Oklahoma Road Trip 2019: The Sooner the Better at Lawton’s Deyo Mission Cemetery, Part II

Last week, I shared the origins of Lawton, Okla.’s Deyo Mission Church and Deyo Mission Cemetery, along with stories about some of those buried here. I’ve got a few more I wanted to pass along today. So let’s get started.

Chief Paddyaker

Doing research for the graves I photographed at DMC was a bit of a challenge sometimes because of the Native American names. Many had more than one and sometimes they were spelled differently on their marker. That was the case for Par-Ri-Eck-I-Vit, who has an above ground tomb with a larger monument in front of it.

When I looked up his memorial on Find a Grave, I realized that Par-Ri-Eck-I-Vit was more commonly known as Chief Paddyaker. This was the uncle of Wickkie, who I told you about last week. She was the wife of John Tabbytite, a member of Troop L of the Seventh Cavalry of the U.S. Army.

Chief Paddyaker, or Par-Ri-Eck-I-Vit, was a Comanche leader. He died in 1927.

Chief Paddyaker was a Comanche, and his birth year appears as either 1843 or 1853. His 1927 obituary states that: “Paddy Aker [I have seen it spelled different ways] was one of the old-time Indians, was here when Lawton was founded, has always proved himself a friend of the white race. He professed conversion and united with the Deyo Missionary Baptist Church about 20 years ago.”

It’s not easy to read the front of Chief Paddyaker’s monument because of the grain of the stone.

The grave of Iolene Paddyaker is nearby, a child who only lived six years and died in 1924. She was the daughter of Benton Dudley Paddyaker, who was related in some way to Chief Paddyaker.

Iolene Paddyaker was only six years old when she died.


I always enjoy seeing gravestones with portraits on them, and the one for Kosepeah is no exception. She looks like a wise woman who saw much in her life. I could find little about her but she is related to the Red Elk family. If her marker is any indication, she was born around 1867.

Little is known about Kosepeah.
Kosepeah’s stone indicates she was 80 when she died.

On Find a Grave, I saw that Kosepeah had two husbands, Kiowa George Ate-Te-Wuth-Take-Wa (who died in 1901) and Po-Ah-Way (who died in 1914). Both are buried at DMC. Beside Kosepeah is her grandson Clifford Red Elk. Clifford, born in 1918 (I think) was the son of Walter Red Elk and Charlotte Tah-Hah-Wah.

According to his obituary, Clifford attended the Fort Sill Indian School later switched to the Chilocco Indian School near the Kansas border. He drew a lot of attention for his boxing abilities. One article I found said he was “rated as one of the best 118-lb. Golden Glove prospects in Oklahoma” at the time of his death.

Why does Clifford Red Elk’s grave marker have a death date that is nine months after his actual death?

According to several articles I found, he died of tuberculosis in late February 1938. Yet his grave marker has a death date of Dec. 27, 1938 for him. That makes no sense to me. Was there some kind of mix up with the carver? I honestly don’t know. Regardless, Clifford’s life ended much too soon.

Mystery Graves

In some cases, I could find absolutely nothing about the deceased. Cooseronah is a good example of this. She has a beautiful stone with a portrait. But there was no information about her that I could use to shed light on her past.

Cooseronah would have been born around 1870.
Who was Cooseronah?

The grave for this baby was another mystery. She only lived four months, dying in April 1901. Who were her parents?

This is the only remaining record of this child.

I saw four different flat squares that are all marked “Tosee Baby” with no date. This is just one of them.

One for “Tosee Baby” markers at DMC.

The Maddox Sisters

I found two sisters buried beside each other at DMC. Of Comanche heritage, Lucele and Matilda Maddox were close in age and attended the Fort Sill Indian School on the reservation. Their parents were George Maddox and Eck-Ah-Sy (Grace) Maddox. They had several siblings. Two of their brothers served in the military.

I learned from the Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History & Culture:

First established as a Quaker boarding school in 1871, the Fort Sill Indian School became a nonsectarian institution in 1891 and remained so until closing in 1980. During its long history the school expanded from one building to 30. Its enrollment increased from 24 in its first year to more than 300 in the 1970s, and the number of employees on its payroll went from two in 1871 to more than 75 a decade later. Because the school was located near Lawton, before World War II Fort Sill’s student body was made up largely of Indians from western Oklahoma — Comanche, Apache, Caddo, Kiowa, Delaware, and Wichita.

The Fort Sill Indian School buildings were abandoned but still exist. You can read more about there here.

Undated picture of the Fort Sill Indian School.

Born in 1890, Lucele Maddox would have been 17 or 18 when she died on Oct. 4, 1908. I don’t know her cause of death.

Lucele Maddox was attending school when she died in 1908.

Mathilda Maddox, born in 1891, would have also been around 17 or 18 when she died on July 17, 1909.

Matilda Maddox died about eight months after her sister.

It was terrible blow for their parents. Just a few months before Lucele died, their infant daughter Daisy had passed away.

Daisy Maddox only lived a year and four days.

George Maddox died in 1920 at age 56. He is buried near his daughters. I did not see Grace Maddox’s grave but she is likely buried there as well.

Missionary to the Comanches

Mabel Moon Gilbert was not a Comanche. She was a white woman. But she had a heart for the Comanche and it appears they loved her back.

Born in Fairfield, Ill. in 1885, Mabel graduated from Shurtleff College in Alton, Ill. in 1904. It was later absorbed by Southern Illinois University. After that, she taught for three years in American mission colleges. She married Hervey F. Gilbert in 1911 and the pair both attended the Rochester Theological Seminary. They served as missionaries to Africa in 1913 but returned in 1916 due to Mabel’s health. Mabel and Hervey moved to the Lawton area in 1920. They had three children together, one dying in infancy.

Hervey and Mary Gilbert moved to Oklahoma to minister to the Comanche in 1920. (Photo Source: Ancestry.com)

I don’t know her cause of death but Mabel died at home on Jan. 17, 1929. She was 43. Her funeral service included both whites and Native Americans. Below is a newspaper account of that unique event that I found very interesting. Mabel had clearly made an impact among both whites and Native Americans in the four years she lived in Oklahoma.

Mabel Moon Glibert’s funeral was quite unique but reflective of those whose lives she touched. (Photo source: The Walters (Okla.) Herald, Jan. 24, 1929.

Note that in the article, it says Mabel was buried at the IOOF (Independent Order of Odd Fellows) Cemetery. Yet she is buried at the Deyo Mission Cemetery. It would make sense for her to be at DMC due to her love of the Comanche. Is it possible she was buried there first but later moved to DMC so she was closer to the people she loved?

Rev. Hervey Gilbert remarried to Ruth Long. He died in 1963 and is buried at Pomona Valley Memorial Park in Los Angeles, Calif.

It was time to start heading back to pick up Sarah. But I wanted to stop at nearby Pecan Cemetery on the way there. Please meet me there for my next adventure.

Oklahoma Road Trip 2019: The Sooner the Better at Lawton’s Deyo Mission Cemetery, Part I

Sarah wanted to visit some of her Lawton relatives so I dropped her off so she could do that. I decided to head over to the Deyo Mission Cemetery (DMC) that wasn’t far away. DMC is located a bit west of town. It’s another one of the KCA Intertribal Burial Grounds cemeteries.

The style of the Deyo Mission Cemetery sign is similar to the one for Mount Scott Cemetery, which I did not photograph.

The Deyo Baptist Church is to the right of the church’s parking lot. Because they were having an activity that day and members were present outside, I didn’t photograph it. So I headed over to the cemetery, which is on the far left side of the parking lot.

As you can see, it was a wet afternoon when I stopped by.

Deyo Mission History

The Deyo Mission’s history was documented online, thankfully. I don’t always get that lucky. Here’s what I found in The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture (EOHC):

The Deyo Mission, also called the First Comanche Mission, was established by Elton Cyrus Deyo in late winter 1893 near Cache. Deyo, a Baptist and 1893 graduate of the Colgate Theological Seminary, arrived at the Kiowa-Comanche-Apache Reservation in October 1893 with his wife, Anna. The Comanche gave them a cool reception. Indeed, church construction began at three or four different sites before the Deyos finally found one that was acceptable to the Comanche (five miles east and two miles south of Cache). Formally organized in November 1895, the congregation struggled in its first years, and the Deyos claimed only 13 Comanche converts by 1901. Between 1902 and 1911, however, Deyo converted 150, with 36 in 1903 alone.

