It’s time to finish up at Shreveport, La.’s Oakland Cemetery. Today I’d I like to focus more on the actual monuments and markers, and their epitaphs, to let them speak for themselves. I think the monument for Harriett Hotchkiss does that well.
Born in 1846 in Shreveport, Harriett Sims Hotchkiss was the daughter of Dr. Thomas P. Hotchkiss and Nancy Hampton Gill Hotchkiss. She was their second child, the couple had several over their marriage. Dr. Hotchkiss was elected on March 20, 1839 to the first municipal government of Shreveport as one of five trustees. He served as a surgeon in the Confederate Army during the Civil War.
For reasons unknown, Harriett died on Oct. 3, 1856. She was only 10. Her death must have been a blow to her parents. The praying figure on top of Harriett’s monument suggests it surely was.
Nancy Hotchkiss died on Feb. 25, 1869 and there appears to be no marker for her. She was 43 at the time. Harriett’s brother, William, died in October of the same year at age 21. Dr. Hotchkiss did not remarry.
When the 1873 yellow fever epidemic struck Shreveport, Dr. Hotchkiss was mostly retired. But he sprang into action to tend the sick, many who had no way of paying him. He succumbed to the illness himself on Oct. 8, 1873. You can see his marker to the left of Harriett’s, I did not get a better photo of it than the one above dominated by Harriett’s monument. He was 59 at the time of his death.
Not far from the Hotchkiss graves is this one for James Elmore Atkins. He was the son of James W. Atkins and Lucy Elmore Atkins. Elmore was the name he went by. James W. was a planter who owned a plantation in Knox Point, La. and operated a mercantile in Shreveport with his brother.
Elmore’s monument has Lucy’s named spelled “Lucie”. He had an older sister, Maude. A praying angel kneeling on a pillow tops it. Above Elmore’s name and dates are the words “Mama’s Darling”. I am certain Elmore was dear to Lucy’s heart.
Elmore was only three when he died of bronchitis on March 6, 1892. An article in The Times of Shreveport reported:
For nearly two long weeks, little Elmore endured with more than childish fortitude the pain and suffering and then He gaveth his beloved sleep and the little one has been gathered to into the flock of the Good Shepherd. It is to the stricken parents that the sympathy of friends and relatives is extended; they that need consolation; for it is surely well with their child. No present words can assuage the bitter grief that sweeps across their heart strings right now.
Inscribed on one side is the following epitaph:
Fold him, o Father, in thine arms, and let him henceforth be
a messenger of love between our human hearts and thee.
It must have been heartbreaking to lose Elmore at such a young age. Lucy did give birth to another child, Herbert, in January 1893. He lived a long life, dying in 1973. Maude died in 1910 at age 24 of emphysema. Lucy died in 1922 at age 67. She and Maude are buried together at Shreveport’s Greenwood Cemetery. James W. Atkins remarried to Ethel Colgate. He died in 1930 and is buried with her at Greenwood Cemetery.
“Hope Still Lifts Her Radiant Finger”
Nearby are the monuments for James W. Atkins’ older brother, Joseph Davis Atkins, and his wife, Ophelia Lucille Poole Atkins. The pair married in 1879. They had no children together that I am aware of. Joseph was in business with his brother at the mercantile and in operating their Knox Point plantation.
Joseph died on May 30, 1891 in Shreveport. His obituary states he “had been indisposed for several days from the effects of la grippe, died at this home at Knox Point last Saturday night from paralysis of the brain.” In those days “la grippe” was a form of influenza. He was only 39.
Ophelia was left to carry on without him, which could not have been easy. Joseph’s monument is a testament to her grief. Above his name, it says: “I watch over thee, dear husband.”
On the side is the following inscription, which you can see in the photo below:
Hope still lifts her radiant finger
Pointing to the eternal home
Upon whose portal yet they linger
Looking back for us to come.
