The Caddo Herald
August 19, 1910
Caddo Cemetery and Civic Club
By Mrs. C. A. Bilbo
During August, 1892, while attending the funeral of one of our foremost citizens, the large crowd present found their way to the grave as best they could through sunflowers, weeds, and briars, trampling over the tumbled-in graves of the loved ones of others, now desecrated by varmints of any kind that chose to abide therein. A most forlorn and hopeless condition of affairs!
Some of the members of the Woman’s’ Club decided this would be the very work for them to take up as an organization- to care for our cemetery. So at the very next meeting this idea was proposed and adopted. Ways and means were studied; it meant money and constant attention. Their club dues were as nothing to the sum that would be needed. So upon Mrs. Ed Walters, the president of the club and the most interested worker in the plan, devolved the herculean task of solving the problem, and indeed it was a problem, for she did not have the experience of others as a guide.
The plan had to be originated as well as tried. This cemetery had been a burying ground since 1872. No law nor order governed it. When a person died someone would select a grave any place they chose and at any angle, and twice in its history money was raised to enclose this place with a wire fence. All this was now in a state of dilapidation and once or twice while digging graves it was accidentally set afire from smoking pipes and the careless smoker throwing a match into the dry grass.
So the club ladies proposed to solicit from the public at large. But in times past money had not been wisely spent, and as some croakers who never forget every nickel they subscribe and expect it to go as far as they themselves have to stretchy a dollar to make it go around, so after many rebuffs they kept bravely at the self-appointed task and finally secured the necessary sum, for several weeks figuring on the contract for putting the place in good condition, the club to decide upon the work. After much worry and care the contract was given to a worthy man for $60.00. It was cleaned carefully around fences and headstones, and accidently set afire. The contractor insisted upon his pay and rather than have trouble it was paid. But the blame fell upon the club and its president. Some people actually claimed that fine shade trees were destroyed that had given them much trouble and expense. But a few of us that had been constant visitors and had cared for our graves before the cemetery work was taken up had never seen those trees.
It was even harder now to raise the necessary sum to keep the work going. The club appointed a cemetery committee and finally ceased to take any interest whatever. The idea was not popular. Some people fail to see any profit in anything unpopular and they are like spoiled babies, must be forever trotted on somebody’s knee or they won’t do anything.
So Mrs. Walters still bravely worked on, and with her cemetery committee secured the help and cooperation of others that did not care to belong to a literary club, and at the home of Mrs. W. H. Ainsworth, the organization known then as the Mutual Civic and Cemetery Association was formed. Mesdames Walters, Ainsworth, McCoy, Harris, Lowe, Hancock, Rathburn, McCully, Abney, Goddard, and Bilbo were present. Collectors were assigned to different parts of the town to serve one year. The work progressed very well and slowly regained confidence in the minds and the hearts of the people. Mrs. Walters, growing tired of the work and the Woman’s Club, which had grown so large that it demanded her constant attention, no one could be found to take care of the work and it was given up entirely.
Several of the members of the Cemetery Club were unwilling that this work should stop now, so they asked that the $60.00 Cemetery Fund that was on deposit be held for a while. Mesdames McCoy, Ainsworth and Hancock pledged themselves to assist in every way possible if Mrs. Bilbo would take charge of the cemetery work.
A meeting was held with Mrs. McCoy and officers elected and the name changed to Civic and Cemetery Club.
After a good old-fashioned crying spell over the prospects , the new president went to work. The club ordered one thousand hedge trees of Privett Wood to put around the old cemetery. Bermuda grass was ordered from Vestal, in Little Rock, and both the city cemetery and the old cemetery were planted in this grass, trees transplanted, more roads established and the beautiful bulb beds that had already been planted were gone over and more flowers added before the close of the year. Some of the ladies realized that a store room was necessary to care for their tools and after witnessing many funerals under extreme conditions of weather, realized the necessity also of shelter in these trying times, decided they needed a chapel. But how were the means to be obtained? The collections barely paid expenses and oftimes our account was overdrawn. So we decided that we would not solicit funds for this project. How could we make everyone understand what we were trying to do? Besides, so many would feel like it was extra and unnecessary, so we decided to use the funds collected by our collectors strictly for the care of the cemetery and try and earn the sum needed and not worry the good people of Caddo by begging, for as a rule they are ever generous and always ready to lend a helping hand.
So in May, 1905, the first money was earned for building the chapel by giving the “Tom Thumb Wedding” by the little children of Caddo. The cast of characters for the leading parts might interest you now.
Tom Thumb Wedding (ad)
Cast of Characters
Best Man…..St. Clair Homer
Maid of Honor…..Vida Bowman
Brides Maids…..Jennie Manning, Mabel Kelso
Ushers- Lee Hancock, George Cobb
Besides the above there will be seen grandfathers, grandmothers, fathers and mothers of bride and groom, old maids, aunts, cousins, relative, and guests galore. The opera house Monday night.
On May 22nd the entertainment was given. Twenty-eight dollars was cleared and one year later on May 12, 1906 the foundation was laid for our chapel, and by the giving of different entertainments we had on hand $101.35. When we began we kept a strict account and expected to someday publish a little book giving you a record of everything, but unfortunately this has been lost. At first we planned only a little shelter, but as the building grew our plans grew and nothing but the best would do; and that was none too good for the people of Caddo. So after it was finished we found ourselves several hundred dollars in debt, but we paid those carpenters that had charged us, but many of them gave their work, and we then paid all the small debts as far as we could and commenced doing anything to entertain people that was legitimate that would earn money to pay on our dear little chapel: Miss Wiggin’s Cabbage Patch, Brown’s in Town, Miss Temples’ Telegram, Thoroughbred Tramp, ice cream suppers at various times, one dinner (this we didn’t try again for some of our best patrons were those that kept boarding places and hotels) and we will not interfere with any person’s trade and giving public entertainments was the only thing that would not interfere with any person’ means of livelihood in Caddo. Nor will we give anything or in any way interfere with any church society.
to be continued tomorrow......
to be continued tomorrow......