E. C. Deyo was also an outspoken promoter of development in the region, and he gained a reputation for supporting the opening of reservation lands to non-Indians on the grounds that it would hasten the conversion of the Comanche. He reported his own efforts “to prepare the Comanche to meet his God, and dwell with him in heaven forever,” and he looked forward to the time when “these broad prairies may be settled by industrious Christian whites, who will help to roll onward the Grand Old Gospel Car.”

The Deyo Mission, now the Deyo Baptist Church, has been in continuous use since its founding and since the middle of the twentieth century has had a succession of Comanche pastors. Like many other Indian churches, it has often provided Comanche a way to maintain elements of their traditional culture through the use, for example, of native hymns.

Deyo Mission Chapel photo from 1938. (Photo source: EOHC website, Grant Foreman Collection, OHS)

I’m not sure how most people, Native American or white, would feel today about E.C. Deyo’s philosophy on converting Native Americans. Regardless, the church seems to be thriving and is an integral part of the community. Pictured above is the first building of the Deyo Mission, borrowed from the EOHC website. Today, it is a brick building.

Find a Grave reports about 770 memorials for Deyo Mission Cemetery. It looks like it has more than that there. But what I did see was fascinating. In the picture below, on the left behind Sarah’s car, you can get a glimpse of the side of the church with Mount Scott in the background.

If you look to the left, behind Sara’s car, you can see the side of Deyo Baptsit Church and Mount Scott just to the right of it.

“Sun Rays Shining Through the Clouds”

If you go looking for information on John Tabbytite, you won’t find much. There’s an article about him on JSTOR.org about him but you have to pay money to read it. Fortunately, I found a 1960 newspaper article about him in The Lawton Chronicle that helped me. His Comanche name means “Sun Rays Shining Through the Clouds”.

Born on August 2, 1872 in Texas, John Tabbytite belonged to the Seventh Cavalry, Troop L. You might remember that group from my post a few weeks back about Fort Sill’s Apache South Cemetery. Clarence Bailsto was a member, along with many Apache and Kiowa. The article says John’s father, Hoawah, was a Spaniard captured by the Comanche in the 1840s, and his mother was half Comanche, half Crow. His family ended up in Oklahoma on the reservation and John worked on a nearby ranch. But he longed for a better life.

In December 1960, the Lawton Chronicle featured John Tabbytite. He is pictured here with his wife, Wickkie. (Photo source: The Lawton Chronicle, Dec. 11, 1960)

When he was 18, John and one of his cousins joined the all-Native American Troop L of the Seventh Cavalry, led by Lt. Hugh Scott. Scott was well respected by Native Americans. John and the soldiers drilled and learned marksmanship.

According to John, he was among the soldiers when Geronimo and the Apaches moved from Mount Vernon Barracks in Alabama to Fort Sill. In fact, John was the first soldier among Troop L to ride up to Geronimo to welcome him to Fort Sill. It was not a task he was happy about due to Geronimo’s reputation. He described him as a “tough, mean looking old man.”

John Tabbytite was proud to wear the blue and gold uniform of Troop L of the Seventh Cavalry. I believe this photograph has had paint added to it to highlight the colors.

John enjoyed his days in Troop L, living in the barracks as a single man. Married soldiers lived with their families on the reservation. The Troop disbanded in 1897. John would eventually marry his wife Wickkie, at the Deyo Mission Chapel (as it was called then). She was living with an uncle when he met her, Comanche Chief Paddyaker. John became a farmer, working the land alotments he acquired over the years, and eventually farmed over 1,000 acres in the Cache Creek area. The Depression nearly wiped him out but he and Wickkie survived.

When John died on Aug. 27, 1961, he was 89. He was also the last surviving member of Troop L.

Grave marker of John Tabbytite, who was a private in Troop L of the Seventh Cavalry Regiment.

Buried beside John is his and Wickkie’s son, Lester Tabbytite. Born in 1929, Lester served in the 97the Signal Battalion during World War II. He returned home to Lawton after the war. Sadly, he died on Feb. 4, 1947 from injuries sustained in a car accident. He was only 20 years old.

Lester Tabbytite survived World War II only to die in a car accident after he returned home.

Wickkie Tabbytite died in 1977 at age 93. I found an article that said she traveled to Washington, D.C. in 1965 to visit her granddaughter, Ladonna Crawford, who was then the wife of Oklahoma state senator Fred Harris. It was Wickkie’s first plane ride. President Lyndon Johnson’s wife, Lady Bird Johnson, whom Wickkie had met the year before during a campaign stop in Oklahoma, gave her a tour of the White House. Wickkie is buried at DMC but I didn’t get a photo of her grave.

Wife of Quanah Parker

Quanah Parker, whose grave is at the Fort Sill Post Cemetery, had several wives. I was surprised to find one of them buried at DMC.

I could find little information about To-Nar-Cy. There was a HistoryNet.com article I tried to access but again, payment was required (sigh) so I skipped it. All I could see was that the article alleged that she was “considered “the “show wife” who often traveled with him”. Certainly she was much more than that. I believe she may have been sixth out of the seven wives he married. She and his last wife, To-pay, were living with him when he died in 1911.

To-Nar-Cy died at age 66 in 1931. Her birth year is not exact.

Undated photo of Quanaha Parker and one of his wives, To-Nar-Cy.

I was able to find out more about her monument thanks to a June 14, 1953 article in the Daily Oklahoman. A woman who knew her as a child, Lena Banks, was already concerned about the fact Quanah only had a wooden cross to mark his grave at the Fort Sill Post Cemetery. I didn’t know until I read this article that Lena wrote to four senators asking for help. Thanks to her efforts, the senators gave $1,500 to pay for the obelisk that now marks his grave.

Lena wasn’t aware that To-Nar-Cy’s grave at DMC was also unmarked for many years. When she did, she contacted her friend’s family members to ask what might be done. The wheels were set in motion and the marker, which is pictured below, was placed on Memorial Day 1953.

To-Nar-Cy died on June 27, 1931 after a long illness.
To-Nar-Cy did not have an easy life after the death of Quanah Parker in 1911.

Wookvitty Lucio

Another Native American grave marker got my attention. Wookvitty Lusio’s marker has her last name spelled “Lusio” but when I went to find information on her, I came up empty. I found her listed as Wookvitty Lucio instead. I think that’s the correct spelling.

Wookvitty Lusio’s last name is spelled Lucio in her obituary.

Born in 1864, she married Tomas Lucio in 1919 at age 50. I don’t believe she had any children. She was an active member of the Deyo Mission Chapel for many years. According to her obituary, she took part in Lawton’s anniversary celebrations ever year, wearing her buckskin attire.

Wookvitty Lucio in her younger days.

Join me next time for Part II of my visit to Deyo Mission Cemetery.

Oklahoma Road Trip 2019: The Sooner the Better at Meers’ Mount Scott Cemetery

After polishing off a tasty meal at the Meers Store and Restaurant, Sarah and I stopped by nearby Mount Scott Cemetery. It was a short stop because both of us were tired and ready to put our feet up.

Mount Scott Cemetery has about 550 burials listed on Find a Grave. It’s a member of the KCA Intertribal Burial Grounds. The KCA stands for Kiowa-Comanche-Apache, but there are folks who belong to other tribal groups buried here. I would visit a few more of these KCA designated cemeteries over the next few days before we headed back to Georgia.

Mount Scott Cemetery is a mix of old and new graves.

As we walked among the graves, I was intrigued by what I saw. This was different than the POW cemeteries I had passed through earlier in the days with their white government-issues markers. There was more personality, more expression. A number of those buried here are Native Americans who are proud of their culture. But some have also adopted the Christian faith, melding the two.

Daughter of Chief Standing Bear

I discovered ties between some buried here and those at Fort Sill. One was Virginia “Au-Quo-Yah” Stumbling Bear Sahmaunt. She was the daughter of Kiowa Chief Stumbling Bear and To-Ye-Mah. Her name is thought to mean “To Turn Back”.

In November 1864, Chief Stumbling Bear fought U.S. military forces led by Kit Carson at the Battle of Adobe Wells. Soon after, both Chief Stumbling Bear and Chief Kicking Bird became advocates of peace with the whites. As a result of his peace efforts, the federal government built him a home in 1878 on the Kiowa Reservation in the Indian Territory. He died in 1903 and is buried in the Fort Still Post Cemetery.

Photo of Virginia “Au-Quo-Yah” Sahmaunt, daughter of Kiowa Chief Stumbling Bear.

Virginia’s marker indicates she was born in 1861. But at age 15, she arrived at the Carlisle Indian Industrial School in Pennsylvania in April 1880. That would mean she was likely born in 1866. She stayed there for three years, returning to Oklahoma in 1883. She kept in touch with the Carlisle administrators, letting them know in a letter she had married Luther Sahmaunt. They were living in Lawton, Okla. in 1914.

