We have the tombstone, but where are J.C.’s remains? That question has plagued sheriff’s deputies and other interested persons (me) since somebody left his grave marker in Kim Murray’s driveway back in 2004. She lived on cheese plant road at the time and when she came out to go to work that morning, there it was all fifty pounds of it. Solid as a rock. In fact it is a rock, native stone with the top carefully rounded off in an oval and the bottom left kind of jagged along the edge. It’s plain that no professional rock carver worked on this piece. The words and dates are carved with patience by someone who loved this man very much, maybe a father or brother, someone strong but without a lot of education (died is spelled did). Somebody cared enough to earn blisters on his hands before the work was finished. Someone who started the work with energy but was really tired by the time he finished the job (the last number is dim and hardly finished). Only then did somebody place the stone in the soft dirt and kick more dirt around it and kind of bury it at the head of the person that they loved so much. Then they knelt down beside it and said a prayer and told that cold body wrapped in a winding sheet and resting at last in quiet peace, how much, how very very much they would be missed.
He was only 26 when he died and more than likely left a young wife and three little children when he caught the sickness that took him away. When I think about it; that could have been a strong woman that made the carving on that rock. Women did lots of hard work back in 1876 when J.C. Feagans died. His wife was probably used to holding the wooden handles of a walking lister back then; probably learned how to plow the tobacco fields in Kentucky before she reached her teens. When they rode in a covered wagon to Texas after the War Between the States, she continued as a regular field hand on the little cotton farm where the cattle trails disappear into the live oaks over there. Girls born into families with no boys had to help out on the farm and after her father lost a leg at Cold Mountain, they all had to work a little harder. By the time her husband died, she would have had hard years to grow muscle and earn a special strength….. so she could have done the carving on that rock. Yes she could have done it.
But once the stone marking the grave was in place, what happened to the family? And adding to the mystery who was it that picked it up and left it on some stranger’s cement driveway? And why did they do that? Did they take it from one of the cemeteries down the road. A search of the old cemetery books researched by Shirley Cawyer in 1967, note a G.R. Feagans and Lydia Feagans resting in Old Dublin Memorial Park. G.R. was born in 1839 and was 11 years old when J.C. was born. He could be a brother… There are no Feagans mentioned in the half a dozen cemetery books researched by Huckabay teacher, Cindy Shipman and her history classes. Recorded deaths in the Erath County Clerk’s office don’t go back as far as 1876 but there are a couple of marriages of Feagans recorded in 1895 and 1877.
Maybe J.C. was buried out there on the little farm they were share-cropping. Maybe after 50 or 70 years the rock that marked where he lay fell over and maybe in another 75 years, briars grew over it and then one day somebody found it and thought it might be haunted so they carried it far away and left it for someone else to think about.
Here’s what is written on the rock. It took a little white shaving cream rubbed on to bring out the faded letters but this is what is written on the stone.
WAS BORN NOV.
THE 2th 1850
DIeD MAY THE
That’s all that’s left to know about a man who lived for 26 years and then died. We have to imagine all the rest.
Joyce Whitis is a free lance writer living in Erath County. She has written Patchwork for the Stephenville Empire-Tribune since 1976. She may be reached at email@example.com.