My favorite tombstone
inscription covers a woman’s grave in the Garden of Memories at Lufkin:
“See, I told you I was sick. P.S. I knew this would happen. I just didn’t know
it would happen so soon.”
A century ago, malpractice lawsuits were unknown,
so tombstones were sometimes used by surviving relatives to castigate doctors
for their faults. In the Coldspring
Cemetery, one such tombstone bears this inscription: “In memory of my darling
child, Edith E., youngest daughter of Robert and S.C. Smith. Born Nov. 1, 1854,
Died a victim to an experiment in surgery by Dr. Warren Stone of New Orleans,
May 18, 1872.”
In Paris (the one
in East Texas), I’ve always had an
affinity for a large stone Jesus marking the resting place of cowboy Willet Blalock,
who died in 1884 and was buried in a local cemetery. True to Blalock’s character,
wearing cowboy boots. If Blalock had been around today, he probably would
have had Jesus wearing Nikes.
Charlie Ratliff of Jasper
is one of only two people I know with two gravestones. When the 80-year-old man
lost his right arm to cancer, he had it buried in Little Hope Cemetery with a
marker bearing a carving of an arm and hand. When Charlie died four years later,
the rest of his body was buried beside the arm.
The same thing happened
to Winnie Jones, who lost a leg and had it buried in St. Luke’s Cemetery in San
Augustine County with the inscription: “Here lies Winnie Jones’ leg.” When Winnie
died, she was buried near her leg with the notation: “Here lies Winnie Jones.”
In Mount Hope Cemetery near Chester,
a 10-foot shaft sometimes called the “history marker,” tells the story of pioneer
farmer James Barnes’ family. Chiseled into the four-sided base are 218 words,
18 historical dates, and 13 individual names. The stone bears the names of Barnes’
ten children and their birthdates.
A similar four-sided monument is in
Bodan Cemetery near Pollok. On
three sides are the names of Mr. and Mrs. J.T. Scott and Mrs. M.E. Chancy, who
died from pneumonia on the same winter day in 1899. The weather was so cold that
a bonfire was built over the grave to thaw out the earth. The fourth side bears
the name of Thomas Chancy, who died 15 year later.
Grove Cemetery in Nacogdocheswhich
ironically is the dead end for Hospital Streetcontains rows and rows of
magnificent tombstones, including those for four signers of the Texas Declaration
But I particularly like the tombstone of Oscar L. Holmes,
a county clerk who had an extract of his will chiseled on his marker. Knowing
what he knew about records that sometimes disappear, he probably wasn’t taking
any chances with his bequeath.
favorite grave in Tyler
isn’t even in a cemetery. It’s the resting place of Shorty the Squirrel whose
little monument sticks out of a flowerbed on the downtown square. Shorty skipped
and bounced across the square for 15 years, becoming one of Tyler’s
best known citizens. When he died in 1963, the victim of old age, the whole town
mourned his passing.
Another animal’s grave is almost
as well known at Lufkin. Ottie
the Horse, owned by the Humason family, pulled an ice wagon and led funeral parades
in Lufkin in early-day Lufkin.
When she died, she was buried outside Glendale Cemetery, but when a utility line
was built across her grave, her tombstone was relocated inside the Humasons’ family
In Williams Cemetery, near Fair
Play, is a little wooden marker covered by a white shed. It's the grave of
Sarah Jane Northcutt, reportedly a member of a wagon train who died among strangers
in Panola County in 1855. As the years passed, Fair
Play's residents have tended the grave as if it belonged to one of their own.
tombstone marks the resting place of Texas' second
governor, George T. Wood. When he died in 1858, his wife ordered him interred
in a small family plot, reportedly to fulfill Wood's wish that he be "buried close
to home." Stuck away in the dense forests of San Jacinto County, it's a strange
place for the grave of a Texas governor, but Wood himself was a little strange,
too. He seldom wore socks and often rode from his home near Coldspring
to Austin on the back of a mule.
In contrast to Governor Wood's isolated grave, Riggs Cemetery south of Cleveland
is probably the most visible in East Texas.
It straddles the median between the north and south lanes of U.S. 59, one of the
busiest highways in Texas. The Texas Highway Department
tried to relocate the little graveyard when it made 59 a superhighway, but the
descendants of those buried there wouldn't budge.
If asked to name my
favorite cemeteries, I would have to include in the list Scottsville
Cemetery near Marshall, which
is filled with priceless Italian marble sculptures marking the graves of the Scott
and Rose families.
October 7, 2012 Column
A weekly column syndicated in 109 East Texas newspapers
Texas Cemeteries | Texas
People | Columns | Texas