Virginia and Luther had at least two sons and one daughter, according to her obituary. She died on May 28, 1926, suffering from heat stroke on her return from traveling with her family. It caused a heart attack that hastened her death.

Virginia Sahmaunt died in her 60s in 1926 after a bout of heat stroke brought on a heart attack.

Virginia’s obituary mentions that she spoke English fluently, which she may have learned at Carlisle. She had many friends among the white population and was a member of the Mount Scott Church where her funeral was held. The epitaph on her marker reads: “Her spirit smiles from that bright shore, and softly whispers weep no more.” Luther, her husband, remarried to a daughter of Santata and died in 1958.

One of Virginia’s grandchildren is buried near her. Annetta Quoetone, born in 1919, was the daughter of Nannie Susan Sahmaunt Quoetone. Annetta died on Valentine’s Day in 1920, only eight months old.

Annetta Quoetone was the great-granddaughter of Chief Stumbling Bear.

Another of Virginia’s grandchildren is buried at Mount Scott Cemetery, but Helen lived a long and happy life. Helen Ellen Quoetone, born in 1909, married Charles Curley. Charles served in the U.S. Army during World War II. They had one son named Archie. Charles worked in a meat packing plant while Helen was a hospital worker. Charles died in 1977 and Helen passed away in 1998 at age 88. They share this lovely marker.

Charles and Helen Quoetone Curley were married over 40 years.

I especially like the portrait of the couple with Helen in her traditional Native American garb. It was clearly an important part of who she was.

Portrait of Helen Quoetone Curley and Charles Curley.

Captain Scott Emauha

The marker for Captain Scott Emauah intrigues me. Born in 1894, he is the child of E-Mau-Ah and Gap-Kau-Go, and the nephew of Virginia Sahmaunt. Scott died at age 14 on June 26, 1909. I’m not sure how he was a Captain at such a young age or if that was simply part of his given name.

I suspect E-Mau-Ah may have been a Native American chief but I could find nothing about him. He is buried at Mount Scott Cemetery but I did not photograph his grave marker. He and Gap-Kau-Go had at least seven children together and none of them lived past their teen years.

Captain Scott Emauah is buried to the right of his sister Vida, who died in 1907.

Scott is buried beside his sister Vida, who died in 1907 at age 15. The angel at the top of his monument has an Arts and Crafts style to it that I love.

An angel drops a flower from her open hand.


The grave marker of Pah-do-Pony posed a bit of a mystery for me. I found little about him online but I did find some information regarding his son, Oliver, that helped. I believe the family is of Comanche origin.

Born in 1838, it is likely Pah-do-Pony was a medicine man. His son, Oliver, would follow in his footsteps many decades later, which you can read about here. The following generations went by the surname Pahdopony and many of them are buried at Mount Scott Cemetery. Pah-do-Pony died on Oct. 27, 1912 at age 75. Oliver, who died in 1988, is also buried at Mount Scott.

Pah-Do-Pony was likely a member of the Comanche tribe.

The top of the grave marker features a bird clutching a quiver and arrows in its talons. I’m not sure if it a tribal symbol.

Is this a Comanche symbol?

Alexander and Lorraine Mathews

I am especially fond of the grave of Alexander Mathews (1919-2008) and his wife, Lorraine Coosewoon Mathews (1920-1994). He and Lorraine were married for 47 years.

Alexander Mathews and his bride, Lorraine, in their younger days.

Alexander’s Pawnee name was “Koot-ooks-Tah-Kah” meaning “White Bear”. He was a full-blood member of the Pawnee Nation of Oklahoma. In 1941, he joined the U.S. Army and fought in the Pacific during World War II. He was captured in April 1942, and was a prisoner of war until September 1945. He was part of the Bataan Death March, and was forced into slave labor conditions in Japanese prison concentration camps. As a result, he returned to America after the war a much-decorated veteran.

You can see Alexander Mathews’ military marker in the background.

He and Lorraine had two sons and two daughters together. Alexander was Pawnee Nation President from 1993 to 1995, and a Traditional Chief of the Chaui Band of Pawnee. A graduate of the Haskell Institute in Kansas, he used his accounting skills to help others through various tribal agency organizations. After Lorraine died in 1994, Alexander remarried to Darlene Joyce Codopony in 1999. Alexander died on March 4, 2008 at age 88.

A Song for Bradley

It’s always difficult to see a grave for a young person. But the one for Bradley Hilton Wahnee is especially painful.

Bradley Wahnee’s life ended much too soon.

Born in Oklahoma City in 1990, Bradley was the son of Kari and Ernest Wahnee. His grandmother, Geneva, was a Sahmaunt. He attended Norman High School and graduated from Elgin High School in 2008. He was the 2008 Comanche Nation High School Graduate of the Year. He attended Oklahoma City University, where he was majoring in biology and pursuing a pre-med course.

Bradley Wahnee’s grave marker reflects his Native American heritage.

From newspaper articles I found, Bradley was doing well in college and was a popular student. On the night of Sept. 22, 2009, he was standing outside a friend’s home with him when a group of men wearing hoodies and bandanas drove up in a truck. Both Bradley and his friend were shot. The friend survived but Bradley died of his wounds. Police hunted for the truck’s driver but he was later found shot to death. I don’t know if any of the others involved were ever apprehended.

On the back of Bradley’s marker is a powerful poem called “A Song for Bradley”. He will never be forgotten.

Bradley was an avid Oklahoma University Sooners fan.

Join me next time when I visit Deyo Mission Cemetery.

Oklahoma Road Trip 2019: The Sooner the Better at Fort Sill’s Apache North Cemetery

My visit to Fort Sill’s cemeteries ends here at Apache North Cemetery. It also goes by the name Chief Chihuahua Apache North POW Cemetery. With 28 recorded burials, there are 26 marked graves here. It looks much like its sister cemeteries nearby, Beef Creek Apache Cemetery and Apache South Cemetery.

Apache North Cemetery looks much like the other two Apache POW cemeteries at Fort Sill.

There is one Native American chief buried at Apache North and that is Chief Chihuahua. He was chief of the Chokonen local group of the Tsokanende Band of Chiricahua Apache. This group is different than the Warm Spring Apache that we’ve talked about up to this point. But Chief Chihuahua lived among and fought alongside Geronimo and other Native American warriors.

Birth of a Chief

Born around 1825, Chief Chihuahua was also known as Kla-esh or Tłá’í’ez, meaning “”To push something under something else with your foot”. Chief Chihuahua carried out several raids on Arizona settlers in the 1870s and 1880s. His brother Ulzana (ca. 1821–1909), also called Ol-Sanny, who led a famous raid through New Mexico and Arizona in 1885, was his war chief. I’ll talk more about him later.

Chief Chihuahua was a protege of Cochise, surrendering with Cochise in 1872 and going to live on the San Carlos Reservation in Arizona. Once there, he became first sergeant of a company of Apache Scouts in 1880 under U.S. Army Lieutenant James A. Maney.

Chief Chihuahua and his family. His wife, Ilth-Gozey, stands to his right. Son Eugene is on the far left, sitting. (Photo source: From the 1906 book “Geronimo’s Story of His Life”)

After Cochise’s death in 1874, Chief Chihuahua and Ol-Sanny didn’t recognize Cochise’s sons’ leadership. Chief Chihuahua later fled the reservation to lead a war party into Mexico, but surrendered to General George Crook in 1883. He left the reservation in San Carlos again with Geronimo and other chiefs in 1885, and led raids into Mexico, finally surrendering again to Crook in 1886.

On April 7, 1886, Chihuahua was shipped along with other Apaches to Fort Marion, Fla. In May 1888, he was transferred to Mount Vernon Barracks, Ala. While at Mount Vernon Barracks, Chief Chihuahua carried himself with such dignity and became so respected by his captors, the soldiers called him “Chesterfield”. In October 1894, the remaining Apaches were transferred to Fort Sill.

Thanks to Alicia Delgadillo, I found a little information about Ilth-Gozey. Her Apache name means “Twisted”. She was the daughter of Tzegojuni and a full sister of Tahdaste. I don’t know what year she married Chief Chihuahua. They had at least six children together. Four of them are buried at Apache North Cemetery with their father.

Their first child, Ramona, was born in 1875 and attended the Carlisle Indian Industrial School in Pennsylvania like Clarence Bailtso, whom I talked about last week. It was there she met Asa Daklugie, whom she married in 1898. Asa was close with Geronimo and was with him when he died in 1909.

