we will not be able to ascertain any information about these interments. By far the greatest number of unanswered questions pertain to cemeteries containing African-Americans. We know of several cemeteries here in the county where African-Americans were buried many years ago but we are having a heck of a time finding someone who can help us reconstruct some written history about individuals buried in these locations. If anyone can help us with this problem, contact Bruce at (903) 875-0988 or myself at (903) 874-7067.


5/6/2004 Local pair garner honor: History agency lauds McManus, Young's efforts


By LOYD COOK/Daily Sun Staff

Cataloging and researching cemeteries is hard, dusty work requiring many hours of walking, making rubbings of gravestone information and researching deeds, genealogy and anecdotal history.

But a large measure of recognition for such efforts has come the way of two local men's crusade to get historical designations for Navarro County's cemeteries, providing the sites legal protection.

Bill Young and Bruce McManus have been tapped by the state agency, awarding the driven duo its Award of Excellence in Preserving History.



"It means, to me, that someone recognizes the long hours and hard work it takes to do something like this ... and its importance," McManus said Wednesday.

Historical commission officials will present the award to them during a luncheon Friday at the agency's quarterly meeting.

The Texas Historical Commission developed the historic cemetery designation program to highlight the importance as "historical resources, as well as landmarks worthy of respect, reverence and preservation," according to an e-mailed press release sent to the Daily Sun recently.
The program began in 1997.

THC cemetery preservation specialist Gerron Hite nominated the Navarro County pair for the award.

In January, an area cemetery here that contained a single grave became the 500th cemetery in Texas to achieve historical designation status.

In a Jan. 4 article about that milestone, Young said there were 33 Navarro County cemeteries that had been submitted under the program, with 15 of those having achieved certification as a historical site.

Young is the chairman of the Navarro County Historical Commission and a Texas Archeological Steward for the state's historical commission. He is one of the original 13 stewards in that special program.

McManus is the vice chairman of the local historical commission.

Young, McManus and Hite will give a talk covering the importance of cemetery preservation on Saturday at the state's quarterly meeting.

"We're trying to get some of the other counties involved and show them the importance of recording their cemeteries," McManus said. "With things like the Trans Texas Corridor coming, we need to get (cemeteries) filed and protected."

He said that he and Young know of five Navarro County cemeteries that, in the past year, have either been destroyed or bulldozed.

It's a time-consuming process to go through.

"It's exhausting work," McManus said. "I think Bill and I put in over 1,000 hours each, besides working for a living."

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Loyd Cook may be contacted via e-mail at loydcook@corsicanadailysun.com


 


Don't bleach that tombstone!

By EDDIE GLENN
Tahlequah Daily Press

With Memorial Day just around the corner, a lot of folks might be making plans to clean up area cemeteries.

But, as Murrell Home Site Manager Shirley Pettingill pointed out, cleaning a headstone is different from cleaning a bathroom.

“People don’t understand that using chemicals on a tombstone will ruin it,” said Pettingill, who also oversees the maintenance of both Ross and Worcester cemeteries in Park Hill, Okla. “People mean well, but they don’t realize that what they’re doing can be more harmful than helpful.”

Ross and Worcester cemeteries are both located off of Park Hill Road, within just a few yards of each other. Each cemetery is the final resting place of many prominent citizens in Cherokee Nation and Oklahoma state history.

Pettingill recently attended a workshop on cemetery preservation, presented by the National Park Service’s Preservation Technology and Training Center.

She was inspired to learn more about cemetery preservation by an incident that happened recently at Ross Cemetery.

“I went up to the cemetery and saw two women rubbing chalk on the stones,” said Pettingill. “They didn’t mean to cause any harm, but that wears down the stone.”

“Chalking” is a common practice in a lot of historic cemeteries. It involved rubbing a piece of sidewalk chalk over the engraving of a stone to make it stand out better in photographs.

Another practice used to make stones more readable is putting shaving cream on them. But that can leave a chemical residue on the stone that eventually soaks into the monument, causing it to wear down.

Jennifer Sparks recently attended a workshop by the Chicora Foundation of South Carolina. The organization specializes in the preservation of historical and archaeological sites.

Even with a lifelong interest in historic preservation, Sparks learned that some of the things she had done before, with the best of intentions, weren’t necessarily the most effective ways to preserve grave markers.

“I learned so much at that seminar,” she said. “A lot of us just looked at each other and said, ‘Oh! We’ve been so bad!’”

Many of the methods commonly used to clean tombstones, she said, work because they take away small layers of the stone itself.

“A lot of people will use chemicals or bleach, or cleaners with salt in them,” she said. “I’ve been to places where they were using wire brushes. I’ve even seen people sandblast stones.”

Sparks said a common mistake – albeit a well-intentioned one – is placing tombstones that have fallen down in concrete, flat on the ground. If they’re made out of marble, they will actually bend and hold water, which further adds to their destruction.

Sparks stressed that tombstones won’t always look new – and they shouldn’t.

“It’s best to basically just leave them alone,” said Sparks. “If you don’t like that lichen or moss that’s on a stone, just take water and a big sloppy sponge and wet it down really good. Then you can take a Popsicle stick and scrape at it softly. Don’t dig, just scrape it.”

Pettingill agreed that tombstones may begin to weather, but as long as they’re still doing what they were meant to do, they shouldn’t be given any unnecessary attention.

“Basically, you want to read them,” she said. “You can clean them, but you don’t want to do anything that would actually destroy them.”



Eddie Glenn writes for Tahlequah (Okla.) Daily Press.

 


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