Digging for Gold


    1909 July 20: (Bonham News)  A number of parties have been working in and helping to beautify old Sandy Creek cemetery the last week or two. A mystery has developed in that old graveyard. How many years ago no one knows, some one had driven down four bois d’arc stobs four feet apart, forming a square. It looked to the casual observer that the whole might have encircled a sleeping infant, but there was no earth sign of a grave. Last week Mr. Mart Barnett and the writer were in the cemetery. We happened upon the stobs and some one a few days or nights previous had dug a hole about two feet in circumference in the middle of the square. We also saw that each stob forming the square had three ancient tacks all pointing to the center. The occurrence excited our curiosity. Mr. Barnett then suggested that we examine and see how deep the hole was dug. Upon removing the loose dirt we saw they had gone down two feet and a half. What, if anything, was taken out we could not tell. The hole ended in hard dirt. It might have been dug out of idle curiosity or some one might have had information that gold was hidden in the center. It may ever remain a mystery.

    This “mystery” was observed by Dr. John Cunningham of Ravenna—“Old Roustabout”. His tombstone is by far the most imposing in Sandy Cemetery. During his many years as “correspondent,” Roustabout’s writing included frequent reference to the agricultural scene and Ravenna’s “river section,” meaning Mulberry and Sandy. The record in Mulberry’s cemetery begins in 1883.

    Bright Messenger had married into the Lightfoot family; that’s how he got the land. And the Ball family was living on the “Messenger Place” not far from the “mouth of Caney creek” and the location earlier of Alonzo Larkin’s “little trading station”. They remembered seeing “lights moving at night along the ridge” and assumed that someone was “digging for gold”.

    People in Mulberry spoke of “Lizza

Kemp, an Indian woman.” Young men

crossed the river for dances, where she let

them set her furniture in the yard. Her

only rule was “Don’t spit tobacco juice on

the wall.”

    A darker side? On August 22, 1998,

when I finally visited the Kemp family

cemetery, Dan Craige remembered the

remains of a two-story log house built with

“square nails” and a center opening for

carriages. He had heard his father’s stories

“all my life”.  Lizza Kemp, he said,

“committed suicide” by cutting her throat,

doing a very poor job of it. “She ran around

the house, upstairs and down. You can’t

imagine a person having so much blood.”

And wayfarers crossing the river on the

ferry or horseback, if they appeared to

have money, might not move on after a

night’s lodging.  On one occasion “some

diggers looking for gold found bones.” 

    Then came Wilma Hair’s letter:

“I haven’t been able to find anything new

on the lady that cut her throat, but after

some thinking I had the name wrong and

so did Danny Craige. The lady’s name

was Elf Harris, and wasn’t Lizza or Aunt

Lizza, as I told you. Lizza Kemp was married to this Edward G. Yerion, and I believe he was from Mulberry.

       “But from what Mrs. Hair

has told about Aunt Lizza,

everybody knew her on this

side and across the river.

She lived in the log house,

but I don’t know if Harris

was related to Lizza.

I assume she was;

in the log house is where

[she]cut her throat,

but this cemetery plot

doesn’t show that she

was buried there. Aunt

Lizza’s log house was in the

area of the cemetery. Sorry

I can’t help more but everybody

is gone over here that knew

the story.”

“Oh, yes. Oh, yes, yes, yes.”

    “Someday you be walking down the road and you hear something or see something going on. So clear. And you think it’s you thinking it up. A thought picture. But no. It’s when you bump into a rememory that belongs to somebody else. Where I was before I came here, that place is real. It’s never going away. Even if the whole farm—every tree and grass blade of it dies. The picture is still there and what’s more, if you go there—you who never was there—if you go there and stand in the place where it was, it will happen again, it will be there for you, waiting for you. So, Denver, you can’t never go there. Never. Because even though it’s all over—over and done with—it’s going to always be there waiting for you. That’s how come I had to get all my children out. No matter what.”

    Denver picked at her fingernails. “If it’s still there, waiting, that must mean that nothing ever dies.”

—Toni Morrison in Beloved

    1902 September 21: Tom Spies was born in Mulberry. He dated Jubie Bramlett as a youth and gave her a gold bracelet. When they broke up, Jubie buried it in the cemetery. “It won’t be found,” she said, “because our love died....” Tom Spies died in a New York City hospital on February 28, 1960. “Dr. Spies Leaves Gift to Mankind. Among the men who have achieved medical greatness...will go down in history. Dr. Tom was a product of Fannin County, born on a plantation in the Red River valley....”

    I call them “Denver realizations.” Go find....


Kemp, Oklahoma  (about 1910)

Wilma Hair: “I’m sure one of the cars is my Grandparents’.

This picture was in the family pictures.”

“Woman Suicides” from Durant Weekly News, Sept. 30, 1927