Chief Chihuahua’s Children

The date on Mable Chihuahua’s marker is May 17, 1895. This would have been about seven months after the Apaches were sent from Mount Vernon Barracks to Fort Sill. This probably means Mable died at birth.

Mable Chihuahua probably died at birth.

Chief Chihuahua and Ilth-Goley’s son, Tom, was born on in 1885. He died in 1896. I don’t know what his cause of death was.

Tom Chihuahua was about 11 when he died at Fort Sill.

Chief Chihuahua died in 1901 at Fort Sill. He was close to 80 at the time.

Chief Chihuahua was about 80 when he died.

Oseola Chihuahua, born in 1892 at Fort Sill, died in 1901.

Osceoloa Chihuahua died the same year his father passed away.

Emily Chihuahua was born in 1889 and attended the Carlisle School. She married Paul Tee (“Teenah”), another Chirichua Apache. She died in 1907 and was probably 19 or 20. Their child, Edna Teenah Commanche, was born in 1906. She died at the age of 93 in 1999 and is buried at Mescalero Indian Cemetery in New Mexico. Paul died in 1907 and is buried with Emily at Apache North.

Emily Chihuahua married Paul Tee sometime around 1905 and gave birth to their child, Edna in 1906.
Paul Tee was nearly 30 when he died in 1907, just a year after his wife.

Eugene Chihuahua

Eugene Chihuahua was born after Ramona in 1878. Chief Chihuahua was allowed to keep Eugene with him and he was not sent to Carlisle as Ramona was. His father wanted to train him up to be a leader of his people. According to Michael Farmer, Chief Chihuahua asked George Wratten to employ Eugene in his store and teach him how to read. Wratten, an interpreter, ran a trading post for the Chiricahuas at San Carlos before moving with them to Florida, and later Mount Vernon and Fort Sill.

Undated photo of Chief Chihuahua and Eugene. (Photo source: Lynda Sánchez Collection)

Eugene learned to read from looking at the labels on cans and learned to do the arithmetic needed to run the store. Wratten also taught Eugene English. When he was older, Chief Chihuhua chose Viola Massai to be Eugene’s bride. She had been educated at Carlisle with his sister Ramona and was from a respected family.

Although the couple only knew each other four days, they married. They would have six children together and all would die young. The children are all buried at Apache North Cemetery.

Three of the children of Eugene Chihuahua and Viola Massai. None of their children survived.

In 1913, Viola and Eugene went to live on the Mescalero Reservation in New Mexico when the Chiricahuas were released as POWs. I’m not sure when Viola died. Her parents, Chino and Nah-Go-Tsi-Eh, are both buried at Apache North.

At Mescalero, Eugene became a powerful medicine man and joined the Dutch Reformed Church where he sang in the choir. He remained unmarried for several years until he returned to Oklahoma and married the Comanche widow of Hostosovit. He returned to Mescalero with his new wife and her three children. Unfortunately, the marriage ended in divorce. He later remarried to Jennie Pena and they had a happy marriage. Eugene passed way at age 84 on Dec. 16, 1965 and is buried in the Mescalero Indiana Cemetery.

So what became of Ilth-Gozey? After Chief Chihuahua died in 1901, she remarried to Victor Biete. He was 20 years her junior. He died in 1911 and is buried over at Beef Creek Apache Cemetery. She is thought to have settled at Mescalero after the Apache were freed in 1913. I don’t know where she’s buried.

Chief Chihuahua’s Brother, Ol-Sanny

Also buried at Apache North is Ulzana, the brother of Chief Chihuahua. His name is Ol-Sanny on his grave marker so that is how I will refer to him here. Ol-Sanny made a name for himself when he led a raid in 1885 through Arizona and New Mexico with only 11 Mogollon warriors, riding 1,200 miles, killing 36 Pindah and Mexicans. Later, he would surrender with his brother to General George Crook in 1886 and went with the other Apaches to Fort Marion, Fla.

Ulzana’s Raid, a revisionist Western based on the 1885 raid of Chief Chihuahua’s brother Ulzana, was released in 1972.

A revisionist Western film based very loosely on the 1885 raid called “Ulzana’s Raid” was released in 1972 starring Burt Lancaster, Richard Jaeckel, Bruce Davison, and Joaquin Martinez. Some think it was meant to be an allegory of the Vietnam War taking place at that time.

Ol-Sanny (Ulzana) died eight years after his brother, Chief Chihuahua.

Ol-Sanny stayed with the Apaches through their moves from Fort Marion to Mount Vernon Barracks to Fort Sill. He remained there until his death in 1909. He was in his 80s.

Several of Ol-Sanny’s children with his wives, Nah-Zis-Eh and Nahn-Ish-Klah, are buried at Apache North. They all died young. His wives are also buried at Apache North.

The age of Nah-Zis-Eh at her time of death is unknown.

Time to Go

I glanced at my watch and realized it was time to pick up Sarah, who was finishing up her bike ride. We were both hungry so we headed to the Meers Store and Restaurant. We’d eaten there back in 2000 and I was looking forward to going back for their legendary burgers. The line was long but thanks to another couple who didn’t mind eating with us, we were able to get a table faster as a foursome. They took the photo of us below.

Cheers! Sarah and I enjoyed a Meers burger after my cemetery hopping and her bike ride.

My time at the Fort Sill cemeteries gave me a lot to think about. In researching for these posts, I can only conclude that this chapter of American history is something our children need to know more about. It is rarely, if ever, spoken about. It should be remembered and never repeated. Because what we did was wrong. So wrong.

I’ll be at Mount Scott Cemetery next time.

Oklahoma Road Trip 2019: The Sooner the Better at Fort Sill’s Apache South Cemetery

By comparison, Apache South Cemetery is much smaller than Beef Creek Apache Cemetery. It’s also known as Bailtso Apache Cemetery. It’s very close to Beef Creek but there are only 14 recorded graves, and one of them is unmarked.

Apache South Cemetery is small but well taken care of.

Apache South Cemetery has only 14 recorded burials.

The oldest burial at Apache South is Clarence Bailtso. Most of the folks buried here are related to him. Clarence was not a Native American chief or a warrior. Instead, he served in the U.S. Army as a scout. So his story is a bit different than the ones I’ve shared up to this point.

Sent to School

I could not locate a photo of Clarence, but he is thought to have been born in 1875. He was the son of Bashdelihi and Mohtsos. I believe that he was living on the San Carlos Apache Indian Reservation in Arizona until April 1887 when he was sent to the Carlisle Indian Industrial School in Pennsylvania. It was the flagship Indian boarding school in the United States from 1879 through 1918. The school took over the historic Carlisle Barracks, which was transferred to the Department of Interior from the War Department. Clarence was 12 at the time.

Established by Lieutenant Richard Henry Pratt, he wrote that he believed that Native Americans were equal to European-Americans, and that the school was meant to immerse students into mainstream Euro-American culture, believing they might be able to advance and thrive in the dominant society, and be leaders to their people. Pratt is also known for using the phrase “kill the Indian, save the man.”

From 1879 until 1918, over 10,000 Native American children from 140 tribes attended Carlisle Indian Industrial School.

So did Clarence’s parents voluntarily send him to Carlisle? It’s possible. From what I read, reservation life was understandably miserable for many Native American families. Parents hoping to give their children an education and a path to a better future were told that sending their children to such schools could help them to do that. But many children, especially those at Mount Vernon Barracks in Alabama, were sent to Carlisle without their parents’ permission.

There’s plenty written about Carlisle that I won’t go into here but the school’s goal, in a militaristic environment, was to assimilate Native American children by (among other things) teaching them English and making them wear Anglo clothing. As Pratt’s phrase reflects, Carlisle’s aim was to literally remove their Native American culture from them.

Mount Vernon Barracks

I don’t know how Clarence fared at Carlisle but he was there for a little over five years. Immediately before leaving in August 1892, Clarence enlisted in Company I of the 12th Infantry and went to the Mount Vernon Barracks in South Alabama. Mount Vernon Barracks was where in 1886, the U.S. Army imprisoned nearly 400 Chiricahua and Warm Springs Apache men, women, and children. I believe Clarence’s mother was probably there at the time. Conditions were reportedly very poor. Geronimo was held there at one point.

Clarence Bailtso was only 27 when he died of turberculosis.

Clarence joined L Troop of the U.S. Army’s Seventh Cavalry and served as a scout. A number of the young Apache men did. From 1895 until 1899, the regiment served in New Mexico (Fort Bayard) and Oklahoma (Ft. Sill), then overseas in Cuba (Camp Columbia) from 1899 to 1902. The Apaches held at Mount Vernon, including Clarence, were moved to Fort Sill in October 1894.

