Are you ready for more stories from the Fort Sill Post Cemetery in Lawton, Okla.?

This handsome tree-shaped monument literally stands out among the other standard issue military grave markers. You can’t help but notice it. Sadly, I could find little about Private Thomas Scanlon. But what I did discover just makes me even more curious about him.

The Mysterious Private Scanlon

Born around 1870 in Patterson, N.J., Thomas Scanlon was living in New York City, working as a laborer, when he enlisted in the U.S. Army on Oct. 19, 1901. He was 32 at the time, a rather late age to be joining the military. He served as a private in the 29th Battery of the Field Artillery. I could find absolutely nothing about that unit in my searches.

The only Army record I could find (thanks to a friend) about Thomas describes him as being 5 feet 8 inches tall with dark hair and blue eyes. He died on Feb. 28, 1903 at Fort Sill. The cause of death on his Army record is “acute alcoholic poisoning”.

I have a lot of questions about Private Thomas Scanlon.

The tree monument erected for Thomas is stunning. On the top left is a broken branch, indicating a life cut short. A calla lily is carved into the side, indicating majestic beauty or resurrection. Near the foot of the tree are the words “Erected by His Battery.” His marker says he was 37 but he was probably actually closer to 34.

For those of you who are familiar with tree monuments, I don’t believe this is a Woodmen of the World marker. There is no WOW seal or other symbols to indicate it is one. Above his name are two crossed field guns, which is the insignia of the Field Artillery branch of the U.S. Army.

Thomas Scanlon’s fellow soldiers must have thought a great deal of him to pool their money to buy him such a beautifully carved monument. It’s sad that it’s the only thing left to represent his short life on this earth. What happened to cause Thomas to enlist? Did he have a drinking problem that had led him to seek a more stable life? Where was his family? These are questions we will probably never have the answers to.

McCune and Stewart

The next pair I want to feature are Henry P. McCune and Altha Elizabeth Stewart. Had it not been for information, I’m not sure I would have figured out their connection due to the different last names. Their box graves intrigue me. I’m thinking they were created at some later time than the 1890s but I’m not at all sure.

Graves of Henry P. McCune and his wife, Altha Addington White McCune Stewart.

Born in Ohio in 1850, Henry P. McCune moved to Kansas with his family as a boy. He enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1867 at age 17. The 1870 U.S. Census places him at Fort Coucho in Bexar, Texas as what was called a “waggoner”. I know of at least one person in my family tree who served as one during the Civil War.

In 1880, Henry married Altha Addington White. She had been married once before and her son, who came to this second marriage with her, was named Robert White. Together, Altha and Henry had six children together, one dying in infancy (the twin brother of Birdie). They are pictured below. After the family moved to Fort Sill sometime around 1888, the three younger McCune daughters were born.

Family of Henry P. & Altha Elizabeth Addington White McCune Stewart. Front row L-R: Birdie McCune, Goldie McCune, Maude McCune, Henry Ed McCune. Back row L-R: Altha Elizabeth Addington White McCune Stewart, Ethel Love McCune, Henry P. McCune, Robert White (son of Altha from a previous marriage). (Photo Source:

I’m don’t know what his cause of death was, but Henry died on Dec. 13, 1892 at age 42. Altha remarried to J.J. Stewart in 1894. They had one child, William, together. She died in childbirth on Sept. 5, 1897 at age 42. J.J. had her buried beside Henry at Fort Sill.

According to Robert White’s Find a Grave memorial, J.J. Stewart was unable to care Altha’s children after her death. So at age 22 and single, Robert took his half-siblings and made the journey from Ft. Sill to Washita County where he homesteaded on a quarter section of land and they lived in a dugout. J.J. Stewart died in 1936 and is buried in Sentinel Cemetery in Washita County, Okla.

Had it not been for and, I doubt I would have figured out how Henry McCune and Altha Stewart were connected. This is her grave stone embedded in the box grave cover.

Per Robert’s half-sister Ethel McCune Evans, “Because of difficult circumstances raising small children, our brother thought it would be better for us if we were in an orphans’ home, so he took the three younger children to the Buckner’s Orphans Home in Dallas, Texas, in March 1899. When on his way back form Dallas to the farm, in what is now Port, Okla., Bob worked at Marietta, Indian Territory, for a few months, where he became ill and died in the fall of 1899”.

The McCune children were scattered after that. They married, had children, and died. One of the McCune children, Henry Edward, served in the U.S. Army during World War I. After he came home to Lawton, he worked at Fort Sill as a civilian. He died in 1951 and is also buried at Fort Sill Post Cemetery.

Suffer the Little Children

There are several little box graves for children that died during this mid 1870s to 1890s era at Fort Sill. Annie Alberta Keeley was the daughter of “Post Qe. M. Sergeant” James and Emma Keeley. I am guessing that his title was possibly that of quartermaster, but I don’t know for sure.

Annie Alberta Keeley’s parents are not buried with her at Fort Sill Post Cemetery.

Annie’s parents are not buried at Fort Sill Post Cemetery with her. I have no idea where they might be.

