In February of this year I had the good fortune to travel to Oklahoma and visit with a friend prior to attending and presenting a “lecture” on historical and genealogical video’s I produced. My good friend Verdie Triplett and I had a few days to kill before we had to travel from Spiro, Oklahoma to Tulsa for the Choctaw and Chickasaw Freedmen Heritage Conference and Reunion, so we did what any good researchers would do with time on their hands.
We made day trips to various locations throughout eastern Oklahoma visiting friends and locations that were significant to the history of the Choctaw and Chickasaw Freedmen in that part of Oklahoma. Verdie being the gracious host took me to several cemeteries by way of back roads and briar patches. I had to endure “cow pies” barbed wire and damn near freezing temperatures in pursuit of elusive gravesites that would be added to my collection of stock photographs for use in future videos.
It was on one day trip that we visited a little cemetery in the Spiro area known as New Hope that he wanted to show me some headstones that had significance to his family history. Verdie has ties to the Choctaw Nation and his grandmother was the daughter of a Choctaw Indian named Silas Darneal.
So naturally I wanted to photograph the Darneal gravesite (never know when you will need a photo) and while canvassing the cemetery on that cold afternoon with the metal camera body causing my hands to go numb (I brought gloves but for some reason never thought to put them on until AFTER my hands went numb) I spotted three unique headstones.
These three stones didn’t look like any headstones I had ever seen before in my limited excursions doing cemetery work. Yet, my keen photographer’s eye knew enough to capture the stones; again, you never know when you might need something down the road.
Finally having time to go through some of the more than five hundred images taken on the trip, I took a closer look at the three unique stones and discovered there was more too them than met the eye.
Certainly just looking at them you could tell they had something in common about them. They all look as if they were tree stumps with intricate carvings throughout. With a closer look you could see an emblem of some kind at the top of the piece but all three were similar but different. I didn’t pay much attention to them until recently and began taking a more in depth look at the design and the names of the people who were buried beneath them.
The names of the individuals did not ring a bell. I couldn’t and have not found any of the three on the Dawes Choctaw Rolls but that could only mean they were possibly settlers and married into the Choctaw Nation but did not receive citizenship.
While looking for the names of the men on the Dawes rolls and all three stones were men; their dates of birth and death were curious. All three were relatively young when they died.
It wasn’t until I took a good look at the emblems atop the stones did I begin to really get curious about this cluster of three headstones. Each of the men died before World War I and none of them lived past the age of 35. They didn’t appear to be related because all three had different surnames but somehow the three unique headstones above their burial plot indicated they had some connection.
That connection I’ve come to discover was indicated in the emblem atop the headstone. All three had an inscription that connected them to some organization called Woodmen of the World. Being the curious individual I am it was just a matter of Googling that name to see if there was a clue to what these three headstones might have had in common.
Apparently I am not the only one that finds these headstones interesting. There are sites dedicated to capturing the design where ever they are located.
There is a man in Colorado who has done some extensive photography capturing these unique stones and has gone as far as publishing a book about Woodmen of the World memorials.
So far I haven’t seen where the three I photographed have been captured but I’ll keep looking and at some point I guess I’ll just have to contact one of these sites to determine if I have something to contribute to this legacy.