Moved to Fort Sill

Thanks to author W. Michael Farmer, I learned that after the Apache soldiers moved to Fort Sill with their families, they were tasked with maintaining order in the Apache camps, and to keep illegal Anglo cattlemen and traders off the reservation. However, much of their time was spent learning various trade crafts. In May 1897, the Indian company at Fort Sill held its last drill. Twelve of the Apaches were able to re-enlist as scouts. Few of the others were able to find work near the post and were soon starving. The Army neither helped them to find work or leave Fort Sill.

Clarence married Helen Chinney, the daughter of Nah-Kay Godekonne. She was a Warm Springs Apache who had been at Mount Vernon Barracks in Alabama. Their first child, also named Helen, was born in 1894. She died in 1900. Their second child Martha’s grave marker has a date of Dec. 26, 1895. She may have died shortly after birth.

Helen Bailtso was Clarence and Helen Bailtso’s first child. She died in 1900.
Martha Bailtso may have died shortly after her birth.

Helen and Clarence had a third child in 1903, a son. His name is unknown. But he has a plot and a stone at Apache South Cemetery that may look familiar to you. His plot is surrounded by the same fencing that I shared with you last week at Beef Creek Apache Cemetery for Grace Rose Sunday and for the Carter family at Old Elgin Cemetery.

The first name of Clarence and Helen Bailtso’s son is unknown. He died at the age of seven in 1910.

As I did with Grace, I have questions about this plot. Who provided the stone and fencing? Was it missionary Mary McMillan, who provided both for Grace Rose Sunday? While Clarence died shortly before his son’s birth, his mother Helen was still alive and living at Fort Sill. The child was not in the orphanage. But he may have attended the school. His death on May 22, 1910 was close to the date of Grace’s death on April 25, 11. I suspect the person who supplied her stone/fence also supplied the stone and fence for this Bailtso child.

Clarence Bailtso had already died when his last son was born.

You know what I’m going to bring up next, right? Again, it bears the insignia from the Valley Forge Iron Fence Co. A company that supposedly went out of business in 1903.

I did not get a very good picture of the Valley Forge Iron Fence Co. insignia this time.

Clarence Bailtso died on March 21, 1902 of tuberculosis. He would have been 26 or 27.

So what became of Clarence’s wife, Helen? Part of the answer is something I haven’t shared up to this point regarding the Native American POWs at Fort Sill. Through an act of Congress in 1913, the tribe was released as prisoners of war and given a choice of remaining in the Fort Sill area or moving to the Mescalero Reservation in New Mexico. A total of 183 people moved to New Mexico and 81 (about 20 families) remained in Oklahoma and were given allotments. The land was purchased with money from the Kiowa and Comanche with the sale of the Apache cattle herd.

Helen Chinney Bailtso lived into her 80s.

Helen Bailtso stayed at Fort Still for the rest of her life. She remarried two more times and had more children. But after she died on April 29, 1965, she was laid to rest with Clarence, her first three children, and her mother, who had died shortly after they came to Fort Sill from Alabama.

Son of Chief Chatto

As I scanned the named of the others buried at Apache South Cemetery, the name of Blake Chatto got my attention. He was born in 1894 not long after the Apache arrived at Fort Sill from Alabama. I have Farmer’s research to thank for what I learned about Blake and Chief Chatto.

Chiricahua Chief Chatto’s son Blake is buried at Apache South Cemetery.

Blake Chatto was the second child of Chiricahua Chief Chatto and his wife, Helen, whom he had met and married at Fort Marion, Fla. Chief Chatto has quite a history of his own worth reading about that I won’t get into here. Their first child, Maurice, was born after they were moved to Mount Vernon Barracks. Born in 1894 right after they arrived at Fort Sill, Blake died of tuberculosis in 1908. He would have been about 14.

Blake Chatto would have been about 14 when he died in 1908.

Chief Chatto served as a scout while at Fort Sill, as Clarence had. When the Apaches at Fort Sill were freed in 1913, Chief Chatto chose to go to the Mescalero Reservation. He died from complications following a car accident on August 13, 1934. He is buried at Mescalero Indian Cemetery in Otero County, N.M.

Next time, I’ll finish up my Fort Sill visit at Apache North Cemetery.

Oklahoma Road Trip 2019: The Sooner the Better at Fort Sill’s Beef Creek Apache Cemetery, Part II

You won’t be surprised to learn that many people who visit Beef Creek Apache Cemetery come only to visit Geronimo’s grave and leave after snapping a few pictures. When I was first there in 1999, I did the same thing. But this time, I wanted to see who else was there.

Last week, I told you that Geronimo was not a tribal chief but a warrior and medicine man. There are actually two Native American chiefs buried at Beef Creek. One of them is Chief Loco.

“Stops His Horse”

In the shadow of the more storied Geronimo, Chief Loco is often overlooked. Born around 1823, his Native American name was Jlin-tay-i-tith, which means “Stops His Horse.” He was a Copper Mines Mimbreño Apache chief and his marker classifies him as a chief of the Warm Springs Apache. While he was not afraid to fight, he was also hopeful for peace with the whites who were disrupting his people’s way of life.

Some think he earned his nickname “Loco” because he was crazy enough to trust the white men. However, this view is not widely held. Bud Shapard, former chief of the bureau of research at the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), noted that Chief Loco got his name from his actions during a battle against the Mexicans, where he supposedly braved gunfire in order to save an injured warrior.

Chief Loco died in 1905, four years before Geronimo.

After the deaths of Cuchillo Negro, chief of the Warm Springs Tchihende (1857), and Mangas Coloradas, chief of the Copper Mines Tchihende (1863), the Copper Mines Mimbreños and the Warm Springs Mimbreños, were forced to leave the Pinos Altos area, near Santa Rita del Cobre, and try to concentrate in the Ojo Caliente area. Both of the tribe’s bands after Delgadito’s death in 1864 had dual chiefs: the Copper Mines Tchihende were under Loco and the Warm Springs Tchihende were under Victorio.

The Mimbreños agreed to settle in a reservation at Ojo Caliente and later at Cañada Alamosa, but the Mimbreño reservation was abolished. Victorio’s and Loco’s people were sent to the Mescalero reservation at Tularosa. When the U.S. government intended to deport the Mimbreños to San Carlos in 1877, Victorio and Loco led their people back to Ojo Caliente. In 1878, the U.S. Ninth Cavalry was dispatched to bring them back to San Carlos. Victorio returned to the warpath, but Loco was arrested and could not join Victorio in his last war from 1879-1880. He remained on the San Carlos reservation.

Chief Loco wanted to maintain peaceful relations between his people and whites but he wound up a prisoner of war.

In 1882, when a party of Apaches including Geronimo forced Loco to leave for Mexico, Loco instead waged guerilla warfare against the Chiricahuas. In 1886, Loco went to Washington, D.C. to negotiate. However, like Geronimo, he was made a prisoner of war and sent to Florida. He was later transferred to Fort Sill with his wives. Here Loco was made head of Loco’s Village. His son, John Loco, was enlisted as a scout, and they raised crops. Loco was the last living chief of the Warm Springs Apaches. He died in 1905 at age 82.

Loco was a strong believer in education and was the first chief to send his children to school while at San Carlos in 1884. Another of his sons was the first to attend the Indian school in Alabama in 1889. Son John Loco, who died in 1946, is buried in Fairview Cemetery in Caddo County, Okla.

Wives of Chief Loco

Three of Chief Loco’s wives are buried at Beef Creek Cemetery. The first is Chiz-Pah-Odlee, whose name is thought to mean “Burning Wood”. She was born around 1823 and her marker has a death date of 1895.

This is thought to be a photo of Chiz-Pah-Odlee, first wife of Chief Loco. Her name means “Burning Wood”.
Grave of Chiz-Pah-Odlee.

Another one of Chief Loco’s wives was Chish-Odl-Netln, who name means “Wood Carrier”. She was born in 1829 and is thought to have died in 1909. She was the sister of Chiz-Pah-Odlee.

This is thought to be Chish-Odl-Netln, whose name means “Wood Carrier”.

One of Chief Loco’s later wives was Clee-Hn, born in 1843. I could find no photos of her.

Grave of Clee-Hn, third wife of Chief Loco.

She and Chief Loco had a son they named Fritz. Born in 1890, he died in 1908. I have no idea what his cause of death was.

Fritz Loco was the only son of Chief Loco and Clee-Hn.

The Short Life of Grace Rose Sunday

You can’t help noticing the grave site of Grace Sunday because it is the only one surrounded by a handsome iron fence. I was curious about her from the moment I saw it.

