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
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.
and The Battle of Sabine Pass
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
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
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
Fairmount has about 240 marked graves and about 15 unmarked graves.
Thomas B. Anthony
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
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.)
Escapes, in its purpose to preserve historic, endangered and vanishing
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