It was a pilgrimage of sorts. There was a grave that I needed to see again, and it had been on my mind for awhile.
I drove slowly along the country back roads in Cooke County, breathing clouds of white caliche dust through the open window, as I searched for road markers. The GPS on my smart phone had gone stupid on me when I plugged in the name of a century-old cemetery, so I had to go “old school” and use a paper map. Oh, who am I kidding? I have no navigational skills, so I stopped and asked a farmer for directions. After a few more twists and turns, I found myself at the gates of Clark Cemetery only to find the dadgum gate locked with this sign on it:
Do whut? They wanted me to call somebody so that I could enter the cemetery? I try to play by the rules, so I called the numbers — only to be sent to voicemail with both of them. “Well,” I said to myself, “the sign just says ‘for access call,’ It didn’t say I had to actually talk to anybody.” This old gal didn’t drive forty-five minutes in the Texas heat to be turned away at the gate. Besides, it isn’t lawful in Texas to deny access to a cemetery!
Section 711.041 of the Health and Safety Code states that any person who wishes to visit a cemetery that has no public ingress or egress shall have the rights for visitation during reasonable hours and for purposes associated with cemetery visits. The owner of the lands surrounding the cemetery may designate the routes for reasonable access. Section 711.0521 further states that interference with ingress and egress is a Class C misdemeanor. – Info from Texas Historical Commission http://www.thc.state.tx.us/preserve/projects-and-programs/cemetery-preservation/cemetery-laws
So, I shimmied through fences and began the climb up the lane to Clark Cemetery. As I plodded along the sandy, rutted road cicadas whirred in the trees and songbirds serenaded me. I lost myself in reverie, thinking about the life and death of the man whose grave I was seeking. It was easy to imagine myself walking this lane behind a coffin in 1862 to bury a man in the meadow at the top of the hill.
I had been to this grave back in 1979 with the Cross Timbers Genealogical Society to record the information on the tombstones. His epitaph sent a chill up my spine. Back then I didn’t have a digital camera. I have been thinking about this place for months and was anxious to see it again.
Dadgum! I should have taken a picture thirty-six years ago! The tombstone didn’t have as much lichen or as many stains back then! Let me try a closeup, and I’ll transcribe it for you.
The entire tombstone reads:
Nathaniel M. Clark
June 26, 1816
by a Mob
October 13, 1862
His last words to
“Prepare yourself to
live and to die. I hope to
meet you all in a future
world. God bless you all”
So, I found the gravesite of Nathaniel Miles Clark, but I wasn’t satisfied. My pilgrimage wasn’t over. I trudged back down the hill, taking only photographs and leaving only footprints, to journey to my next destination: the site where he died! I’ll tell you about that adventure next time! I’m still digesting some of the information.