Saving the Fairview Park Cemetery of Grady County, Oklahoma
by Sandi Carter, December 28, 1999
The Fairview Park Cemetery had passed
through several ownerships over the years and suffered some severe
destruction. Recently, it faced total obliteration, until a group
of people got involved.
|Clumps of tall Johnson grass where tombstones lay. Click photo
For the first time in 40 years, I went to Oklahoma for the Fitzpatrick
Family reunion in June of 1998. Myself and several cousins went
to the old abandoned Fairview
Park Cemetery. There were many clusters of very tall Johnson
grass amid the newly mown field of wheat. It was a sad sight to
see. I felt like those buried there, with the wind blowing, were
trying to shout "We're here, please do something to restore our
gravestones and take care of this cemetery."
This year I went to Oklahoma in November. We went to old Fairview
Park Cemetery and the wheat, again, had been mown. Standing in falling
over clumps, here and there, were bunches of dead Johnson grass.
But, as the story will tell, we were very proud to find our own
Fitzpatrick family plot in the Catholic section. Cousin Buddy Alexander
did a superb job of getting rid of the Johnson grass, putting 4
PVC white pipes around it, with green flags on the tops of each,
to denote the area. Only two family headstones remain. There are
several bases for other stone, which, of course, must have been
plowed into the now extinct ditch by the road. How sad!
I had a little time to go to three other clumps and took photos
of gravestones there, a few standing. Most were laying flat on the
ground. As the wind howled, I had tears in my eye! It would have
been hard not to cry over all those forgotten graves!
|Tombstone hidden inside one of the clumps of Johnson grass.
Click photo to enlarge.
And, I found out that a great Fitzpatrick aunt had gone to that
same cemetery in the 1970's when the then owner was plowing headstones
toward the old ditch! He pulled a shotgun on her and told her to
leave! I had tears in my eye for her, as I know, where she alive
today, not to mention all others, even those not related to us,
she would heave many sighs of relief to see something had been done
to save that precious piece of Indian Territory history. Maybe,
as the wind howled around me, I was hearing the voices of all buried
there, and those others who left their loved ones to the earth in
a state of extreme grief.
When I left the cemetery, I felt a peace I hadn't felt in 1998.
I felt a hard fight had been fought, and, a good job had been done!
Thomas Harrison, a Choctaw, originally owned the land upon which
Fairview Park Cemetery is now located. It was part of land allotted
to Mr. Harrison, who was #6599 on the Choctaw Roll.
On 14 November 1908 one hundred acres were purchased to start this
cemetery as the Rose Hill Cemetery in Chickasha was almost full.
At that time the land was owned by Joseph T. and Carrie Dickerson.
Mr. Dickerson was an attorney at law. He sold the land for one dollar
to the Fairview Park Cemetery Association.
That same year, on 17 December, Rev. A. M. Urban DeHasque, the
pastor of Holy Name (of Jesus) Roman Catholic Church in Chickasha,
purchased six acres in Fairview Park Cemetery to accommodate his
An interesting fact about Holy Name Catholic Church is that, before
it was erected, my great great grandfather, Theodore (Tadgh) Fitzpatrick,
who came to America in 1848 from Ireland, had Mass said in his home
when the circuit priest made his rounds. Many times Father DeHasque
said Mass in the Fitzpatrick home. Theodore also gave money to build
this Catholic Church
|Infant son of Anna and Arthur Lee May. Click photo to enlarge.
Theodore Fitzpatrick, along with his wife, Maria Hall Fitzpatrick,
and daughters, Mary Elizabeth Fitzpatrick Holmes and Anna Fitzpatrick
May, and the infant son of Anna, Arthur Lee May, are buried in family
plot in the Catholic section of Fairview Park Cemetery.
The old Fitzpatrick family along with the many others buried in
Fairview Park Cemetery were pioneers in Indian Territory. In many
old documents are the names of many of these people.
On 18 April 1914 a foreclosure suit was filed by a Lizzie F. McGinnis
and a few others against the Fairview Park Cemetery Association
and Father DeHasque. The Association and Father DeHasque then forfeited
all rights to the cemetery. Some of the people buried in Fairview
Park Cemetery were removed to Rose Hill Cemetery as it had expanded.
Apparently the care of the cemetery ceased altogether as families
who maintained their plots died off, or, moved away. Yet, we know
that those in our Fitzpatrick family did maintain and fight desecration
of it all to this day!
On 26 October 1915 the land was sold in a Sheriff's sale. Over
the years it has passed from hand to hand. And, it has been desecrated,
though many families tried to keep that from happening to no avail.
Once there was an iron fence around the Fitzpatrick family plot
with an ornate gate.
The Fitzpatrick plot and the graves of a few others now rests under
high growing Johnson grass. I was there in June 1998 and was shocked
to see the condition of that cemetery. It is a plowed field except
for the small patch of Johnson grass. A few gravestones can still
be seen if one wades through the grass.
In the 1970's the land was bought by a farmer who proceeded to
push most of the gravestone into a ditch that was then on the side
of the cemetery, running along the road. This was done without concern
for those buried beneath the ground. This man's only concern was
clearing the land for farming purposes. One has to wonder why any
cemetery would be sold for the purposes of farming, especially in
an area where open land is so abundant. And, one really wonders
why the powers that be didn't stop this from happening. They only
turned their heads.
In the late 1970's the land was sold to the Chickasha School System
as the future site for a building. The Fitzpatrick family has been
fighting to keep the cemetery from being built over since that time.
In 1991 the large obelisk over the graves of Theodore and Maria
Fitzpatrick was moved to the Brown family plot in Fairlawn Cemetery.
This was done to save it from further vandalism. The Brown family
are also descendants of Theodore and Maria Fitzpatrick.
|The Fitzpatrick Family Plot after the tall grass was cleared.
Click photo to enlarge.
The latest battle was to stop any cemetery concern, who the Chickasha
School System wants to sell the property to, from putting in new
graves over the old ones. A cousin, Buddy Alexander, who lives in
Oklahoma, made me aware of this via phone. I quickly got on the
Internet and E-mailed the Governor and Lt. Governor of Oklahoma,
the Catholic Archdiocese in Los Angeles, California in which my
church is located, the Chickasaw and Choctaw Nations, family, and
friends. There is power on the Internet. My cousin was the on hands
person and with all of the attention this matter received from some
powerful people, the school system promised that the cemetery concern
who will take over will have to plot out all the graves existing
and tag them, maintain the old part, and use only virgin land for
additional graves. And, we had permission to clean up our family
plot and put a temporary fence around it. Buddy is in the process
of doing that and we are all happy that all graves will be protected
and a big part of the old Indian Territory of the Chickasaw Nation's
history has been saved, yet again.
We are hoping those gravestones that were buried in the ravine
will be recovered and will again stand above the designated graves.
The graves will be plotted by satellite and the old plat is being
searched for at this time. We only know where a lot of people were
buried whose remains are in the Catholic section.
This cemetery, therefore has more of a history than those that
have been maintained over the years. But, there are a lot of cemeteries
in the same boat and people need to know they can be saved through
a lot of effort.
- Sandi Carter
Sandi Carter is a GG granddaughter of Theodore and Maria
Hall Fitzpatrick, and can reached at SandKatC@aol.com
A list of the interments of Fairview Park Cemetery can viewed