Grace was the daughter of Apache parents Ken-i-ee-nidlth and Tsedikizen (Waldo Sundayman). Grace was the great-granddaughter of Chief Loco. Ken-i-ee-nidlth gave birth to Grace in 1895 but died in 1898.

Circa 1907 photo of Chiricahua Apache students at the Dutch Reformed Church Mission School at Fort Sill.

According to Alicia Delgadillo’s book “From Fort Marion to Fort Sill: A Documentary History of the Chiricahua Apace Prisoners of War”, Grace was raised in the Dutch Reformed Church Mission Orphanage at Fort Sill. She died of tuberculosis at 15 on April 25, 1911. Her granite marker and the fence around it were provided by missionary Mary McMillan.

This pretty iron fence surrounds the single grave of Grace Rose Sunday.

Grace’s stone is inscribed with this verse from Matthew 19:14: “Suffer [the] little children, and forbid them not to come unto me; for of such is the kingdom of Heaven.” Mary must have been especially attached to Grace and wanted her to have a special burial site to remember her. Note that Grace has a footstone with her initials “GRS” behind her larger stone.

Grace Rose Sunday died of tuberculosis at age 15 in 1911.

Only when I started writing about the Oklahoma Road Trip did I make the connection between this plot and the Carter plot at Old Elgin Cemetery that I wrote about a few weeks ago. The fencing for both plots was provided by the Valley Forge Iron Fence Co. of Knoxville, Tenn. Again, the question arises in my mind. How did a company that supposedly went out of business in 1903 provide a fence in an Oklahoma cemetery in 1911? It puzzles me. We will see their work yet again at Apache North Cemetery.

How did the Valley Forget Iron Fence Co. provide this fence when it is supposed to have gone out of business in 1903?

Chief Nana

Last but not least, there’s Chief Nana. He’s also known as Kas-tziden (“Broken Foot”) or Haškɛnadɨltla (“Angry, He is Agitated”). His exact birth year is not known but the date of 1800 is on his grave marker.

Chief Nana’s name was Kas-tziden among the Mimbreno Apache in southern New Mexico. Some say he had the longest fighting career of any of the Apache warriors. He fought alongside Mangas Coloradas until Mangas was killed in 1863. He then aligned with Victorio in his raids through Texas and Mexico during the Indian Wars. When Victorio was killed in 1880, Nana formed his own war party with the Warm Springs Apaches.

Chief Nana outlived many of the other Native American tribal leaders.

Under his leadership, the Mimbreno and Warm Springs Apaches raided isolated settlers and U.S. Army supply trains. He was very good at eluding capture. In a surprise attack, Chief Nana was captured and sent to the San Carlos Reservation. He soon escaped and joined Geronimo in Mexico. He kept his band out of the hands of the Army for about a year but surrendered in March 1886. He was sent to Fort Marion, Fla., and in 1894, he was moved to Fort Sill where he died at the age of 96.

Grave of Chief Nana.

A thought has crossed my mind while writing these last two blog posts concerning Geronimo, Chief Loco, and Chief Nana. These men spent their last years as POWs at Fort Sill at the same time. Did they get along? Did they put aside their difference and “coexist” or did they just stick to their area? One site I looked at noted that one of Geronimo’s sisters was married to Chief Nana.

This is something I am sure somebody has written about but I simply haven’t come across those answers yet. Perhaps somebody reading this has and can share that.

Next time, I’ll be down the road at Apache South Cemetery.

At the rear of Beef Creek Cemetery, you can get a glimpse of the creek that it’s named for.

Oklahoma Road Trip 2019: The Sooner the Better at Fort Sill’s Beef Creek Apache Cemetery, Part I

This week, I’m talking about Geronimo and my visit to his grave. He’s had countless books written about him, along with several movies and documentaries. People even shout his name when they jump out of airplanes. It turns out there are a lot of theories on where that came from (including something about paratroopers at Fort Benning, Ga.), but let’s not get off track.

Geronimo was a larger than life individual who people still talk about today. I want to preface this post by stating that I am nowhere close to being an authority on Geronimo, his life, or his legacy. I’m not going to write much about his backstory for that reason. Many have already done that work.

This is Geronimo’s grave. He is buried between one of his daughters, Eva Geronimo Godeley, and one of his wives, Zi-Yeh. A debate has raged for years about whether or not his remains are still here. A long-standing rumor has it that a grave-robbing posse of Yale students that included Prescott Bush (father of George H.W. and grandfather of George W.) stole his skull and some of his remains in 1918. I’m not going to spend time on that but you can read about that here.

Geronimo is buried between one of his daughters and one of his many wives.
The eagle used to have a head, by the way.

I first visited Geronimo’s grave in 1999 when I visited Oklahoma with Sarah the first time. If I’m remembering it correctly, we didn’t have to get a pass to visit the cemetery and we just drove past it slowly. This time, I was there much longer.

Geronimo is buried on the Fort Sill grounds at Beef Creek Apache Cemetery. According to Find a Grave, there are about 340 burials recorded there. There are two other Apache prisoner of war (POW) cemeteries nearby (which I also visited), but this is the largest. It was established in 1894.

You may have noticed there are a lot of coins at the base of Geronimo’s grave. There are many reasons for that. Some do it (as people do at other graves) as a way to leave a token of their visit. Others do it as a sign of respect. But many do it hoping their visit will bring them good luck.

Beef Creek Apache Cemetery was established in 1894.

One Who Yawns

Contrary to popular belief, Geronimo was not a tribal chief. But he was considered a warrior, a leader, and a medicine man. According to the Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture:

Geronimo was born in the 1820s, perhaps near present Clifton, Ariz. His Apache name was Goyahkla (One Who Yawns). He achieved a reputation as a spiritual leader and tenacious fighter against those who threatened his people’s ways of life. Later he was called Geronimo (Spanish for Jerome), most likely because of the way he fought in battle against Mexican soldiers who frantically called upon St. Jerome for help. He willingly accepted the name. Geronimo’s hatred toward Mexicans intensified when Mexican troops killed his mother, wife, and children in 1850. In addition, after the United States–Mexican War ended and the United States entered the Southwest, Geronimo faced another enemy that threatened his tribe’s existence.

It is thought that Geronimo hoped to be buried on tribal land but that never happened. (Photo Source: Frank Rinehart in 1889, from Wikipedia)

During the Apache wars, Geronimo fought alongside Cochise and other tribe leaders. Their guerrilla-like raids and attacks forced the United States to negotiate treaties that confined Geronimo and his band to the San Carlos Reservation in the 1870s. Finding reservation life unacceptable, Geronimo escaped and resumed his raiding activities in Mexico and in the United States. Gen. George Crook and later Gen. Nelson A. Miles pursued the Apache leader for the next several years. Geronimo finally surrendered to Miles in September 1886.

As POWs, Geronimo and his followers were sent first to Florida, then Alabama, and finally Fort Sill in 1894. Geronimo farmed at Fort Sill. As his fame grew, his presence was requested at events such as the 1898 Trans-Mississippi and International Exposition in Omaha, the 1901 Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, and the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition in St. Louis. In 1905, he rode in President Theodore Roosevelt’s inauguration parade. Geronimo received money for his appearances at such events and even sold autographed items/photos of himself.

In February 1909, Geronimo was thrown from his horse while riding home and lay in the cold all night until a friend found him. He was very ill and near death. His last words were reported to be said to his nephew, “I should have never surrendered. I should have fought until I was the last man alive.”

Fenton was the only son of Geronimo and Zi-Yeh.

Geronimo’s Children

Geronimo had several wives over his lifetime. To the right of his gave is a marker for one of them, Zi-Yeh. I don’t know exactly when he married her but it is thought to be before 1885. They had at least two children together, Fenton and Eva. Born in the 1880s, Fenton is thought to have died on July 22, 1897. He is buried at Beef Creek Apache Cemetery near his parents.

Born in 1889, Eva was the only daughter of Geronimo and Zi-Yeh. Accounts say that Geronimo was especially attached to Eva. Zi-yeh died from tubercular lupus in 1904. Geronimo was concerned for Eva, being that many of the women in Geronimo’s family suffered in childbirth. He supposedly did not want her to marry for that reason.

Photo of Eva Geronimo Godeley (on the right) with Mrs. Asa Deklugie, wife of a Chihuhua chief and Geronimo’s niece. Eva was 16 at this time. (Photo Source: FindaGrave.com)

At the time of Geronimo’s death, Eva was in school at Chilocco, Okla. She returned for her father’s funeral. She later married classmate Robert Godeley. They had a daughter, Evaline Golene, on June 21, June 1910. Some say the baby died soon after, others say she lived two months and died on Aug. 20, 1910. That is the date on her marker. Eva died from tuberculosis on August 10, 1911. Evaline’s marker is to the left of Eva’s. I don’t know what happened to Robert Godeley.

