Graveyards to cemeteries

This week’s Lohn News is mainly about cemeteries. The accompanying photograph of the beautiful rock entrance and wall at Marion Cemetery is especially for former Waldrip natives who haven’t been back for awhile nor had an opportunity to see this addition to the cemetery. Graveyards, as they were once commonly called, now referred to as cemeteries, a more acceptable term, may not be a very exciting subject, may even seem morbid, yet they are an important part of our history, a source of information regarding our ancestors. Frontier boom towns sprang up almost overnight and lacked stability as they were peopled predominately by lone males looking to make a quick fortune and move on. In contrast, towns growing up around an agriculture economy had stability as farmers and ranchers moved onto the land bringing their wives and children. Any farmer with a lick of sense knew he would not get rich in a short time. His expectations lay in the soil, hard work to make it productive and to leave it as a legacy to future generations. Boom towns built saloons, hotels, boarding houses, jails and stockades while the primary concern of the farmer-rancher was to establish homes for their families, and with that in mind, land was needed to build schools to educate the children, churches for the community and a place to bury their loved ones. Pioneer land owners here in the Lohn Valley were cognizant of these needs and designated parcels of land to meet these needs. A drive along back roads in rural Texas brings one past small country cemeteries, schools and churches, many no longer in use, others still flourishing. Here in northern McCulloch County, in the area known as the Lohn Valley, which stretches from the Brady Mountains on the south to the Colorado River on the north, we have five cemeteries still in use’Pear Valley, the Lohn Family, Lohn, Fife and Marion. There are older ones no longer used’Chaffin and Waldrip, plus isolated grave sites scattered about on private properties. The headstones, some elaborate, others simple, depending on the affluence of a family, tell us that the rate of infant mortality was very high before the advance in present day medical knowledge. Families lost one or more children at birth or early infancy, sometimes the mother, also. Surprisingly there seems to be fewer deaths occurring from the 1918 flu epidemic that caused one-half million deaths in the United States in a few months’although we know that the epidemic took several lives here. The Marion Cemetery, pictured here, came into being through the generosity of Marion F. and Lizzie Bray Lohn, who deeded five acres of land from their farm in 1896 for the cemetery and school. After the school closed, a new deed was issued on July 9, 1925 for two acres of land to C.L. Gault, county judge of McCulloch County and his successors in office, land to be held in trust for cemetery purposes. This is the Marion Cemetery as known today. Records show according to markers, the earliest grave is that of Mrs. Ola Annah Wright in 1892. Many unmarked graves could have been earlier. There are 268 recorded graves in Marion. Records have been carefully kept since the Marion-Chaffin Cemetery Association was organized in 1959 with 20 people in attendance. There are still 20 people coming to annual meetings. Much interest has always been shown by the members’if not at meetings, then by mail. The original brick entrance to Marion was built in 1960 and funded by donated money and labor. The entrance stood pretty and proud until the bricks began to loosen and crumble and flake off. When the association voted to replace the bricks they were informed that the remainder of the bricks would eventually disintegrate. Back in the 1990’s the problem was discussed at three annual meetings seeking a solution. The June 2001 annual meeting resulted in a unanimous vote to completely replace the brick entrance with rock and add a rock wall on the south front. The rock came from the Larry Walker ranch two miles west of the cemetery. There was money in the treasury to pay for the construction so that no labor would have to be donated by members. Ann Fullagar Walker has been secretary-treasurer of the association since 1975. Larry Walker has been president since 1984. The Walkers said, “The members of the Association are what makes our job so pleasant. We are especially indebted to the Marion Lohn family for the unselfish deed of leaving the land to the people of the Waldrip-Lohn area for the final resting place for their loved ones. Annie Laurie Lohn Ludwick is the only member of the family in McCulloch County’she lives in Brady. Two sisters live elsewhere. The Lohns have always attended annual meetings and the late Frank Lohn, Marion’s son, would always ask after meetings if there was something he could do for the association. They are still being stewards of the land as was their father. It’s a wonderful story, for sure.” The Walker’s are often questioned by people who do not live here, “You mean you tend the cemetery'” Since they are not funded by a city or taxed entity they know the job falls to the community members and in the record books there are many names of people who, like Larry and Ann, have worked so hard to keep the cemetery up. Such as Paul Lohn, Bud Frost, Glen Wright, Dad Briscoe, Lit Walker, John Winstead, Iru Bray, G.C. Looney, Nat Randals, Hollis Phillips, George Hill, Marion Holland, Benton Ward, Wayne Bray, Joe S. Hays and Emma Powell’many wives helped also. These were the ones who got it started. After things became more organized, mowers were hired; the work had been mostly done by the president and secretary. The Davila family has mowed and kept up the cemetery for many years. Although they do not say so, Larry and Ann do a lot