The Unmarked Graves

In an old cemetery in the Wichita County, Texas town of Iowa Park, there is a family plot with one marker on it and at least five burials in our six grave spaces. There are three children buried there in Highland Cemetery and two, perhaps three, adults. I’m pretty sure I know who five of those buried there are, and it hurts my heart to think of all but one of the graves being unmarked. That’s something I am determined to change.

The marked grave is that of Sammie Cottrell. This little boy was born on May 5, 1887, and died on April 11, 1892. He was not yet five years old. Had he lived, he would have been an older brother to my grandfather, Clay Rex Cottrell, who was born in Iowa Park in 1898. Their parents were Martin Gilbert Cottrell (1855-1946) and Mattie H. Johnson Cottrell (1858-1912).

Another grave I am sure of is that of Ruth Marie Cottrell. This little girl was born on August 12, 1917, and died on February 22, 1918. She was the firstborn child of Clay Rex Cottrell (1898-1970) and Opal Robertson
Cottrell (1898-1995). Had she lived, she would have been the oldest sister to my mother, Hazel (“Totsy”) Cottrell Geissler (1926-1999).

The third child, I believe, is yet another firstborn. Clay’s sister Nettie and her husband H. Dixon Holley are on the 1910 Wichita County census with their daughter Myrtle, then aged one. Among the questions asked on that census is how long the couple had been married (four years) and how many children a mother had and how many were still living. Nettie answered that she had had two babies; only one was still alive. So there is yet another Cottrell family firstborn gone. And there is a death record on file in Iowa Park for “Mary Holly” who died in November of 1907.

And still another firstborn accounts for one of the adult burials there in that plot. There were five girls born to Martin Gilbert and Mattie Cottrell who lived to adulthood: Effalie, Nettie, Addie, Theo and Maude. Effalie was born on November 6, 1875, and there is a marriage record for Effalie and Hinton Snoddy in Wichita County on May 5, 1898. And then on June 21-22, 1900, there was a census taken in Wichita County, as elsewhere around the United States. Hinton Snoddy is then a 30-year-old widower, living with his mother and siblings. The family story is that Effie died of typhoid as a young bride. Our family records show Effie was buried in the family plot.

And a likely candidate for another adult grave is Louisa Baker Cottrell, born in May 1833. She married G.W. Cottrell, and gave birth to six children — including Martin Gilbert Cottrell and his sister Mary E. Cottrell, who
married John H. Green. Louisa is last seen in the census records in 1910, living with the Greens in Wichita County.

My cousin Mary… my aunt Ruth… my great uncle Sammie… my great aunt Effie… my great great grandmother Louisa. My roots.

None of them will lie in unmarked graves for long. That much, I promise.

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