It’s uncertain if Evaline died at birth or lived a short time after she was born.

One more child of Geronimo’s is buried at Beef Creek Apache Cemetery and that is Lulu Geronimo. Her Apache name was Dohn-Zay. She was his daughter with wife Chee-Hash-Kish. Lulu was born around 1865 and married Mike Dah-Ke-Ya, a warrior who fought with Geronimo. Dah-Keh-Ya and three of their children are buried at Beef Creek. Geronimo’s other children and wives are buried in several other states.

Grave of Lulu Geronimo, known as Dohn-Zay. Little is known about her.
Lulu’s husband, Mike Dah-Ke-Ya, died a year or so after she died in 1899.

As you look at the dates on the markers, with the exception of Geronimo, you may be asking yourself the same question that I was. Why did they die so young, both children and adults?

From what I can gather, it was a combination of things. Native American POWs were allowed to have homes on the base and were not imprisoned in cells. Some of the men became trusted scouts. But it is undeniable that their land and way of life had been taken from them. Illness and infant mortality were other factors. In the end, when your spirit has been broken, how long can it be before your body is as well?

There are others buried at Beef Creek Apache Cemetery whose stories I want to share with you. Come back next time for Part II.

Oklahoma Road Trip 2019: The Sooner the Better at the Fort Sill Post Cemetery, Part II

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 Ancestry.com 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: Ancestry.com)

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 Ancestry.com and FindaGrave.com, 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: FindaGrave.com)

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.

Oklahoma Road Trip 2019: The Sooner the Better at the Fort Sill Post Cemetery, Part I

Note: Some of the Native Americans I am writing about today have complex histories. Each one could fill an entire blog post on their own. I simply don’t have the time or space to do them justice here. I’m also aware that my grasp of Native American history is not perfect since historians dispute some of the events of the pioneer era discussed here. If I got something wrong in the details, I apologize.

Sarah and I traveled on to Medicine Park because she was participating in the Tour de Meers, an annual bike ride that takes place on Memorial Day. Meers is a small town located just north of the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge. You can choose to ride 10, 22, 30, 57, or 62 miles. Sarah’s desire to participate in the Tour de Meers was actually the initial catalyst for our road trip.

While Sarah joined her fellow cyclists, I headed to nearby Fort Sill to visit several cemeteries. The first one I wanted to stop at was the Fort Sill Post Cemetery. Because Fort Sill is first and foremost an Army base, I had to stop by the Visitor Center to get permission to enter. Fortunately, all I had to do was explain why I was there, fill out a few forms, and have my picture taken. They gave me a day pass to put on the dashboard of Sarah’s car and off I went.

Located on the base is the Fort Sill National Historic Landmark and Museum, opened in 1935. I wish I had been able to stop by to look around but I didn’t have enough time.

Fort Sill Post Cemetery is a neatly tended burial ground that contains close to 7,150 graves. Most are the requisite plain white military markers. But there are a number of folks here that you might not expect to be interred at a military cemetery.

The Fort Sill Post Cemetery has close to 7,150 graves.

Early Fort Sill History

Long known as the home of the U.S. Army’s Field Artillery, Fort Sill started as a frontier cavalry post. Before that, the land was home to indigenous groups such as the Wichita, the Kiowa, and the Comanche.

In 1851, Capt. Randolph B. Marcy and a company of the Fifth Infantry passed through the area. Marcy suggested establishing a fort at the place that became the old post site. After the Civil War, Col. Benjamin H. Grierson (who became Fort Sill’s first post commander) and Buffalo Soldiers of the Tenth Cavalry constructed Camp Wichita there in 1868. The post was intended to serve as headquarters for the Kiowa-Comanche Reservation created under the provisions of the Medicine Lodge Treaty of 1867.

Originally a music teacher, Brigadier General Benjamin Grierson made the Army his career after the Civil War. He was the first post commander at Fort Sill.

In 1869, the 10th and elements of the Sixth Infantry began building a more permanent base known as Fort Sill. It was named by Maj. Gen. Philip H. Sheridan, commander of the Military Department of the Missouri, after Brig. Gen. Joshua W. Sill, a West Point classmate of Sheridan’s who died during the Civil War.

Under Grierson’s watch, Fort Sill assumed an important role in policing Indian Territory. Units from Fort Sill fought on the Southern Great Plains in 1869 and in the Red River War of 1874 to 1875. Throughout the rest of the 19th century, they served in a variety of peacekeeping duties. This included policing the Oklahoma Land Run of 1889, and protecting settlers and Native Americans who lived in or were forcibly relocated to the area by the federal government.

I’ll cover more about Fort Sill’s history and Geronimo in a few weeks. He’s buried in a different cemetery on Fort Sill property.

Chief’s Knoll

At the front of the cemetery is what is known as Chief’s Knoll and the burial site for several prominent Native American chiefs. Having done minimal research before I visited, I was in awe as I began reading the names. Quanah Parker, his mother, and his sister are buried here. You can see their monuments in the picture below. You’ll remember from my post of a few weeks ago that I found the grave marker of his great-great-grandson Richard James Wahkinney at Elgin Memorial Cemetery.

The obelisk behind the memorial plaque at the top of the steps is for Quanah Parker. The smaller markers for his mother, Cynthia Ann Parker, and his sister, Prairie Flower, are to the right.

Further back are grave markers for prominent Kiowa and Araphao tribal leaders.

Several Native American leaders are interred at the Fort Sill Post Cemetery. The three white grave markers in the forground have Araphaho flags to signify their tribal heritage.

Mother to a Chief

Born around 1827, Cynthia Ann Parker was abducted from her white family by Comanche raiders on the Texas frontier when she was only nine years old. Raised a Comanche, she wed Chief Peta Nocona and had three children with him. The oldest was Quanah, whose name translates as “fragrant” or “sweet smelling”. She was eventually discovered by white men who traded with the Comanches. Her family, having searched for her for years, quickly organized a ransom offer.

Abducted as a child from her white family, Cynthia Ann Parker fully assimilated into the Comanche tribe and did not want to leave it or her children.

But the Comanches refused all offers, mainly because Cynthia Ann didn’t want to go. While born white, she was now culturally Comanche, the wife of a chief, with children she loved and did not want to leave. When she was 34, her camp along a tributary of the Pease River was attacked by Texas Rangers. Some believe Chief Nocona was killed but there’s some debate about that.

Regardless, her two sons fled. Quanah was 12 at the time. Along with her infant daughter Prairie Flower, Cynthia Ann was “freed” from captivity. But in Cynthia’s mind it was akin to being abducted again. She tried many times to escape and return to her family. Sadly, Prairie Flower died a few years after they were returned to white society. Cynthia herself died seven years after that at age 43. Many believe she starved herself to death. She and Prairie Flowere were originallly buried in Anderson County, Texas.

Quanah and his brother Pecos were taken under the wing of Horseback, the head chief of the Kwahadi people. Horseback taught them the ways of the Comanche warrior, and Quanah grew to considerable standing among his tribal peers. Pecos is thought to have died in 1862.

Quanah Parker straddled two worlds during his life, one as a Native American warrior and another as a land owner/developer.

In 1875, Quanah surrendered to Colonel Ranald S. Mackenzie and taken to Fort Sill where he led the Comanches successfully for a number of years on the reservation. While Quanah was never elected principal chief of the Comanche by the tribe, the U.S. government appointed him principal chief of the entire nation once the people had gathered on the reservation and later introduced general elections.

Proud of his Native American roots, Quanah was a canny observer who knew he could learn much from whites while trying to bridge gaps for the betterment of his people. Quanah quickly established himself as a successful rancher and investor. Parker encouraged Native American youth to learn the ways of white culture, yet he never assimilated entirely. He remained a member of the Native American Church, and had a total of seven wives over his lifetime.

While still alive, Quanah Parker found the burial sites and had the remains of his mother and sister moved to the Fort Sill Post Cemetery.

By the time Quanah died in 1911, he had attained something akin to celebrity status. Visitors to southwest Oklahoma, including Pres. Theodore Roosevelt, made it a point to call on him. His obelisk in the cemetery was erected in 1926.

Quanah never forgot his mother, Cynthia Ann. Shortly before he died, after years of legal wrangling, he had Cynthia Ann’s remains moved to Post Oak Mission Cemetery in Oklahoma. In 1957, she was re-interred beside Quanah at Fort Sill Post Cemetery. In 1965, the state of Texas arranged for Prairie Flower’s remains to be moved from Texas and re-interred next to her mother and brother at Fort Sill.

