On a winter evening (it was Christmas Eve) about sundown, in the Mexican section of the Mulberry cemetery, I came on a small cross set there in 1923, its submerged concrete base revealed, with a steel bolt, black, at the center crossing. Wood, brittle, covered with an elaborate growth of lichen. I had not yet discovered the grave of Ysabel Ortiz though it seemed all my life I’d known his name.


    Ysabel Ortiz was Cistobal Sanchez’s step-son. Pauline said he arrived in Mulberry sometime after the Sanchez family (1919). Ysabel died on November 14, 1932, and was buried at Mulberry. Gladys Hall entered the “Red House” then, for the first time, with others in the Hall family to “pay respect.” His body lay before what she called “an altar,” and around the altar were “paper flowers.” Pasted on bare wood walls were children’s crayon drawings of airplanes (still there).

    I do not know whether the wooden cross that Christmas Eve marked the grave of Rosie Ford, but it was surely the focus of a “Denver realization” that “nothing ever dies, someone else is here.” Rosie Ford, implicated in the death of Lena Pendergrass, was buried in the northwest corner of the cemetery among the Mexicans’ graves. One of her daughters may have been the first wife of Crespin “Shorty” Ramirez (1895-1969)—“A Wonderful Father and Buddy to All Who Knew Him.” When he married a second time, to Beatrice (1910-90), she said she would never be buried at Mulberry (Shorty had told Alva Cain how “mean” Rosie Ford was), but after her promising son choked at a banquet and was buried at Mulberry, Beatrice gave in: Mike P. Ramirez—“My Beloved Son and Brother”—1945-74.

    So the Sanchez family had lived in the “Red House,” my house today; they also lived in the “Yellow House” (1936-37), formerly the “Roach place.” Cristobal died there when a tree he was cutting fell, “enero 13 de 1938.” Leandra also remembered Don Jouquin and Don Pase Vay Vesquey, who died January 18, 1938: “72 years - 3 months & 18 days” on his tombstone.

    In the summer of 1990, my mother at home again, Pauline and Grace, on one of their trips to Texas, came to see her; she was on her bed. I waited on the patio with Augustine while they talked, and asked if he’d known “Isabel.” “Your father! Then tell me....” We went to the cemetery and Augustine approached a grave at the foot of an enormous cedar. Not till we were home again did I see Leandra. Patiently waiting in the car, she needed to come inside. Like a fragile doll with wrinkled face, white hair, broad bands of lace on her petticoat, Leandra moved, stooped, across the pati
o. They were telling her about the “first time,” about the “altar.” “And I made the paper flowers,” Leandra said. When my friend Louella talked to her in Spanish on May 30, 1993, I wanted to hear her say again: “Yes, I made them.” “And she was very good at it,” the nieces agreed. “Everybody in Mulberry knew Leandra’s paper flowers.”    

    photo: Leandra Sanchez and Augustine Ortiz (1990)

   Lelia Hall, arriving in Mulberry in 1908, remembered seeing stones in a cemetery at the edge of the bluff as the road descends past springs for water that powered steam engines on the “gin lot.” It would have been the Reid’s family cemetery she saw, dating from 1862. Later deed records defining boundaries mention this cemetery and an “old homestead.” When Reid graves were moved to Bonham in 1908, Willow Wild cemetery records there cite the old “burring ground” in Mulberry. I do not know whether other families had been allowed to bury alongside the Reids. By the time there was anything like a main street when the “little town
of Mulberry” received its name, in a change from “Rosedale” in 1886, the present cemetery had already received its first grave, that of Mrs. Leonard Bowman, in 1883. Others quickly followed: Ralph Winkler in 1884....

(left) Earliest gravestone in Mulberry cemetery

    Freddie Boucher,  January 29, 1892: “Drowned while skating on ice on Red River.” “Weep not papa and mamma for me, for I am waiting in Heaven for thee.” Born April 30, 1886. Freddie’s father, George H. Boucher (1855-98) became postmaster in Mulberry on April 4, 1896.


