B.M. Steele — also known as Beverly Steele — was 21 years old when he was shot by a pistol in the hand of John W. Green. I know it is true because Steele’s tombstone in Oakwood Cemetery tells the story of his demise.

B.M. Steele — also known as Beverly Steele — was 21 years old when he was shot by a pistol in the hand of John W. Green. I know it is true because Steele’s tombstone in Oakwood Cemetery tells the story of his demise.


I learned about the tombstone at Oakwood more than 25 years ago when I was working on a story about George Washington’s kin being buried in Denison’s early day cemetery. Until then Steele’s killing had become something of a mystery since microfilmed newspaper accounts of the July 31, 1882, shooting were missing from both the Denison Herald’s records and those at the Denison Public Library.


Someone suggested that Bratcher Funeral Home might have the old burial records. Sure enough, what I needed was found in a burial book dating back to May 21, 1881.


There on Aug. 8, 1882, was a listing for Beverly Steele, a white male, 21 years old from Missouri, who was shot with a pistol by Green. Dr. Alex W. Acheson was the attending physician.


Ironically, L.A. (Lawrence Augustine) Washington, a white male, 69, originally from Virginia was two names down on the list. This was the Washington who got me started on the Steele search in the first place, so it was nice to find even more information than I was looking for. Washington, a doctor, was the great-nephew of the father of our country.


The more we thumbed through the record book, the more interested I became. Only a few of the names sounded vaguely familiar, but the young age of the majority of the deceased was a little surprising. The average age was the mid-30s or early 40s, and there were many children and teenagers who died from a variety of illnesses, even suicide. The oldest noted was 82, and he died of "old age."


The railroad was credited with the demise of many of the residents. Noted in many margins were "run over by railroad car" — as many as five on one page. The depot seemed to be where most were killed. No indication was given in the book if these people were working on the railroad, or if they just didn’t see the big black engine as it arrived at the Denison depot.


Since Denison was only 10 years old, home states of all but the young children were listed as other places. Some came from as far away as Canada and even Ireland.


It would be interesting to know more about these people who traveled so far from their homeland to settle in Denison, only to die of some unusual malady.


In May and June 1881 there were numerous deaths from "chol inf," assumed to be cholera. Many died from gunshots, some self-inflicted and one was an "accident case in the wagon yard".


With so many saloons in town at that time, it was no surprise that several died of alcoholism or were found dead in an alley or died drunk in jail. There were many cases of typhoid fever and several who were shot in Indian Territory. One man, Frank Stockbridge, 21, was assassinated in Indian Territory. He was shot on Sept. 10, 1884.


It was surprising to see three or four individuals listed as dying from cancer — the first on Dec. 20, 1881. It isn’t known if this was cancer as we know it today, but the small number of people with the disease seemed to indicate that it wasn’t. Then again, consumption and some of the other reasons for death are a little unusual to us today and could easily be known by some other name now.


Beginning in July 1883, many people were being buried in "the new cemetery." Steel and Dr. Washington were buried in Oakwood in 1882 and probably the town began using another cemetery that year, possibly Fairview out on Highway 91. In 1887, the name Fairview had begun to be listed as the burial place.


The listing of local deaths continues to 1901, a year many smallpox deaths were noted, including several on a single day.


There are markers at Oakwood that are unreadable from weathering, hand-carved markers; marble, tall, ornate brass stones; vandalized stones; and others of every form and fashion. Some date back to before the founding of the city. At several strategic locations throughout the cemetery are hitching posts, where horses could be tied by visitors during burial services.


One Confederate marker is for Walter Bean, who was with Company F of the First Tennessee Mtd. Infantry and Billy Lord with Company C, Fourth Illinois Infantry of the Mexican War. World War I and II graves can be located, as well as at least one Vietnam participant.


What got me started looking for information on Oakwood Cemetery was when a friend stopped me the other night to inquire if I still had a friend living in Nevada. I told her that I talk to Patsy Christman Hampton very often and asked her why. She told me that the gravestone for Patti’s grandfather, Eddie Zuver, is no longer where he is buried.


My husband and I went to Oakwood Sunday, found the Zuver family area and sure enough there was no marked grave for Eddie. Graves for Patti’s grandmother, Emma, and several others were found, but no Eddie. Monday I called the city offices and was told that the city has a list of people buried in the cemetery, but not the location of their graves. The city took over operation of Oakwood in about 2010, soon after Robert Hanna took over as city manager, but the people who turned the cemetery over to the city did not have a map of burial places.


There now are five people taking care of Fairview, Oakwood, Magnolia and Pool cemeteries. Oakwood had been mowed and Monday the crew was out there edging the grass and cleaning the graves.


If anyone knows the exact location of Eddie Zuver’s grave or the location of his tombstone, I would love to learn either or both.


In case there is anyone who isn’t familiar with the Washington family (George’s kin), an upcoming column will discuss the how and why that family ended up in town.


Donna Hunt is a former editor of The Denison Herald. She lives in Denison and can be contacted at donnehunt554@gmail.com.