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 to enlarge.|
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 Catholic congregation.
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 at Cemetery Records Online.
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