    Frank Spencer was an early school teacher born in Mulberry in 1878. His grandparents were buried in the Mulberry cemetery. Their children’s birthplaces indicate the Spencers had lived as far west as Nebraska.

    photo: M. A. Spencer  (1824-98) and Elisha Spencer (1819-95)

    1897 March 5: [Old Roustabout writing]  Ravenna.... Mr. Sam Culpepper [born 1848], who lived on J. W. Craven’s farm on Red River, died last week of a congestive chill. Mr. Culpepper was in many respects a good man. He always paid his debts and told the truth. He of course had his faults—who hasn’t—but his faults affected him more than anyone else. He belonged to no church, but believed in Christ.... He always assisted in preparing for religious meetings and was charitable to the poor. He left a wife and about eight children. A large concourse of his friends attended his burial in Mulberry.

    Samuel H. Culpepper had married Sarah Smith (1855-82). Their daughter Ida Vyrette married Absolem D. Looney (born 1863), a doctor living in Mulberry in 1902 when the body of Lena Pendergrass was found on Red River by “some hunters,” including a son of Sam and brother of Ida, Henry Buford Culpepper (1880-1935). 

    1897 September 24: (Bonham News) Mulberry.... One of our most respected friends,

Mr. [Peter] Jackson, was recently killed by a runaway team [he had hitched a ride with “Gup” Harris, the well-known “chicken peddler” from Denison]. His remains were interred in the grave yard at this place. Mr. Jackson left a host of friends and relatives to mourn his loss.... Mulberry’s Boy

897 October 15: (BN) Mulberry. Our quiet neighborhood has had a gloom cast over it by the death of one who was dear to it, Jim Franklin’s little son.... May the All Wise being permit us to pass another week without the death of a friend. [Franklin family monument pictured]

    1897 October 22: (BN) Mulberry. The Death Angel has again visited our community, and borne away the infant son of Phillip Burleson.... Niel Jackson fell from a pecan tree and broke his arm. Will Garrett got his hand almost torn off Saturday in the gin here.

    1897 October 29: (BN) Mulberry.  Old Grandma Lingo, who has been sick for quite awhile, died Saturday last. Her remains were interred at the Mulberry cemetery.... One more light case of diphtheria in our community. Last Sunday evening the child of Mrs. Hull was buried. Mr. Charley Sims, who almost lost his eyesight last week, is reported better.

    A. D. Culpepper (1870-99), a minister, married Ella, the

daughter of William Washington Escue,
in the log school and church. Their only child was Dorothy (pictured): After her young father’s death, Dorothy would slip away and fall asleep on his grave. Her house was in a field nearby.


“Aunt Ella” revisited the home place with Dorothy (1936)    

   [A letter from Lavon Brown tells more] After A. D. Culpepper’s death, Aunt Ella and Dorothy faded out of the family picture for many years and eventually made contact... again.... I seem to remember that Great Granddaddy [William Washington] Escue spanked Aunt Ella just befor
e she married and she never quite forgave him. Maybe this is why she left Mulberry because A. D. Culpepper died a few years before her father did. Aunt Ella and Dorothy were in California when they made contact and it seems that they had received assistance from the Catholic Church there and were both happily converted to Catholicism. I had the opportunity to meet Dorothy in 1985 shortly before her death when we were making a trip to California....

photo: William Washington Escue (1844-1903)

            buried at Mulberry

Other family members were left behind as the family moved West:

Oscar (1881-1903)    Lolie (1886-1904)    

    Uncle Oscar and Aunt Lolie were very young. I’m not sure just what they died of but it was something like the flu or consumption.... Mother could remember how very sick and weak they were and their illness was one reason Grandaddy (William Thomas) decided to come to the drier climate of the high plains because he had been very ill....

left: A. D. Culpepper, 1870-1899

    No one in Mulberry was drowned in the Great Flood of 1908, but both parents of Joseph William Copeland were victims of typhoid later in the year. Joseph was eight and had a sister. They were separated, taken by different families, and did not see each other again for many years. Fifty years after the flood, Joseph returned from California. Alva Cain said he remembered the parents. Joseph knew, as the years passed, if he could get back to Mulberry he would be able to find their graves: at the foot of a large cedar with bois d’arc stobs in the ground. Alva led him to the spot. The cedar had gone in a wind, but the bois d’arc stobs remained.

    1912 January 23: Cecil Lyday, the fourteen year old daughter of D. Lyday of Mulberry passed away.... For many months she has been in the doctor’s care with dropsy.

    1912 March 1: One day last week the corpse of Jno. C. Gibson arrived over the M. K. & T. from Arkansas. The Odd Fellows lodge took charge and buried the remains at Mulberry. He moved to Arkansas one month back, took pneumonia and died.... Farmers are resting by good warm fires.

