Anyone driving by Oakwood Cemetery early Saturday morning might have though the American Revolution was about to begin all over again. A crowd gathered as the weather threatened, flags were flying — both British and those we are more familiar with — and were poised.
Actually, it was a rededication ceremony for the restored grave markers for Lawrence Augustine Washington and his wife, Martha Ann Dickinson Shrewsbury Washington near the entrance to the cemetery that was staged by the Sons of the American Revolution, Edmund Terrill Chapter No. 34. Washington was the grand nephew of our nation’s first president, George Washington. The nearby grave of Washington’s daughter was marked with a large American flag.
Among those present were William “Bill” Hurst of Bonham and Dale Rideout of Howe, both of whom are cousins of Washington. The two had the honor of placing a red, white and blue floral wreath on the grave site.
The honor guard was the Texas Society of the Sons of the American Revolution Official Honor Guard. The state society decided that this rededication was so important they made it a state event for the organization. As a result, the Edmund Terrill Chapter honor guard was supplemented with members from Garland, Rowlett, Rockwall, Dallas, Plano, Arlington, Fort Worth and Cleburne in costume.
Wade Graves, president of the Edmund Terrell Chapter, said that the color guard’s attendance at an event is an honor since it is in high demand. The last activity for the guard was the Medal of Honor Parade in Gainesville earlier in April. They will participate in a naturalization ceremony in Dallas later this month.
Graves was master of ceremonies for the event; colors were presented by Ted Wilson and the SAR TXSSAR Color Guard. Taylor Turean of Boy Scouts of America Troop 605 led the pledge to the American flag. Charles Hilbert of Pottsboro, chaplain of the SAR chapter, led the invocation. Scout Troop 605 is sponsored by Waples Memorial United Methodist Church.
The Edmond Terrell Chapter raised funds to pay for the restoration of the grave stones Graves said members believe is important to preserve our country’s history so that future generations will be able to benefit from and appreciate our past.
The grave stones were professionally reconstructed by Jim Branscum at Colonial Monument Company in Denison. The marble stones had already been repaired once and were so brittle it was thought that the services of a professional were needed.
The Texas Historical Marker that was placed on the graves in 1968 was refurbished by one of the chapter’s members, Terry L. “T.L.” Holden of Sherman, a retired U.S. Army Brigadier general. The work on the historical marker was completed in January after Holden spent four full days working to restore it to nearly new condition. The work was done on site so as not to disturb the site any more than necessary.
A surprise to this writer was the presentation by Graves to her of a bronze Good Citizenship Medal and framed certificate from the National Society of the Sons of the American Revolution “in recognition of notable services in behalf of our American principals.” Graves later told me this is the second medal to be awarded in Texas and the first in Denison. I wore the medal with pride the rest of the day while attending events associated with the Doc Holliday Saints and Sinners Festival and the Denison High School Alumni Spring Fling.
Following the laying of the wreath by the two Washington family members, the costumed SAR TXSSAR Color Guard presented a volley salute with authentic muskets from the Revolutionary War.
Forty-nine years ago on April 28, 1968, the Texas Historical Marker was dedicated there in Oakwood Cemetery. During the dedication ceremony, J.C. Taliaferro, chairman of the Grayson County Historical Committee gave my article in The Denison Herald credit for bringing to light that the first president’s descendant was buried at Oakwood. He also gave me credit for “getting the wheels rolling” for a marker on the site. He said it was another of my articles that called the attention of the Edmund Terrill Chapter to the need of the site to be refurbished.
The Edmund Terrell Chapter was organized on April 30, 1889, as part of the Sons of the American Revolution, a patriotic organization. Its members are male descendants of people who served in the Revolutionary War, or who contributed to establishing the independence of the U.S.
Representatives of the Colonial Dames, Daughters of the American Revolution, Denison Genealogical Society and the Oakwood Cemetery Association attended the event.
It was a fitting way to begin a day filled with activities for every age in Denison. The rain cooperated and held off although tarps had been set up “just in case.”
As I left the front gate of the cemetery, I thought how when I found the grave, the stones were broken and the cemetery plot was not in very good shape. But Saturday anyone could immediately see the site and even read the wording on the stones as they entered the cemetery.
A move is under way by several people to do more restoration and clean up in the cemetery and to attempt to find the correct location for some of the very old stones that have been broken and moved from their resting places. In general though, the cemetery is in very good shape. Graves date back as far as the Civil War. Even a Chinese stone marks a very early grave.
Donna Hunt is former editor of The Denison Herald. She lives in Denison and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.