Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Tombstone Tuesday...Hollow Spring Cemetery

Hollow Spring Cemetery
Established 1912

Click all images for a larger view

Photo provided by Carlotta "Kemp" WHEELER

There are many aspects that are unique about Hollow Spring Cemetery, chief among them is the energetic activist Mary LAMEY-KEMP, who was the guiding light that formed the Hollow Spring Cemetery Association. 

Photo Courtesy of Carlotta "Kemp" WHEELER
When you read stories about the people of Oklahoma and Indian Territory there are not many that talk about the contributions made by women, yet it is these pioneering women that not only maintain the traditions in the "Freedmen" communities but they were also some of the important leaders as we see by the efforts of Mary LAMEY-KEMP.

She was born Mary LAMEY,  in 1888 to Simmion and Alice LAMEY. She was the fifth child of seven and the family lived in Wiley, Indian Territory. Mary's parents were both slaves of Chickasaw Indians; her father was the son of a Chickasaw Indian.

This remarkable woman at the age of 23 was fast becoming a leader in the community of Filmore, Oklahoma when she sought to form an association to acquire the title for a plot of land with the purpose of establishing a cemetery known today as Hollow Spring.
The insight of this woman was quite extraordinary when you consider her age and the fact her parents were both slaves of Chickasaw Indians.

There was a constant struggle by the Chickasaw Freedmen to secure an education for their children. The tribal leaders would not allocate any money for the children of their former slaves because they never adopted them as citizens like the other four slave holding tribes; Cherokee, Choctaw, Creek and Seminole.

Mary's pursuit of a cemetery for her community was not to be denied. It is a testament to her tenacity that the original land that was secured by her letters to the Dawes Commission and Department of Interior stand as a legacy for us too see today.  Along with the other members of this Freedmen community in Filmore I'm sure the efforts of Mary LAMEY-KEMP are remembered with great pride.

It is the selfless actions like Mary's and many more people like her that help tell the wonderful and unique history of the Chickasaw Freedmen and we celebrate her achievement by speaking her name and more importantly, preserve the cemetery she fought so hard to create.


  1. Forwarded from another site:


    I was deeply touched while reading about Holly Spring Cemetery in Fillmore, OK and my grandmother, Mary Lamey Kemp. I was 2 years old when she passed and was overjoyed when my cousin, Mary, found copies of the letters and Chickasaw Freedmen Patent, #641 issued in the name of Mary Lamey. The land was reserved for the Hollow Springs Freedman Methodist Episcopal Church and cemetery. The church was also used as a school. I have several cousins that attended the Hollow Springs school. The building is no longer standing but I do have a photo and I'll send to you. Hollow Springs Cemetery is on my list of things to do: create a cemetery association or re-establish the organization that was created back in 1912. The cemetery needs some tender loving care on a consistent basis. Some of the family names of the deceased buried at Hollow Spring(s) are: Kemp, Lamey, Harkins, Colbert. When my uncles were living, they and other individuals, took care of the cemetery. I always thought that the counties took care of the cemeteries. I'm sure there will be family members from Tishomingo that will go to the cemetery over the Memorial Holiday weekend to clean it up. However, it is now up to us to step up and provide the on-going care necessary to maintain all of the Freedmen cemeteries. Our ancestors' resting places should certainly be acknowledged as historical landmarks and specifically those that have designated patent numbers. Hmmmm, I wonder if there are more Freedmen Patents in existence. Verdie and Joyce, it's time for a road trip to Fillmore! Terry, thank you! I appreciate you, Ms. One, Verdie and Joyce for reminding me that I do have a story to tell.


  2. Greetings Carlotta,

    It is gratifying that I was able to bring back fond memories for you of your grandmother, she obviously was a woman of great strength and intellect when you think of the time and place she lived; yet took the steps to incorporate a cemetery association at her young age in 1912, fascinating!

    Carlotta I encourage you to follow up on that document for possibly more information on the Association your grandmother helped form. The state of Oklahoma may have those incorporation papers and it could yield other names that were involved with the formation of the Cemetery Association and Church.

    Your grandmother should serve as an inspiration to us today on what we can and should be doing to preserve the Indian Territory Freedmen sacred burial sites. Whether the tribes, state or county have programs to assist us will only be answered if we begin the process of helping ourselves.

    There is nothing wrong with us forming and joining forces with cemetery preservation organizations and pooling our resources and woman power to get these sites cleared of brush and weeds.

    You know I’m anxious to see the photo, you never know, someone may have a photo of the church somewhere. Somebody had to take a picture out front of the church during a wedding, Easter Sunday, Funeral something. If you can find some school records (don’t ask me where to begin) someone on that list could hold the key to other information or photos.

    Memorial Day Weekend would be a wonderful time to get photos and or video of people tending to the burial sites of the departed. I recall when I visited Oklahoma as an adult for the first time. It was Memorial Day weekend and it was a Sunday we drove down from Oklahoma City and my father was working on my head the entire trip as I look back at it.

    He wanted to make a detour but didn’t tell me exactly where we were going. I’m driving down a pave road, that turned into a gravel road that turned into a dirt road and I’m thinking this old man is lost. Well I’m tooling down this dirt road when all of a sudden he shouts, “turn here, turn here!” All I see is a fence with ivy growing over it and some trees and no place to turn.

    Out of the blue there is this little opening in the fence and after skidding a few feet past the opening I back up and make a left into the pasture with a little worn road. We circle through the road and come upon a cemetery. There was a little old truck parked on the grass and a little frail old man with a rake was working and a little woman was pulling grass and weeds from the headstones.

    Of course my father knew them and they greeted each other warmly and me a fish out of water I began taking pictures of every headstones in the place.

    We must have gotten there a little after twelve and later on, around one thirty or so, cars and trucks started trickling into the cemetery and in about an hour there had to be twenty or thirty people in there cleaning up the site. It was one of the most remarkable scenes I have ever experienced.

    Men, women and children all coming from church and taking the time to care for this little cemetery off a dirt road that they obviously had a great love for.

    I know you and your relatives will find great joy in caring for that cemetery this weekend. My advice to you be a fish out of water and take lotsa photos/video! :-D