Quanah Parker tried to make the best of both worlds he lived in as a Native American and a landowner/investor.

T’ene-Angopte (Kicking Bird)

The above-ground tomb of Kiowa leader Kicking Bird intrigues me. I read on one web site that his grave was originally marked by a wooden cross that deteriorated until it was lost, so officials weren’t sure where his remains were actually located in the cemetery. This leads me to wonder if his remains are actually in the tomb I photographed.

Born of Crow and Kiowa ancestry, Kicking Bird was known as T’ene-Angopte, which can be translated as Striking Eagle. After the death of Dohasan, chief of the united Kiowa bands in 1866, he assumed leadership of the tribe’s peace faction. He was a signatory of the Little Arkansas Treaty and the Medicine Lodge Treaty of 1867.

Kiowa chief Kicking Bird did his best to keep the peace between his tribe and the whites.

Some think Kicking Bird was poisoned, but nobody knows for sure. His role as a peacekeeper between the Kiowa and whites caused him to gain enemies on both sides. He died on May 5, 1875 at age 40.

Is Kicking Bird actually inside this above ground tomb?

Satanta (White Bear)

Satanta, also known as White Bear, was born around 1820 on the northern Plains. Much of Satanta’s adult life was spent fighting U.S. settlers and military. He participated in raids along the Santa Fe Trail in the early 1860s, and in 1866 became the leader of the Kiowa who favored resistance against U.S. military forces.

In 1867, he spoke at the Kiowa Medicine Lodge Council and because of his eloquence, U.S. observers gave him his nickname of White Bear. At the council, Satanta signed a peace treaty that obligated the Kiowa to resettle on the reservation in Oklahoma. Shortly thereafter, however, he was taken hostage by U.S. officials who used his imprisonment to coerce more Kiowa into resettling.

Satanta was later nicknamed White Bear for his eloquence. He is holding his shield and its cover in the photo.

For the next few years, Satanta took part in a number of raids in Texas where cattle ranchers and buffalo hunters were steadily pushing Kiowa and Comanche onto reservations. It was one of these raids that eventually led to Satanta’s arrest in 1871 by former Civil War Union General William T. Sherman and put on trial with others involved in the raids. He narrowly escaped death and was freed after two years of imprisonment at the Huntsville State Penitentiary in Texas

A short time later, Satanta was lured into a peace council, arrested for parole violation, and sentenced to death. Humanitarian groups and Native American leaders protested the harsh sentence. In 1873, Satanta was paroled on the condition he remain on the Kiowa Reservation.

Satanta’s grave marker at Fort Sill Post Cemetery.

In 1874, during the Red River War, Satanta presented himself to U.S. officials to prove he was not taking part in the hostilities. His loyalty was rewarded with a return to the penitentiary in Huntsville, Texas. Four years later, an ill Satanta was informed that he would never be released. On October 11, 1878, he is reported to have jumped to his death from an upper floor of a prison hospital. Some of his family, however, don’t believe he would have taken his life.

Satanta was buried in the prison cemetery in Huntsville. In 1963, his grandson artist James Auchiah received permission to move Satanta’s remains to Fort Sill.

I’ll have more stories from Fort Sill Post Cemetery soon. For now, here’s a photo of my pass from the day I visited Fort Sill’s cemeteries.

I like that the reason for my visit is listed as “cemetery”.

Looking Back: 10 Years of Adventures in Cemetery Hopping

Before I forge ahead with more of the Oklahoma Road Trip 2019, I want to pause a moment to recognize something important. In January 2023, Adventures in Cemetery Hopping will mark its 10th anniversary.

My son Sean started kindergarden in fall 2012, so I had more time on my hands. I wasn’t going back to work because I wanted to be available if he needed me or to volunteer at his school.

But it felt like it was time for something new.

In November 2012, I decided to try being a photo volunteer for FindaGrave.com. You’ve heard me talk about them before. If you are hoping to find a photo of the grave of a friend or loved one, chances are that Find a Grave has it. I learned that they needed people to volunteer to take pictures of graves.

That got my attention. I like history. I like helping people. Let’s try it!

A Tale of Two Cemeteries

I had no idea that this action would be the first step toward starting my blog and spending the next year exploring cemeteries, researching them, and sharing the stories behind the stones.

The first blog post I wrote in January 2013 was about my first official “hop” in Nebraska in January 2009, which was three years before I started doing any Find a Grave work. It was a quest to find the graves of my distant relatives in Blair, Neb.

But the next one came from a November 2012 visit I made to two cemeteries in Fulton County, Ga. They were Rogers Cemetery and Rogers-Bell Cemetery in Johns Creek. Below you can see pictures from that 2012 visit to Rogers-Bell Cemetery and a visit from April 2020. I was looking for a grave at Rogers-Bell that needed to be photographed for Find a Grave, the deceased had died in 2012.

This was how Rogers-Bell Cemetery looked in November 2012.
Rogers-Bell Cemetery in April 2020. This was at the beginning of Covid when I decided to revisit some of the cemeteries I had gone to in the early days.

I had no idea what I was doing when I went in search of Rogers-Bell Cemetery that day. I wound up down the road at Rogers Cemetery, which had no fancy iron gates or a nice fence amid million-dollar homes. It was bitterly cold, so after wandering around a bit, I went to Mellow Mushroom to warm up then headed home with intentions of returning the next day.

Rogers Cemetery looked like this in November 2012.

I found Rogers-Bell Cemetery the next day. I learned that the folks buried at Rogers Cemetery were the descendants of the slaves that had worked on the Rogers-Bell plantation down the road. There were a few former slaves at Rogers Cemetery that had continued to work there after the Civil War. I researched the families and realized there was quite a story there.

Returning to Rogers Cemetery in April 2020 reminded me of how nice it was to visit a cemetery in the spring instead of November!

Birth of a Blog

When I started thinking of all the history that was in those two cemeteries, the wheels in my head began to turn. My background is in writing and editing. I stopped working shortly after my husband and I moved back to Atlanta after he got his law degree at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn. in 2005. While I continued to do some freelance work, I was itching to write again and not about mom life.

Not that mom life isn’t important because as someone who is living it, I know the challenges that life presents. But in 2012 (and now), there were a million “Mommy” blogs. I didn’t feel like I had much to share that hadn’t been written already. But cemeteries? There weren’t a lot of people doing that. Plus, I’d get to learn about history along the way and I’ve always enjoyed that.

But would anybody read it?

Let me be real. I’m not pulling down millions of hits every day. I still don’t. But that’s okay.

In 2012, 4,379 people visited my blog page. That number doubled in 2013. Slowly, the numbers went up. That made me happy. At least more people than my family and a few friends were reading it.

Here are my stats for the blog over the last 10 years.

Between 2019 and 2020, the number of visits went from 33,649 to 30,566. But in 2021, they went up to 38,189. Then in 2022, they went down a little to 36,135 (as of 12/21/2022).

I’m probably never going to be a “hot blogger” whose numbers skyrocket each year. That means advertising, media campaigns, and other things I’m not willing to do. Because to me, it’s not about the numbers. It’s always been about the stories behind the stones.

Yes, I’ve made some mistakes along the way. I thought I should be writing about “funeral trends” and I did a bit of that. I wrote about BIOS urn, human composting, and alkaline hydrolysis (now called “flameless cremation’). I did enjoyed that and felt I educated some folks along the way.

From my 2016 visit to Prospect Hill Cemetery in Norfolk, Neb. My maiden name is Muller so I had to get a picture with this marker.

But in the end, it always came back to the stories about the people buried in the cemetery I visited. Some of these folks have nobody left to visit their graves and remember them. Some lived very ordinary lives. However, their lives still are important. They made a difference. Even the little baby who died the day he was born. His mother wept tears, having carried him for nine months. She never forgot him.

Photographing monuments at Wyuka Cemetery in Lincoln, Neb.

I still love what I do. As I told Marisa D. of the Victorian Variety Show podcast a few weeks ago, I never know what I am going to find when I visit a cemetery. I don’t know what stories I’ll uncover from the photographs I take. It is always something new. It never gets old.

Here’s to Another 10 Years!

So until something dramatic changes to point me in another direction, I’m going to continue doing what I feel God is leading me to do. To use my writing gifts to share stories from cemeteries that I visit and put them here.

I hope you’ll continue to “hop” with me on my adventures.

That’s me at Evergreen Memorial Park Cemetery in Omaha, Neb. in July 2020.