Ophelia lived another 35 years, remaining in Shreveport. With no children to comfort her, it had to have been hard. She was close with one of her sisters, who lived in nearby Belcher. Her obituary noted that she was active in her church and Shreveport social circles.
Ophelia had a stroke and died several weeks later in Belcher, La. at age 72 on Nov 18, 1929. She is buried beside Joseph.
“No Ostentation Marked Tranquil Way”
Born in 1878, Leon Rutherford Smith was a Shreveport native. He obtained his law degree from the University of Virginia in 1900 and married Ethel Blanchard the following year. She was the only daughter of Louisiana governor Newton C. Blanchard (serving from 1904 to 1908) and Mary Emmett Barret Blanchard.
After serving on the Caddo Parish school board, Leon decided to run for office and was elected to the Louisiana House of Representatives in 1904. He became a state senator in 1912.
Leon and Ethel had one child together, Newton Blanchard Smith, born in 1904. Sadly, Leon died after contracting the Spanish Flu on Oct 19, 1918. He was only 43 years old. Ethel did not remarry. She died in 1945 after having a heart attack. She is buried beside Leon.
Blanchard, who had moved to Poughkeepsie, N.Y. in the 1930s, died there in 1954 at age 50. He is buried with his parents in Oakland.
Leon’s monument has the following inscription:
No ostentation marked his tranquil way, his duties all discharged without display
And Heaven lifts its everlasting portals high
To bid the pure in heart behold his god.
I did a search to see if there was an author, but did not find a name. Apparently, it was a rather popular epitaph because it appears in various forms on a number of grave markers I saw online.
“One Pure Bright Eternal Day”
Finally, let’s turn to the marker for Lillie Wilkinson Sims Starling. Born in 1842, Lillie was the daughter of Ross Wilkinson and Hannah Folwell Wilkinson. She and her family moved to Minnesota before settling in Caddo Parish sometime after 1860.
Lillie married J.T. Sims sometime after 1870. J.T. died of pneumonia on Feb. 5, 1873 at age 27. Lillie gave birth to their son, Thomas Ross Starling, at some point soon after that. Lillie remarried to Joseph Starling in 1881. A native of New York, Starling was employed by the Texas & Pacific Railroad for 25 years. He and Lillie had one son, Joseph, in 1883 but he only lived five months.
Lillie and Joseph were living just over the Texas border in Waskom when she died on Oct. 22, 1885. I don’t know what her cause of death was. Her remains were returned to Shreveport and she was buried beside her first husband, J.T. Sims, and her infant son, Joseph, who had died just two years before. She was 43. Her marker features an elaborate profusion of flowers at the top.
Joseph Staring remarried in 1891 to Maria Stephens. He died in 1927 and is buried with her in Greenwood Memorial Park and Mausoleum in Fort Worth, Texas.
A sad footnote to this story. Remember Lillie’s son Thomas? He moved to Philadelphia, Pa. where some of Lillie’s Wilkinson relatives lived. I found an article that stated due to being despondent over being unable to find work, Thomas ingested acontie. It’s also known as wolfsbane. Ingested in a large enough quantity it can cause death. Thomas died on Sept. 30, 1901 at age 26 in a Philadelphia hospital.
Thomas’ uncle, H.C. Wilkinson, handled his funeral arrangements. Thomas is buried at Laurel Hill Cemetery in Philadelphia, Pa.
Next time, join me at Vicksburg National Cemetery in Mississippi for the next part of Oklahoma Road Trip 2019.
Greg H. said:
Thank you, Traci …most enjoyable!. We lived in Shreveport (actually Bossier City, just across the Red River) in the late 1970s, but I never visited Oakland Cemetery. Great stories.
Thank you, Greg! It’s an interesting cemetery. When I looked up the memorials on Find a Grave, the pictures were from years ago and I could see that several markers had been put back upright and repaired. They are trying to fix the place up, I can see. It’s just a lot of time and money to do so, I guess. That’s the case with so many old city cemeteries now.