of things at the cemetery. Only three secretaries and treasurers have served’Mrs Glen Wright, Walter Scott and Ann Walker. Presidents have been Bud Frost, Paul Lohn, Lit Walker, Wayne Bray, Dad Briscoe and Larry Walker. Thirty-five American flags are placed on Veterans graves on Memorial Day and Veterans Day in Marion and at Chaffin in Waldrip. Chaffin is one of the oldest cemeteries in McCulloch County. The impressive and beautiful rock work on the front of the cemetery is a fitting memorial to the pioneer Marion Lohn family who gave the land and also to all the ones who have worked hard, clung to the land in lean years, carved out the farms and ranches and preserved their unique way of life. Today we have a new group of people, second and third generations who, as their ancestors did, are still giving of their time for the preservation and continued use of the cemetery. Thanks to Ann Walker for the beautiful photograph and the information on Marion Cemetery. Down the road a short distance to the east and north is another country cemetery at Fife. The town of Fife no longer exists except in the hearts and minds of those who were born and reared there. The Fife cemetery is a few years younger than Marion. Land for the site was donated by Elizabeth Mitchell Bradley, a native of Ontario, Canada. Elizabeth came to Fife in 1878 with her parents, Alex and Isabella Mitchell. She married H.D. Bradley and was widowed at an early age. She lived on the Mitchell property, later the Bradley property where she reared four young sons, Frank, Benjamin W., Henry and Tom, with the help of her parents. Alex Mitchell died in 1896, Isabella in 1898. They were the first to be buried at the present Fife cemetery site. Their graves are marked by a slim, very tall monument. In 1900, Elizabeth Bradley deeded one acre of land, expressly understood to be used and maintained as a grave yard for future generations forever. This became known as the Fife Cemetery at a later date. Elizabeth died in 1947. For many years, people who had family buried in Fife maintained the cemetery. Early in 1973, the Fife Cemetery Association was organized at the Fife Community Building. Officers were James Finlay, Jr., president; Tom Bradley, Jr., vice president; Oneita Tedder Marshall, secretary and treasurer; Myrtle Hickman, assistant secretary and treasurer. Directors were Dewey Tedder, Bob Finlay and Tom Bradley, Jr. In 1974, Bob Finlay plotted lots and mapped the site for future burials and to reserve lots. Millersview water was piped in and liveoak, cedar trees and shrubs were planted. Friday and Oneita Marshall watered regularly, as well as others, and the trees grew. Some have been lost due to drought and neglected to have been watered. However, a cedar tree planted by Mary and Marguerite Finlay near the Finlay monument has survived for more than 80 years. The organization is funded by annual dues from those who have family buried at Fife, plus memorials and contributions. The committee for improving the cemetery during this time were Johnnie Tedder, Maurine Tedder Moore, Myrtle Hickman and Grace Finlay. A chain link fence was installed and a brick marker at the entrance. The marker denoting “Fife Cemetery” was donated by Mr. and Mrs. Earl Finlay, long time owners of Brady Monument Works. In 1976, Mike Finlay replaced his late father as president and has served and is still serving the families when a death occurs and burial is to be a Fife. He gives of his time to carry on a long tradition and what he does is greatly appreciated by many. The Association meets every two years in April to review finances, deaths and seek better attendance of members. Present officers are Mike Finlay, president; Maggie Pearce Francks, vice president; Mary Frances Finlay Craft, secretary-treasurer; Marguerite Cornils Bratton, assistant secretary and historian. Board members are Grace Finlay, Paul Moore, Golda Utsey Jordan and Johnnie Tedder. Twenty-one veterans of World War I, World War II, Korea and Vietnam are buried at Fife. A flag is placed on each grave on Memorial and Veterans Day. Two large wreaths are hung on the gates at Christmas. There are 234 graves at Fife, 24 are unknown. A book of McCulloch County cemeteries was published in 1999 by Luann Hall after research of each cemetery. Names and dates of Fife cemetery have been kept current as of Feb. 1. Thanks to Marguerite Cornils Bratton for the history on the Fife cemetery. Marge, like Larry and Ann Walker, devotes a great deal of time to their communities. It will be very difficult to find more dedicated people such as they are. I would like to suggest that the Lohn Cemetery Association consider placing a marker in the cemetery at Lohn to commerate the donors of the land’Albert and Bertha Lemke Cornils’grandparents of Marge Bratton. Two corrections to the last Lohn News concerning Wayne McBee. What Wayne said about the W.P.A. was “We Piddle Around.” Piddle is a verb meaning trying to appear busy without really doing anything. Perhaps todays computers don’t understand that word. If there is a mistake in the news, there are several people who are faithful to call and tell me. It is fairly evident that no student of geography read the column. The country where Vlada lives is Moldova. It’s possible that few people have ever heard of it. The Lohn Valley Improvement Association has purchased 10 very nice tables for use inside the tabernacle and a metal picnic-type table for outdoor use. The metal table is near the children’s play area. This Saturday, Royce Hemphill and crew were working at the park. They replaced the old sage shrubs at the memorial board with pink Hawthorne bushes. They also planted a tree and more information will be forthcoming on the tree.

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