Scratching the dirt and weeds from tombstones may not be everyone's idea of a good time, but Perry Holder must have thought so because he did it in 162 cemeteries in Milam County and his daughter, Norinne Holder Holman did it again and found 48 more cemeteries.
It took 10-years of work by Holder and 10-years of work and research by Holman to accomplish their goal to have a complete record of Milam County cemeteries and gravesites.
Perry Holder's project began, not for any macabre reason, but as a search for the Holder family history. When Holder retired in 1978 from ranching and running his three cotton gins, he began to examine the Milam County records.
He discovered that no comprehensive records existed and the mortuaries kept records of only those individuals buried by them. At that time Holder believed that there were about 20 cemeteries in the county. He completed his search in 1990 and published his work entitled “150 Years of Cemetery Records in Milam County, Texas.”
Immediately people began coming out of the woodwork to tell him that someone was buried in his field, pasture, ranch or a mile or two away under an old oak tree. Holder quickly began thinking of a supplement, but his death in October 1992 ended that plan. His daughter, Norinne, brought his work up to date and published a supplement in 1993.
Holder had wanted to compile a list of all of the cemeteries in the original Milam County. That was before he discovered that in 1835 the county covered about one-sixth of the present day state of Texas and stretched from near the Red River to south of Caldwell.
In February 1999, Holder's widow, Bonnie Belle, sold the last copy of the original cemetery book, yet she received calls daily for additional books. Holman thought she would aid in her father's efforts by updating his book and including the lost cemeteries and graves.
She followed in her father's footsteps and bought a soft bristle brush and a bucket, and carried several jugs of water to clean the dirtiest tombstones. She mistakenly thought it would be fast and easy to trace those giant steps of her father. Not so. It took 1-year to retrace his original cemeteries and make the necessary additions and corrections, and another 8-months to find the 48 new burial grounds and write the names and computerize them.
The result is a new, blue, hardback, 2-volume book, “170 Years of Cemetery Records in Milam County, Texas” and will be available in October 2001. The book contains 238 cemeteries, 28 of which are from Bell, Burleson, Falls, Lee, and Williamson counties, and over 47,000 names in 1,303 pages. The cost of the book is $80 with index (Vol. I & II); $6.60 (8.25%) Texas sales tax; and $10 for shipping, handling & insurance, totaling: $96.60.
Holman moved in January 2002, so if you need information, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or contact her at new telephone: 361/729-3944 and address: 343 Spanish Wood Dr., Rockport, Texas 78382.
The book provides a short history of the founding of each cemetery where possible and directions are given. Also, it includes a map of the county with the cemetery's number indicated.
Old Nashville and Port Sullivan are the two oldest burial grounds in Milam County, but it is believed the floods of the Brazos River washed Old Nashville away. A historical marker is all that is left. The two newest cemeteries are the Hairston and Tyson Family Cemeteries, both were established in 2000.
Both father and daughter were looked at with questionable stares as they walked among the tombstones. Holder worked with notebook and pencil and returned to his home and manually alphabetized his lists. Holman tape-recorded the information as she walked row after row and let the computer do the alphabetizing. Both braved poison ivy, briars, snakes, spiders, (vicious armadillos,) excessive heat, cold north winds, and violent thunderstorms to explore long forgotten, weed-choked cemeteries and to complete their endeavor. For both it was an enjoyable challenge. Neither encountered a ghost, to their regret, but both did meet some of the friendliest and most helpful live people in the world!
Cemetery directories are valuable secondary research tools. Many people do not understand Holder and Holman's drive to record and preserve the names and sites of the people buried, but genealogists certainly do!
In this column, I will be glad to highlight and review any family history, genealogy, county history, or similar book, free of charge, if you donate a copy of the book or item. After it has been highlighted and reviewed, on a space available basis, it will be donated to the genealogy section of a library. You will receive an acknowledgment of the donation from the library. Mail item or book to me at the below address.
Lynna Kay Shuffield has written several books related to Texas genealogy and military history. She has spoken before numerous genealogy and veterans groups. Also, is a County Coordinator for the Texas GenWeb Project. Regretfully, she cannot help with individual genealogical research. Please visit the website for this column at: http://www.geocities.com/lks_friday/COLUMN-001.htm or if you have any questions, comments, suggestions for column topics, genealogy or historical society announcements, please contact her at: P. O. Box 16604, Houston, Texas 77222-6604 or e-mail: email@example.com
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P. O. Box 16604
Houston, Texas 77222-6604