Yesterday Den and I went into Jefferson and spent the whole day there…The first place we went was Oakwood Cemetery, which is on the North end of town. I am dividing that trip into 2 blogs…First is the “spiritual” part of our trip….This is going to be a bit of a history lesson, so bear with me… My Ya Ya girlfriend, Mary, had given me a book called The Ghosts of East Texas, by Mitchel Whitington. Mar had picked it up the last time they were here in Jefferson. So McGyver and I decided to walk through Oakwood Cemetery, which has a chapter all it’s own in that book. The roads were very narrow, made for horse and buggy, so we parked the GMC and walked amongst the souls, me with my book open to the chapter in question…”A Stroll Through Oakwood Cemetery”.
The first grave we looked for was “legendary scoundrel” Cullen Baker..He was reported to have killed at least 2 men before he joined Confederate Co. G, Morgan’s Regimental Cavalry in 1861. After being discharged due to illness, he is reported to have been part of a band of outlaws, harassing and even killing people. Shortly after their outlaw group disbanded, he settled in Cass County with a bounty on his head. It is reported that a group of neighbors poured strychnine into his whiskey jug. “When Baker drank from it, and was dying, they sent for the law so they could collect on the “dead-or-alive” bounty. The author Louis L’Amour immortalized Baker in the western novel, “The First Fast Draw…”
We had no trouble finding his grave, thanks to the author’s guidance in the book….There have been several non-fiction books about the life of Cullen Baker and his colorful past…
Another of the legendary spirits here at Oakwood is Bessie Monroe, better known as “Diamond Bessie”…As the tale has it, “on Friday, Jan 19th, 1877, a well-dressed couple arrived in Jefferson, signing into the local boarding house as “A. Monroe and wife”. They were seen all around town the next 2 days, flashing their expensive jewelry and clothing. The woman was introduced only as “Bessie”, and because of her plentiful jewelry they called her “Diamond Bessie”.
That Sunday morning, A. Monroe purchased 2 picnic lunches and the couple was seen walking across the bridge over Big Cypress Bayou. That’s the last time anyone ever saw the woman alive. A. Monroe was spotted walking back into town alone…He left the city shortly after. That week a snowstorm hit town, and a week later, after the snow melted, a local woman was gathering firewood South of Jefferson and ran across the body of a well-dressed woman sitting up against a tree trunk, shot through the head. The remains of a picnic lunch was found nearby.(more dirt….rumor had it that she was pregnant.)
Long story longer…Local authorities learned that A. Monroe was actually Abraham Rothschild, son of a wealthy Cincinnati jeweler. As a traveling salesman, he hooked up with “Bessie” in a brothel in Hot Springs, AR. The authorities arrested Rothschild in Cincinnati, after he tried to kill himself with a gun. He only succeeded in blinding himself in one eye, and was tried for murder in Texas shortly thereafter. He was first found guilty, then appealed, and a new indictment was issued, where it is believed that his father’s money got him off on Dec. 30, 1880. ..Wait, it gets better…. “In the 1890’s a handsome, elderly man wearing a patch over his right eye asked to be shown the grave of Bessie Moore. Upon seeing it, he laid roses on it, knelt in prayer, commented on the goodness of the citizens of Jefferson to provide a decent burial, and gave the caretaker money for the care of the grave”….HMMMMMMM….I JUST LOVE THIS STUFF!!!!
“IN THE 1930’S A HEADSTONE MYSTERIOUSLY APPEARED ON THE GRAVE WHERE NONE HAD BEEN BEFORE, AND IN THE 1960’S, THE JESSIE ALLEN WISE GARDEN CLUB BUILT THE IRON FENCE AROUND IT”.
I could go on and on…but I have room for only a few stories and this is my last of the many found in Oakwood Cemetery….This is a tale of 2 hated scoundrels, Jesse Robinson and Bill Rose. These 2 guys were each other’s only friend. “Rose was a blacksmith and Robinson a bounty hunter who fancied himself a lawman”. On April 4, 1871, they got into an argument in a Jefferson bar. Later that day the fight escalated and Robinson showed up at the blacksmith shop with a gun. Rose didn’t take that lightly, and he grabbed his own pistol and managed to squeeze off a shot, but didn’t think he had hit Robinson. Then, Robinson shot Rose in the leg, dropping him to the ground. Robinson then stood over Rose and proceeded to empty his gun into Rose finishing him off. Robinson then turned and walk back into the street. By the time he got to the other side, he realized that Rose had indeed shot him. He collapsed on the sidewalk, and realized he had a small spot of blood oozing from his chest…”As people from town gathered around him, he uttered his final words, “That rascal has killed me”….(oh , the irony!)
Here is the best part about that story…No one cared that these 2 dudes were dead…but they had to be buried..sooo… As the story goes, “before lowering the coffins side by side, they were wrapped together with a heavy chain. The townspeople decided that since they had been linked so closely in life, that they should be linked together in death. The markers that you see were added to symbolize that for all time.”
THESE 2 IRON POSTS WITH A CONNECTION CHAIN ARE THE ONLY MARKINGS OF THE GRAVES OF JESSE ROBINSON AND BILL ROSE.
WITHOUT THIS BOOK, MCGYVER AND I WOULD BE WANDERING AIMLESSLY HERE AT OAKWOOK, NOT KNOWING THE HISTORY BENEATH OUR FEET. SOOOO MANY STORIES HERE..LOTS THAT WE WILL NEVER EVER KNOW…
Here are a few more great old stones and markers we found…
INSCRIPTION READS “OUR SWEET BABE”
Above stone is HUGE!! and it marks the grave of just one woman…The steps go up to the engraving on the right photo…It says..
Kate W., Wife Of Capt. L. Flatau, Born in Titus, Co. Nov. 27, 1818, Died New Orleans, La Nov. 9, 1882.
“As a wife devoted….
As a Mother affectionate
As a friend was kind and true
In life she exhibited all the graces of a Christian
In death, her redeemed spirit returned to God, who ???????”
We could not read the rest because the stone was sooooo cracked…Can you believe this huge monument for one woman??? Like I said, there were many untold stories here at Oakwood…
Well, that does it for our tour of the Oakwood Cemetery in Jefferson. I realize that lots of you are now snoring loudly, as this could be considered a real “snoozer” of a blog by some. I do not, however, apologize for my love of walking among the spirits…I was, after all, aised among them in our home at Oak Ridge Cemetery in Sandwich, and my mother, Cora , was a huge lover of cemetery research…(She had better be…after my Dad told her we were going to live in one, what choice did she have???.).Thanks to those who actually read this stuff…I sure enjoyed retelling the stories!!! More on our trip to Jefferson next time….