Once Upon an Epitaph: Reading Between the Last Lines

Most tombstones are rather Sergeant Fridayish: They tell us “just the facts, ma’am.” Name, date of birth, date of death. But now and then you find one that tells a story or hints at a story. Here are a few.

No heavenly harp for this young musician. In Mount Olivet Cemetery, Samuel W. Lewis (1989-2006) took his passion to the grave with him. “Live large; life is short.”

In Oakwood Cemetery lies Texana Jones Anderson. Her tombstone reads: “The tragedy of her life was not in its passing, but in the long struggle of a courageous and noble woman against ignoble odds and her loving mother heart yearning for love.”

cemetery greenwood 5On the other hand, at Greenwood.

In Oakwood Cemetery lies Almon A. Locke. He was an early leader in local humane societies and in 1920 donated $10,000 to establish a fund to teach children kind treatment of animals. The bottom text reads: “The great advancement of the world, throughout all ages is to be measured by the increase of humanity, and the decrease of cruelty.”

In Oakwood Cemetery lies Annie Moyston Kells (1862-1884). She was the sister of Fort Worth Gazette city editor Louis Kells, but no one I have talked with knows the story of Annie and her pet Polly, buried at her feet beneath what I take to be a simulated cairn.

kells 1884Annie died in Ennis. Her death rated a short paragraph in newspapers in Fort Worth and in Galveston, where she had lived with mother Mary, stepfather Frank W. Fox, and brother Louis.

kells 1880

polly detailOriginally a carved parrot sat  atop the cairn, but all that remains of the parrot now is the feet and tailfeathers.

cemetery oakwood red skyAt Oakwood. The U.S.S. John W. Thomason was a Navy destroyer launched in 1944. The ship was named for a Marine from Houston who fought in both world wars. The Thomason, like its namesake, fought in two wars: Korea and Vietnam. The ship later was sold to Taiwan, used for target practice, and sunk.

longhorn mccaffertys oakAt Oakwood is the tombstone of Charles and Sue McCafferty, who founded the North Fort Worth Historical Society in 1976. Charles died in Sue’s arms on the lawn of the Livestock Exchange Building.

burt 2 verses

At Oakwood Cemetery is a tombstone shared by Captain John T. Burt and Elizabeth Burt. On it are these lines:
“A golden link from the sweet chain of love is loosed from Earth to form the one above”
“We shall meet again some sweet day”

cemetery train rose hillAt Rose Hill. Census forms, city directories, and draft cards always showed Fred James Story to be an automobile man: taxi company owner, chauffeur, auto livery operator. Perhaps he dreamed of driving something different.

cemetery nick beefFor years at Rose Hill, theories—some of them mostly baloney—surrounded this tombstone located next to that of Lee Harvey Oswald. Was former Fort Worth resident Patric Abedin the Grin Reaper?

Posts About Cemeteries

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4 Responses to Once Upon an Epitaph: Reading Between the Last Lines

  1. Chris says:

    Being a handlebar addict myself (and always interested in historical trivia from all over the world) I love to read your blog, although living in Switzerland.
    I just found this story about annie and her pet:
    Best regards!

    • hometown says:

      Chris: Hello in Switzerland. Thanks for making the world a little smaller. And thanks for the link. Someone did a LOT of research. I knew Louis Kells was a newspaperman but did not know “the rest of the story.”

  2. Steve A says:

    Was Polly a turtle?

    • hometown says:

      That was my first theory, too. Then I found that unusual grave decoration, which now to me looks like a simulated pile of stones, in cemeteries elsewhere and now think it is supposed to be a cairn. Not that that means there couldn’t be a real turtle buried under Polly’s simulated cairn.

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