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A visit to the Muncrief Cemetery

It was quiet and wild at the Muncrief Cemetery near Ninnekah, Grady County, Oklahoma, in early October 2018. A locked entrance gate necessitated a hike up an overgrown but clearly visible two-track whose terminus bent out of sight through tangled woods stirring with deer and just over a 150 years of memories.

We climbed the gate and undertook the walk, my daughter and my grandson and I, to view for ourselves an important part of the history of the old Fort Cobb Trail and Indian Territory. It is there, at the crest of a windswept hill near home, that the muted voices of those who lie in this oldest of area burial grounds tell the story of our shared history of place.

A startlingly modern visitors center presented bigger than its actual size on the cemetery’s hill. Surrounded by high grass, broken tree limbs and canted white stakes bearing the legacy of the unknown humans buried beneath them, the narrow building proved upon closer inspection to be worn and open to the weather, just as the graveyard itself.

The only modern touch in view was a shiny black iron fence as out of place in this faded locale as a loud shout or a pressing concern for time. A pair of simple wooden crosses marked fairly recent burials, the neat planks bearing the names of the departed barely visible in the weeds. Like all the rest, these memorials too will eventually crumble.

There among the gravestones we met Emily Vaughn, wife of BJ Vaughn, who like so many was taken too young. We paused to reminisce about Dick Cavitt and Dick Jones, rogue cowboys killed in a range war not too far from where they lie in eternal sleep. And we smiled with sadness at the marker of poor Will Carey, murdered at old Fred during a robbery that netted a grand total of $68.

But perhaps the most noteworthy observation made during this particular trip back in time was the epitaph of one Annie P. Lee, who died in 1894 at 26 years of age:

“All the plans of life are broken.
All the hopes of life are fled.
Counsel, comfort, and advisor:
Alas, alas! For thou art dead.”

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