I knelt beside the grave, openly weeping, as I tried to upright the statues and figurines that her loved ones had placed there for her. I thought I was alone … but suddenly I heard a man clear his throat. I jumped to my feet and whirled around to see a man who had been walking near Cooper Creek Cemetery and had heard my sobs.
He gave me a forlorn look of sympathy and asked, “Was she one of yours?”
“No,” I replied, as I wiped my tears. “No, I didn’t know her, but she was so young and it made me sad to see her tribute in disarray.”
Have you ever seen the sideways look that an animal gives you when it wants to shy away … thinking you are a danger? That’s the look the man gave me as he shuffled away, mumbling, “I just wanted to make sure you were alright.” I imagine he went home and told his wife about the lunatic in the cemetery.
It wasn’t the first time I had cried that morning as I walked through the graveyard. There were so many children, so many damaged stones, and so many forgotten souls.
Cooper Creek was a tiny community that was established before the Civil War. Although it is within the city limits now, when it was first settled it was described as “three and a half miles northeast from Denton.” I haven’t yet found any record of there being any commerce established there. However, whenever a group of settlers began building their homes, there was soon a church, a school as focal points for the community … and there was a cemetery.
That cemetery has a historical marker, as do the school and the church. Both of them still stand, but they look a lot alike, so I just snapped a photo of the school.
It closed its doors as an educational center in 1951, but I was intrigued by some information on the historical marker. It said, “During a smallpox epidemic in 1918, a local doctor helped stem the outbreak by treating the afflicted children at the schoolhouse.” I guess that means they were quarantined there to keep the disease from spreading to the families.
The first burial at Cooper Creek was Richard Kale, but I didn’t find his grave. He died February 9, 1872. I did see many names I recognized from Denton today, like Skaggs, Farris, Belew, and Guyer. It is still an active cemetery, and the cemetery records list 693 marked graves and 227 unmarked. You can read more about the cemetery and the community in the Historical Narrative submitted to get the marker.
As I walked in the dappled sunlight underneath those huge oak trees, I heard the ghosts of history whispering at me. Time, and possibly vandals, have damaged many of the stones in this historic cemetery, which made my heart ache. Though I know that the Cemetery Association has a clean up day every Mother’s Day, all I could think was that I wished I had some lawn tending tools, some muscle, and maybe some Superglue.