I found out much more about the family of Walker Norvell. He was the second child of Col. Steven Thompson Norvell and Sarah Elizabeth Proal Norvell. A native of Maine, Steven Norvell enlisted in the U.S. Army on Jan. 23, 1858 as a private in Company A, 5th Infantry. He would go on to fight in a number of Native American incursions until the Civil War, as he steadily climbed up the ranks. He became a major on March 25, 1890 and a lieutenant colonel on July 1, 1898, retiring on February 14, 1899.

Col. Stevens Norvell had an illustrious military career. (Photo source:

He was promoted to Colonel on the retired list on April 23, 1904. During the Spanish American War, he commanded a squadron of the 10th Cavalry at the battles of La Guasima, San Juan, and subsequent actions leading to the surrender of Santiago. He also served with future President Theodore Roosevelt at the Battle of San Juan Hill.

Walker Norvell’s parents and one sister are buried in Arlington National Cemetery near Washington, D.C.

Born on Nov. 27, 1873, Walker only lived three days. His three siblings all grew up and lived long lives. Interesting to note, his parents and all three siblings are buried at Arlington National Cemetery outside Washington, D.C. His sisters, Sarah and Alice, both married military men. Brother Guy Steven Norvell attained the rank of colonel like his father.

I’m including one last child’s marker for little William O. Lambertson. Like Annie Keeley, I know nothing about him beyond when he was born, when he died, and the named of his parents. William F. and Clara O. Lambertson are not buried with him. I did find a record for a William F. Lambertson who died in 1890 of “chronic myelitis” while serving at Fort Keough, Mont. He is buried in Forest Hill Cemetery in Moores Hill, Ind. I suspect this might be little William’s father.

William O. Lambertson’s parents are not buried with him.

“A Soldier Who Died For A Soldier”

A number of the soldiers buried at Fort Sill Post Cemetery died in combat. But in the case of Lieutenant Col. Harold Hubert Bateman, his death was brought about while trying to save one of his brothers in arms off the battlefield.

Born in California in 1887, Harold Bateman’s father was a chaplain in the U.S. Army. Harold enlisted on May 5, 1906 at Fort Huachuca, Ariz. He served in Troop D, Fifth Cavalry until his discharge at Fort Leavenworth, Kans. on May 4, 1909 as a sergeant. He immediately re-enlisted and served with the Fifth Cavalry until his discharge on August 9, 1909 at Fort Leavenworth, Kans. He wed Winnifred Maud Palmer on February 28, 1910.

Lt. Col. Harold H. Bateman gave his life to save his fellow soldier but he died as well.

In 1910, Harold was a commissioned a second lieutenant serving in Battery B First Field Artillery in the Philippine Islands. By 1916, he was serving in the Third Field Artillery and was due for promotion to first lieutenant. During World War I, Harold served in France and, following the Armistice, was part of the army of occupation on the Rhine River in Germany. By 1919, Bateman had attained the rank of lieutenant colonel in the Ninth Field Artillery stationed at Fort Sill. Being assigned to Fort Sill was a request Harold has specifically made, having been stationed there before. By this time, he and Winnifred had a little daughter, Suzanne.

On July 4, 1919, Harold and several officers went on a fishing trip four miles west of Fort Sill on Medicine Bluff Creek at a spot known as Heyl’s Hole. The deep depression in the creek was thought to be the cause of several previous drowning deaths. Private Joe Bukoby of F Battery, 14th Field Artillery, was riding Harold’s horse and somehow rode into the creek.

Harold, seeing Bukoby, yelled for him to return to the shore. Bukoby, who didn’t know how to swim, panicked and fell from his mount. Harold pulled off his boots and jumped into the water to save him. He reached Bukoby and was pulling him to shore when the young man again panicked and got a choke hold on Harold. Both men went down as Captain Francis Legette jumped in after them. When Legette reached the spot where the two men were last seen, he was pulled down by Bukoby, who was still submerged. Legette managed to break loose of the private’s hold and returned to shore without having secured either of the men. Their bodies were located later and brought up.

Lieut. Col. Bateman’s funeral was held on July 8, 1919. (Photo Source: Lawton Constitution, July 8, 1919)
“A Soldier Who Died For A Soldier”

I learned from newspaper accounts that both Harold’s wife, Winnifred, and his sister, Evangeline (who had arrived for a visit the day before), were present on the shore when the tragedy occurred. Harold’s father, Major C.C. Bateman, had just returned home from serving as a chaplain in France during World War I. He and Harold’s mother traveled to Fort Sill to attend their son’s funeral and burial. The funeral was well attended and the newspaper reported that the Lawton Monumental Words was making the memorial stone you see in the photo above.

I could find little about Pvt. Joseph Bukoby, who was born in Austria but had lived in Muscatine, Iowa for four years before his 1916 Army enlistment. Bukoby had been at Fort Sill since 1917. I don’t know where he is buried.

Next time, join me at Beef Creek Apache Cemetery where we will visit the grave of famous Apache leader and medicine man, Geronimo.

Grave marker of Black Beaver (1806-1880). In the early 1800s, he was contracted by the U.S. government and was in nearly all of the frontier transcontinental ex­peditions as the most intelligent and trusted scout. He witnessed the Medicine Lodge Treaty negotiations in 1867 and attended inter-tribal councils throughout the 1870s.