‘These Stones‘… being Tombstones, that is. Located in the historic, Old City Greenwood Cemetery in Weatherford, Texas… the starting point of many of the ‘Cattle Trails‘ used by Texas Ranchers to get their steers to the Kansas Rail Heads during the 1860’s – 1880’s. Legendary ‘Cowtowns‘ like Abilene, Wichita, and Dodge City were the drover’s destination with Cemetery’s like Dodge City’s ‘Boot Hill‘ becoming famous. But what brought us to the ‘stones’ in this cemetery… is a 1985 ‘Trail Tale’ with a strong factual background in history.
“Lonesome Dove“, the famous 1985 Pulitzer Prize winning novel by Larry McMurtry, was about two Texas Rangers… a cattle drive… and the American West. Author McMurtry borrowed extensively from the true story of two Texas Cattlemen – Charles Goodnight & Oliver Loving. Alice (my Texan wife) and I came here to find Oliver Loving’s burial site… and marvel at how he came to be buried here.
We readily found Mr. Loving’s grave (below). Note the coins left on the monument bases… A common occurrence for many markers in this cemetery. Reasons given for this custom vary… but generally it is believed to be a mark of respect by visitors.
The “Republic of Texas” refers to the Nation of Texas… as it existed for 10 years after winning its War for Independence from Mexico by defeating Gen. Santa Anna in the 1836 Battle of San Jacinto. On December 29, 1845, Texas was annexed into the Union as the 28th State.
The Oliver Loving Historical Marker describes the true story that was borrowed by Larry McMurtry in Lonesome Dove. In the book, ‘Gus McRae’ (Oliver Loving) scouts ahead, is shot by Indians, and eventually dies from gangrene – and his partner ‘Woodrow F. Call’ (Charles Goodnight) promises to bury Gus back in Texas… and does. Here is the actual story as described on the Historical Marker… story wording is highlighted:
THE DEAN OF TEXAS TRAIL DRIVERS
(1812 – 1867)
FOUNDER OF THREE MAJOR CATTLE
TRAILS, OLIVER LOVING CAME FROM
KENTUCKY TO TEXAS IN 1845 AND TO
PARKER COUNTY ABOUT 1855. DURING
THE CIVIL WAR (1861-1865) HE SUPPLIED
BEEF TO CONFEDERATE FORCES. WITH
CHARLES GOODNIGHT AS PARTNER ON
A DRIVE TO NEW MEXICO, LOVING
SCOUTED AHEAD OF THE CATTLE, WAS
BADLY WOUNDED BY INDIANS, LAY FIVE
DAYS WITHOUT FOOD BEFORE HIS
RESCUE, AND DIED OF GANGRENE ON
SEPT 25, 1867. HIS DYING WISH WAS
FULFILLED WHEN HIS SON JOSEPH
JOINED GOODNIGHT TO BRING THE
BODY 600 MILES BY WAGON FOR
BURIAL IN THIS COUNTY.
RECORDED – 1977Oliver Loving Historical Marker
There is more. In McMurtry’s story, another echo from History is ‘Joshua Deets‘, a long time trusted partner from Gus & Call’s Ranger days, and a Black man. ‘Deets‘ was in real life an emancipated slave named Bose Ikard, that did serve with Goodnight & Loving, and is buried in Greenwood cemetery not far from Oliver Loving: Read the base marker.
This Testament By Charles Goodnight to Bose Ikard… is one of the most moving & stirring tributes of one man to another that I have ever read. What great men these were!
As Alice and I continued our cemetery walk, other ‘stones’ begin to speak up…
We saw many graves of small children… This picture shows two sibling infants that died, the 1st year… first child… then the 2nd year, the other. Life was hard on the Texas Frontier.
This next stone speaks of Confederate soldier… William O Harrison, and tells us that he first served in the infantry, then joined Nathan Bedford Forrest’s 7th Alabama Cavalry. Riding beats walking.
And then this stone… Horace Baker, born in The Republic of Texas… served with the yankee 8th Wisconsin Infantry… and then was buried in this Deep South cemetery. What did his friends & family think…when in 1861 he went North and joined the Union Army? And then after the war came back to a defeated South? Wish this stone could talk louder…
Update: A reader found ancestor information on Mr. Baker. His father died before Horace was 12 years old… and in 1855 his Mother moved the family from Texas to Wisconsin… where Horace enlisted in his Wisconsin Unit in October, 1861. In 1880, 15 years after the War had ended, Horace returned ‘back to his beloved Texas’.
Similar thoughts for Tennessean Isaac Curtis, served in the yankee 11th Illinois Cavalry, yet buried in the South. How was he accepted by his Southern friends & neighbors? His epitaph indicates that he was a popular local Fiddler… He must have played well!
This next stone is for Samuel Joseph Redgate, early Texas pioneer, and one of only a few Texas State legislators that voted against Secession in 1861. His only wife had been widowed previously… In that marriage, she and her two sons had been kidnapped by local Indians, taken to Oklahoma, where she gave birth to a daughter… and then subsequently ransomed and returned with her baby, but the two sons were kept & raised by the Indians.
This next stone talks of Civil War Hero, Sgt. Chester B Bowen, Medal of Honor, Co I, 19th New York Cavalry, that settled here after the war… Another yankee in the Deep South.
This next stone for Edward R. Fawks, Co D, Missouri Inf., CSA, is unique in that it has an American flag and a Confederate Battle Flag displayed. Must have descendents close by.
And the last stone that calls to us… Cavalry Lieutenant James Wilson Hale, a designated ‘Son of the Texas Republic’… That means a lot down here.
This wrapped up our visit to this pleasant & historical Cemetery. Every stone had its story… and we can only wonder at the details from the few hints available. Texas is full of history and the people of these stones were part of it. If they ever look down… I think they’d be proud of what they brought about. Its quite a State.
In another later trip, we will look for the Grave site of Charles Goodnight – located near Amarillo, Texas, I believe. He was a big part of the Texas story… a Texas Ranger, Indian fighter, and Rancher. And we also learned after our trip here that Mary Martin of ‘Peter Pan’ acting fame is buried in this same cemetery. A return trip may be in the offing!
Thanks for reading our post. We hope you enjoyed it. If you are so inclined, we’d appreciate hearing any of your thoughts, comments, or questions…
Jim & Alice… the ‘Tex Gal’