BRYAN COUNTY HISTORY: The Turnbull Cemetery
In July of 1908, the Washington Post reported that “the man who made his Winchester the law, and scattered graves of horse thieves all along the valley of the Blue and Boggy rivers” had died. That man was Turner Brashears Turnbull and his resting place is now an abandoned cemetery located northeast of Caddo. It’s on the Stuart ranch and contains over a dozen other Turnbull graves. It was surveyed in 1983 by Mary Peters, who also found numerous headstones for the Benton, Houser, and Tigert families, along with others. Her listing can be found in Bryan County Cemeteries, Vol. 3, available from the Bryan County Genealogy Library & Archives in Calera. It was canvassed again in 1984 by Gwen Walker, Joy Blankenship and Mary Armstrong. They located 53 marked headstones. GPS location devices have revealed that more than one hundred people may actually be buried there.
One of the earliest burials in the cemetery appears to be that of Albion B. Turnbull, an infant who died in 1874. An unnamed Turnbull infant died in 1876. The earliest adult burial located so far is that of Becky Turnbull, wife of Daniel Turnbull. She died October 5, 1880.
Of course, the most famous person buried in Turnbull Cemetery is Turner B. Turnbull, Jr. Turner served several terms as Representative from Blue County in the Choctaw Legislature and at various times was a Ranger, District Trustee of the Third Judicial District of the Choctaw Nation, Sheriff of Blue County and Enumerator of indigent Choctaws for Blue County. He owned and managed a large stock farm and built a magnificent two-story home on his property outside of Caddo. He was a member of the Masonic Lodge and the Presbyterian Church. He died on April 20, 1908. His biography can be found in the Chronicles of Oklahoma, Vol. 10, #2, page 124. The Turnbull Rangers are pictured (page 100) in “Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma” by Donovin Arleigh Sprague.
Each summer a group of dedicated volunteers arrives in Caddo to attempt to restore a little order to one of the area’s oldest cemeteries. They clear brush, trim weeds and grasses, and clean the discolored headstones while fending off ticks, chiggers, and the occasional scorpion or snake.
One of the goals of the volunteer group, currently spearheaded by Johnna Thurston, is to work with the Choctaw History and Preservation office to identify and honor the graves belonging to tribe members, especially those who traveled to the territory on the Trail of Tears. And of course their ongoing goal is to recruit more volunteers who will help maintain and preserve the cemetery. If you would like to help in any way you may contact Johnna Turnbull Thurston at firstname.lastname@example.org before June 1.
Bryan County History is a weekly feature contributed by members of the Bryan County Genealogy Library and Archives in Calera. The views and opinions expressed here are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of Texoma Marketing and Media Group. Is there a historic event or topic you want to read about? Contact the library at P.O. Box 153, Calera, OK 74730.