Janice Williams Loves Austin And sometimes I write about it.

July 29, 2011

A Grave Mystery

Filed under: Music — Janice @ 10:59 pm

Our overnight trip to the Texas Hill Country was coming to a close and we were now close to home. Mark had asked on the trip out if there were any Cunninghams buried in the Hill Country. He was concerned, I think, that I might suffer from withdrawal without a cemetery trip. I told him I would be fine and bit my tongue every time a story about a dead person came to mind (of course there was no need, Mark is a great audience).

Finally, we are nearing our final destination and getting close to Dripping Springs. Ten years ago we visited a grave in Dripping Springs and Mark had mentioned recently that he would like to go that cemetery again. Of course, I’m all for that! I just didn’t expect it to be on this trip, but I’m glad it was. Mark asked if I could remember enough to navigate us back to this cemetery. I knew that I could and we started on a parallel road with 290 heading toward Dripping Springs.

The grave we were going to see belongs to my great-great-great-grandfather James Powel Hallford who came to Texas with his wife Sarah Medlin Hallford and her sisters and their husbands, one who was married to James’s brother. They all came to Texas early in Statehood and settled around Grapevine, Texas, and were the earliest settlers of Southlake, Grapevine, Flower Mound, Denton, and more. Around the end of the Civil War, several of them relocated to Hays County and lived around Dripping Springs. James Powel Hallford died there in 1868 and was buried in this small cemetery. It was really an adventure to find it 10 years ago and it was not easy. We hunted high and low and had to stop and ask for directions and somehow make it through a locked gate onto private property and then not get shot while we were there. We were up for just such an adventure again.

I had no trouble finding the locked gate again. It had not changed. I don’t really remember how we made it through last time. This time we crawled under the gate. Yes, too hefty 50+-year-olds scooching under a big iron gate that had cedar posts hanging underneath it specifically to keep people out. It didn’t work.

We made it onto this beautiful ranch and started walking toward the cemetery. We came up to a fork and went toward the storage buildings and abandoned cars that are there. No cemetery. We go the other way. No cemetery. We go further and further, though we knew we had not walked nearly this far when we came here before, but where would a cemetery go? I began hallucinating about this point. Either because it was 105 outside and we were in the brightest sunshine or because I was determined to find my cemetery. I swear, I would see a tombstone sticking up as plain as could be and I would get closer and it would have just melted away. Or a solid, squared, on-the-ground stone would catch my eye and I’d plow through the brush only to find it was a limestone rock. We walk all the way back and back to the house and back this way and that and then started back out where we came in, still not giving up, and looking closer on that trail. We hadn’t been paying as much attention on that stretch of path because we were sure when we came in that the cemetery was farther up the road, but this time we looked more closely and there is was, hidden in the trees and weeds.

The cemetery had deteriorated a lot since our last visit, I think. I recall being able to read the gravestone more clearly last time, but the dates now are indistinguishable. The name can still be read if you know what it says already. There are probably 20 graves with gravestones that have names or appear to have a name and at least 20 more just marked with rocks. That means there could be so many more that aren’t really marked at all. This is the grave of my g-g-g-grandfather Hallford:

Yes, you’re looking at the inscribed part. There was no way to take a picture of it where you could actually read it. It was more a matter of touch and being a good detective to know what it says. Mark and I discussed the life story of this Hallford and I wondered again, for the millionth time, where his wife is buried. I’ve seen sources that say she died “after 1880 in Hays County,” but I believe that Hays County part is just an assumption based on seeing her in the 1880 census in Hays County and not finding her later. But I found her later. She was living in Comanche County in 1900 with her son (my great-great-grandfather) and his family and she was 88. That is where her trail goes cold. I know at that point she only had 2 living children of the 10 she had given birth to, but I don’t know who the other one was besides my great-great-grandfather. He died in 1902 and — if she was still alive at that time — I suspect she might have gone on to live with the last living child. I need to do more research one day and see what else can be discovered.

We had our photographs and my cemetery fix and we tromped back to the gate again and scooched once again. A harder scooch this time because it was more uphill. We were on our way again. We stopped at the Sonic to re-hydrate (no, no malt or ice cream this time) and I checked my email. I had seen an email earlier that I hadn’t opened, but I opened it this time. It was a request sent to me through findagrave.com, one of my favorite sites for genealogy. A woman was writing to thank me for putting up the findagrave memorial for James Powel Hallford — the grave we had just visited for the first time in 10 years — and wondering where his wife was buried– the same question we had just debated. It all was a spooky coincidence that makes me want to find out where Sarah is buried. That will be one of my next genealogy quests.

1 Comment »

  1. As interesting as this story and picture are, I would love to have pics of you and Mark scooching under the fence!

    Comment by Denise — August 15, 2011 @ 9:57 am

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