Pecan Cemetery would be my next to last cemetery stop in Lawton. I did visit one more but it was a very brief one and I didn’t take enough photos to make it “blog worthy”, so to speak.

The gates of Pecan Cemetery let you know at once that it was established in 1906 when the land was still called Oklahoma Territory. Statehood would come a year later.

Pecan Cemetery was established in 1906.

According to Find a Grave, Pecan Cemetery has a little over 500 memorials recorded. It’s not a very big cemetery but it appears to be well cared for by the locals. The gates look fairly new. That’s the extend of my knowledge about it.

Mother and Son

Seeing a grave marker for a mother and son is not unheard of, I’ve seen several. But I’m always curious to know what the story is behind one.

Born in 1876 in Wisconsin, Emma married German immigrant Frank Penskofer around 1896. I have seen her maiden name listed as both Tank and Faulk/Fauk. By 1910, the couple was farming in Painter, Okla. with their seven children. The township wasn’t far from Lawton.

On July 14, 1910, Frank and Emma’s oldest son, Warren, died at the age of 13. Try as I might, I could not find out what his cause of death was. I couldn’t find an obit for him.

Walter Penskofer was only 13 when he died in 1910.

In 1912, at age, 36, Emma gave birth to her eighth child, also named Emma, on Jan. 21, 1912. Emma (the mother) died two weeks later on Feb. 6, 1912. Her obituary said it was from blood poisoning but today it would be called postpartum sepsis. It still happens today. According to the CDC, sepsis is the second leading cause of pregnancy-related deaths.

According to her obituary, Emma’s funeral was conducted by Rev. E. C. Deyo, who founded the Deyo Mission Chapel I talked about a few weeks ago.

Frank remarried in 1913 to Annie McDonald, who passed away in 1915. He waited several years to remarry to twice-widowed Allie Amanda Thurman Smith Lockhart in 1931. Frank was about 20 years older than Allie. He died in 1954 and Allie die in 1976. They are buried together at Pecan Cemetery.

“Dropped Dead”

In researching the grave of Sarah Ward, I encountered a phrase that I continue to find in obituaries from this era: “dropped dead”. I have yet to discern why newspapers used these words when they could have simply said “died”. Maybe they thought more people would buy the newspaper to find out why with a headline like that.

Born in Tennessee, Sarah Elizabeth McKrackin married Missouri native James Ward in 1888. Contrary to what her initial obituary said, the couple had nine children together. I’ll let you read how the newspaper described her last hours. She was 57 when she died on Nov. 19, 1925.

According to this newspaper article, Sarah Ward was preparing a meal and after walking outside, suddenly fell down and died.
Sarah’s husband, James, moved from Oklahoma to New Mexico not long after she died.

At the time of Sarah’s death, her children were grown and many had moved away. Her husband, James, moved to Roswell, N.M. to be near his daughter Beulah. He died there in 1946. His obituary states that many of his children moved there to be near him. He is buried in Roswell at South Park Cemetery.

Homemade Stones

Pecan Cemetery has some interesting homemade markers. I’m always intrigued by the anonymous individuals who take this kind of task on, adding their unique style. It can’t be easy.

The marker for Josephine “Josie” Wilson Crook features a large star and even has a footstone behind it with her initials “JMC”.

Who carved Josie Crook’s grave marker?

Josie married Richard Crook about 1913 in Oklahoma. They were the parents of three children, Marvin, Leroy, and Francis. She was only 42 when she died on March 4, 1929. Her youngest child, Francis, was only 10. I’m not sure where her husband is buried but her parents are buried in Pecan Cemetery in unmarked graves.

I could find no information at all about poor William A. Carter, who only lived one day. He died on April 18, 1918. His marker says he is the “son of Mrs. Ollie Hough” but there are no other Houghs in the cemetery. The other Carter buried there does not appear to be related to him.

Little William Carter only lived one day.

If you were looking only at the stone of Vilas Mitchell, you would find out nothing beyond his name. Fortunately, his Find a Grave memorial included an obituary from the Lawton Constitution that said he died 12 miles south of Lawton on Nov. 15, 1919 at the age of 16. I learned he was the son of Frank and Nora Mitchell, and was one of their several children. I think he’s the only one of the Mitchell family buried at Pecan Cemetery.

