No, that isn't a headline from the Caddo Herald. It's the message I received yesterday from a dear friend and member of the Caddo Civic and Cemetery Club. Someone has vandalized our cemetery and broken many of the headstones! One of them was the headstone of John S. Hancock shown below. I'm going out today to take photos of the damage.
To say that I am upset about this is an understatement. Because of my "hobby" as a local historian I feel personally offended. And I have family members in the cemetery. I have yet to assess all of the damage and I don't even know if our family stones were damaged. Here is a copy of the letter I wrote to our local paper this morning. I hope they publish it. If not, at least you have read it:
Letter to the Editor
I’m writing this to inform the public that there are monsters among us. That is the only conclusion to be drawn after the tragedy in Caddo over the weekend. Surely human beings, even human beings high on drugs, could not have raged through the cemetery and vandalized the graves of our loved ones. Surely human beings could not have so little regard for their friends, family, and neighbors. Surely human beings could not have so little knowledge of the history of our town and our cemetery.
It was only last month that people from all over the state gathered to celebrate the completion of the Civic and Cemetery Club’s latest cemetery project- the veteran’s memorial. The Civic and Cemetery Club has worked tirelessly since 1903 to preserve and beautify the cemetery. Generations of Caddo women, and even a few men, have devoted their lives to honoring our dead loved ones. Perhaps the vandals don’t understand how much money and time and effort and planning goes into maintaining the cemetery.
Perhaps the vandals simply didn’t understand the significance of the headstones. Families pay their hard-earned money to buy headstones to honor their loved ones. They pay money to say “this was my family member and this is where they lived their last days”. Headstones often contain messages or reveal information about people that is precious to later generations. Genealogist all over the world rely on the information found on headstones to help them trace family histories. I have personally helped people solve long-standing family mysteries by sending someone a photo of a headstone from our little cemetery!
As a local historian and genealogist, I am especially sickened by this act because I know the history behind many of these stone markers. Perhaps that is what the vandals were lacking- knowledge of the real people they were insulting. One of the most heartbreaking sights for me was the broken headstone of John S. Hancock and his second wife, Susan Fannin. Mr. Hancock was a cattleman and businessman. He and his son were involved in the first Agricultural Wheel in the Choctaw Nation. Mr. John S. Hancock was the editor of the Caddo Herald. Before coming to Caddo he was the tax collector for Colorado County, Texas and his home is a Texas historical landmark. His life was researched and chronicled by Robert L. Williams. His descendants helped build Caddo!
Also damaged was the stone of George Ahrens, only victim of the 1900 downtown fire. I could make a list of the graves that are located in the Gethsemane if that would help protect them. There are saints and sinners to be sure: prominent businessmen, murderers, thieves, judges, famous Choctaws, babies, veterans, mothers, and sons. But it shouldn’t matter. Even the town drunk deserves to “rest in peace” as his family intended.
Several people have suggested that we need better lighting at the cemetery. Others have said we need a fence with locks. I think what we need is a society of human beings with a shred of dignity and decency. What could anyone possibly gain by desecrating a cemetery? I hope the monsters are caught and I hope they can explain this to me.
Here are a couple of links to information about the Hancocks:
John S. Hancock (last on page)