    Little Trawley’s father operated the ferry. His mother, now an old woman, approaches on a day when the cemetery association is having its annual event “decorating the graves,” with covered dishes of food brought in. She is saying, “We lived across the river...didn’t want to bury him in the yard...brought him across to Mulberry. Until we moved away I walked up from the river to tend his grave myself.”

    1915 June 20: “Little Trawley,” son of  J. A. and Bertha Sparks. “Another little darling babe is sheltered in the grave.”

   1918 March 22:  (BN)  Mulberry News—The death angel has visited our community and claimed one of our old people.  It is hard for us to give them up, but God knows best.  We trust and pray to Him that they are both where there will be no more suffering and tears.  Mr. J. K. Stanford (Uncle Jake) as he was called, died February 23, and was laid to rest at Mulberry cemetery beside his wife February 24.  On February 25 he would have been 75 years old. He was a man who was loved by all and many friends will regret to hear of his death....

    photo: Grace Stanford, sister of Jake married George Cain (1912)

    1918: October 22: Olif Vaughn, aged 24, died the previous Saturday, and was buried on Sunday at Mulberry. On his tombstone: “We miss thee from our homes, dear brother. Thou wast so Sweet and Fair, and so kind to our dear mother. We miss thee everywhere.”

    Olif’s mother was Ann, “Grandma Vaughn,” sister of Hattie Bramlett. While Olif was in servi
ce during World War I, she “prayed without ceasing” for his safe return. Unsettled, visiting in the home of Lafie and Ida Price that last Saturday morning, she looked at the coffee grinds in her cup and said, “I see blood in Mulberry from the river to the hill.” And she died with them (April 9, 1919) in the “cyclone.” 

    1941: We watched the cemetery from our schoolroom windows. Gravediggers for Hattie Grace discovered unmarked plots, and even adults were telling scary stories. “Miss” Zona’s brother, who lived in a cabin in the woods near the path between the winding gates on the way to school, was “talking to the dead.” Working out there, he left his glasses on one of the tombstones, and Miss Zona had to go down to Alva Cain’s house to get them when they were not all friends.

    right: Fred and Nannie (Jackson) Cain were the parents of nine children.

“Grandpa” met the train at the depot to bring Wado’s body home from the War.

Photo montage below:  the Funeral of Jesse Hope in 1992

Her parents were May (Davidson) and “Loss” Hope living on the Parks place outside the path of the 1919 storm


    1971 August 28: (Gladys writing) ... Edna looks real bad. Clayton went over and talked to Allie for a while Sunday. Allie looked out at the cemetery and said, “I’m going to be buried right out here,” and he tried to point out just where. He has already shown Edna....

Visiting the Grave of R. A. Hall

who died August 26, 1980

by Michael Busby

A Sunday return to the Crestline Church and cemetery.

Below, the valley my family has farmed for five generations.

In winter the Yankee winds, fast and sharp,

blast some two thousand miles,

crashing against the Red River,

like Satan’s wave against a holy seawall.

We stand here, Yankee winds.

We worship here—it is a holy place.

Explore the rich seasons.

Bless the freedom of a child’s imagination

    in these ancient woods;

gaze down at the mystery of the River.

Grow in wisdom and toil under July Suns.

Feuding, loving, learning:

We have been here such a short time.

We stand, caretakers of a balanced Way,

Reaching an understanding with nature;

Proud as Texas,

Guardians on the boundary line,

Pickets on the seawall:

Our valley, and Crestline Church.

above: Hugh A. Bramlett, father of three sons

died  in 1906

in Mulberry cemetery March 11, 1991 at Gladys’ new grave, beside Clayton’s

And we: spectators, always, everywhere,

turned toward the world of objects, never outward.

It fills us. We arrange it. It breaks down.

We rearrange it, then break down ourselves.

Who has twisted us around like this,

so that no matter what we do,

we are in the posture of someone going away?

Just as, upon the farthest hill,

which shows him his whole valley one last time,

he turns, stops, lingers—

so we live here, forever taking leave.

—from Rilke’s  “Eighth  Elegy”

Dear Grandchildren

    1984 March 20:  (Gladys)  Kim, April and John!  April, on the day of his funeral, flitting around among the host of relatives and tombstones in our community cemetery, reminded me of a beautiful yellow butterfly.  She wore a pretty yellow dress; Kim wore blue, and John, still not born on August 7, 1981, lay quiet and untouched in his mother’s womb.