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Texas Cemetery ē Texas History

Fairmount Cemetery

by Bob Bowman
Bob Bowman
Thankfully, more and more East Texas cemeteries are securing state historical markers as community landmarks. After all, cemeteries are not just resting places for the dearly departed; they are also repositories of a communityís history -- from its beginning to the present.

Such is Fairmount Cemetery, a well-kept graveyard nestled among the pines and oaks of southeastern Sabine County, near the Texas-Louisiana border.

The cemetery is one of the earliest remnants of old Fairmount, a rural settlement built around the swift, clear waters of South Prong Creek, which was used by pioneers as a source of fresh water and to power a grist mill and sawmill. Some of the millsí old ruins are still visible in the creek bed.

One of the earliest roads in the Fairmount led from Sabinetown Ferry, an early crossing on the Sabine River. A fork in the road led to another river crossing, Haddenís Ferry.

There were likely some burials in Fairmount Cemetery by the mid-1850s, but the first documented grave was that of Eli Smith, the young son of Edward and Mary Jane Smith in 1874.

Edward Smith and The Battle of Sabine Pass

Edward Smith deserves his own place in history. Born in Vernon Parish, Louisiana, in 1845, he moved to Newton County, Texas, with his parents as a small boy. When he reached eighteen, he enlisted in the Confederate Army to fight in the Civil War When federal naval forces approached the Texas coast, Smith and others in his company pushed through the East Texas swamps to reinforce Lieutenant Dick Dowling and his Texas forces at Sabine Pass. With only 40 men, they helped beat back an invasion by federal troops.

The battle, the only one ever fought on East Texas soil, saw Smith, Dowling and their fellow soldiers outnumbered 100 to one. Despite the overwhelming odds, the Texans had no deaths or injuries while the federal force of 27 ships had about 400 men injured, captured or killed. The Texans were so fierce that the battle lasted only forty-five minutes.

Following the end of the Civil War, Edward Smith came home to Fairmount, served as its postmaster 25 years, and became a Baptist preacher. He and his wife and many of their 13 children are buried in the Fairmount Cemetery. So are his parents and his wifeís mother.

The bravery Smith showed at Sabine Pass is also evident in a story told by his descendants.

Edward was walking with his dogs in the woods near his home, when a bear started chasing him. Edward scrambled up a tree and when the bear started climbing after him, Edward whipped out his pocketknife and slashed the bearís head and paws while his dogs nipped at the bearís heels.

The bear retreated, started chasing the dogs, but returned to climb the tree again. Again the dogs nipped at the bear, who started chasing them a second time. The distraction enabled Edward to climb down and run home.

Fairmount has about 240 marked graves and about 15 unmarked graves.

Thomas B. Anthony

One of the best known graves is that of Thomas B. Anthony, who in the 1880s volunteered to travel to Austin to collect a reward for the killers of Texas Ranger Jim Moore, who was slain when he and other Rangers tried to capture outlaw Willis Conner and his sons, who had been charged with killing two men in a squabble over wild hogs.

It took considerable bravery on Anthonyís part to make the long trip, especially during a time when some of the Conners were still on the loose.
All Things Historical >
January 24, 2006 Column
Published with permission

(Distributed by the East Texas Historical Association. Bob Bowman, of Lufkin, is a past president of the Association and the author of 30 books about East Texas.)
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