Villas Mitchell came from a large family.

There are two Harris markers at Pecan Cemetery. One simply says “Harris” and the other “Bobbie Ray Harris”. Again, I am thankful to the Lawton Constitution for reporting that Bobbie Ray was the six-week-old son of Mr. and Mrs. Dan Harris. He died on June 28, 1932. It’s my guess that the other Harris grave marker is for a sibling.

Bobbie Ray Harris died in 1932.

A Double Murder

Up to this point, my research about those buried at Pecan Cemetery had been pretty tame. Then I looked up Howard Owen Reynolds and that abruptly changed.

Born in 1897, Howard and his family moved from Illinois to Lawton when he was about six. He was one of several siblings. Howard served in the 79th Infantry, 15th Division during World War I. In 1925, he married Augusta Littlepage. He was 28, she was 18.

It may have already begun but after that, his life began to unravel. According to a family tree on, someone had written that by 1928, “His profession when not committing crimes and engaging in adultery was barbering.” The 1928 Lawton business directory confirms he was a barber. The 1930 U.S. Census has him residing in the Comanche County Jail. Howard and Augusta divorced that year and she went to live with her parents. They had no children that I know of. Perhaps it was for the best considering what happened later.

A love triangle exploded in murder on April 12, 1934, ending in the death of Howard Reynolds and Faye Hennessee.

Howard was keeping company with Faye Hennessee, the estranged wife of 58-year-old Jim “Peck” Hennessee in March 1934. She was Jim’s third wife and they had five children together, two others dying in infancy. Her situation must have been dire because she was living in a tent on the edge of town with the children. Howard was out on bail, awaiting action on a burglary charge.

Sometime on April 12, 1934, Howard and Jim Hennessee got into a physical fight at the tent where Faye and the children lived. Later that day, Jim returned with a gun and found Howard sitting in a car with Faye and Howard’s brother, Hughey. Howard and Faye jumped out of the car and ran, and Jim shot at them. Hughey remained in the car but was also injured. Howard and Faye lay dead in the road. Hughey survived and went on to later testify against Jim. Fortunately, none of the Hennessee children were injured.

At first, Jim denied he’d had anything to do with the murders. Hughey said otherwise. Eventually, Jim confessed but claimed he had shot at Howard in self defense and had not realized he was also firing his gun toward his estranged wife. Jim was charged with murder.

Howard Reynolds was 36 when he was killed by a jealous husband.

Jim was first tried for Faye’s murder and the jury lowered the charge to voluntary manslaughter, with a sentence of 10 years. He was due to stand trial for Howard’s death after that. I do know he appealed the sentence for Faye’s murder but it was upheld.

I believe Jim was sentenced to an additional 10 years for Howard’s murder because the next news article I found reported that after serving 13 months of his 20-year sentence, Jim was paroled in May 1937 due to illness. He had served his time at McAlester Penitentiary, now known as Oklahoma State Penitentiary. That made me very curious as to where Jim Hennessee landed after his parole.

Jim Hennessee spent the last eight years of his life in the Central State Hospital Annex in Alderson, Okla. (Photo source: Lawton News-Review, May 6, 1937)

According to Ancestry, Jim was an inmate at the Central State Hospital Annex in Alderson, Okla. in 1940. That’s not far from the McAlester Penitentiary but about three hours east of Lawton. In 1953, it became Griffin Memorial Hospital, a 120-bed acute psychiatric hospital that’s still in operation today. I did learn that Central was where the criminally insane were housed so I’m guessing Jim Hennessee was found mentally ill.

Jim Hennessee died on March 10, 1945 and is buried in an unmarked grave in the Central State Hospital Annex Cemetery in McAlester. Faye Hennessee, his estranged wife and victim, is buried at Pecan Cemetery with two of her adult children.

Having read all this, I felt for the families destroyed and the lives lost, regardless of their actions. This took place during the Great Depression, in the throes of the Dustbowl days when life was especially hard in the Sooner State. When living in a tent wasn’t out of the ordinary and trying to survive on the edges of society was the norm for many.

On the Road to Hugo

I went to pick up Sarah after that. The next day, we headed east to begin our trek back to Georgia. Our next stop was Showman’s Rest at Mount Olivet Cemetery in Hugo, Okla. You won’t want to miss that.

Farewell to Lawton.