They found it there after some of the briars and brush had been hacked down. The marker was homemade but carefully cut from native stone and set on a stone base. A name and dates were scratched in by hand but were still clearly visible after more than 60 years of neglect. A couple stood beside the grave that had been dug just outside the rock fence that encompasses the long time abandoned Old Valley Grove Cemetery. They had spent several hours in that overgrown piece of ground on this sunny afternoon in late March. As they made their way through the jumble of head-high weeds and new green winter grass searching the graveyard for graves of those that fought for the Confederacy, they wondered how many lost graves were actually here. Lost graves and forgotten lives whose very ghosts followed them as they worked.
Not a lot is known about some of the graveyards where early settlers to our county are laid to rest but men and women descendants of those that left their homes to fight for what they thought was right, are always searching and looking for those graves and in April they place flags on the graves just so those buried there will not be forgotten. Today the couple walking the rough ground of this old cemetery had found another grave, one outside the cemetery and curiosity drove them to explore.
This cemetery was one of the first burial grounds for the city of Stephenville and is just about three miles south, now on private, fenced and gated property. Valley Grove was a thriving settlement in the late 1800’s but gradually dissipated as settlers moved back from the river that was often treacherous. Many of Stephenville’s earliest leaders are buried in the cemetery including Henry Clark 1871 and Catherine Clark 1909, grandparents of Henry Clark, who served Stephenville as mayor for several different terms. John B. Dupuy who died in 1862 was a soldier in the Mexican War and lived in Texas during the time it was a Republic. A marker designating him as a Citizen of the Republic of Texas was placed at his grave many years ago in a ceremony sponsored by the Daughters of the Republic of Texas. He was one of the original land patent holders in the county. Dupuy was also a county judge and a Mason.
When those early settlers lived here Stephenville had an estimated population of 766. By 1859 settlers John Frey, Alex McNeill, Clauborn Oxford, G.W. Lidia, James H. Cage and other early leaders had settled here. Their lives greatly affected our towns, communities and our country. Their lives and the lives of all the others who helped to make our area a great place to live, deserve respect in death as in life. This old cemetery is only one of the many cemeteries in this country that need the help of volunteers to bring back the honor every life deserves.
There are many unmarked graves here too but the oldest marked grave is of Mrs. Ferguson buried in 1859. She died in childbirth and both she and her baby are buried there. The cemetery was abandoned and a new one started on higher ground because the river continued to flood the graves. The old one was left alone in 1910.
But let’s go back to that other little grave, the one outside the rock fence. After some search, I found this story about the almost hidden grave and the stone. The marker reads 1937 Boots 1950. This is the last resting place for a much loved little dog. Boots was the only companion for an elderly man named Leonard Edwards that lived in a still visible shack and took care of the cemetery. The story goes that he was simply called “L” and was a relative of the Roberts family that owned the cemetery. L and Boots lived in one room in a plank and tin cabin and fished the river and hunted the woods.
One cold winter day Boots lay down and died mostly of old age, I suppose. L wrapped the little body in one of his shirts and dug a deep hole so the wild animals could not get to him and then buried his best friend….his only friend. They had been together for 13 years according to the marker and L lived another 19 years alone. One day a neighbor realized that he hadn’t seen the old man in several days so went to the old crumbling shack and found him dead; sprawled across the dirt floor of his home. They buried him in the new cemetery up on highway 281 since the Old Valley Grove Cemetery was no longer used.
Researchers have located four graves of Confederate Veterans in Old Valley Grove Cemetery
Charles H. Walker, W.P. Hughes, Henry Clark, and Stephen Whitman. They have found three CSA veterans in New Valley Grove: Joshua H. Edwards, I.N. Roberts, and J.H. Roberts. All of these veterans fought in the Texas Infantry during the War Between the States. They are Texas heroes.