|Note: The following essay was written by Chuck Johnston of Eastland, Texas, in support of the petition to the Texas State Historical Commission for the erecting of a historical plaque at the old Mansker Cemetery in Eastland County. I am grateful and proud that The Mansker Chronicles was used as source material to help bring about this plaque at the old Mansker Cemetery. Click here to see a photograph and the inscription on the plaque.
Alameda Cemetery in southeast Eastland County, Texas, contains numerous treasures of historical value. By studying the lives of the people buried there, one can trace the path of early settlers who migrated to Texas during the 1800's and built a community of hard working farmers and ranchers. The admirable characteristics, of these people, such as honesty, dedication, loyalty, commitment and determination are still in existence in the descendants who oversee and maintain this active cemetery.
The origin of the Alameda community and cemetery can be traced back to William Henry Mansker, his wife Sarah/Sallie Lindley and their eight children. The Texas Manskers and Eastland County, located on the Internet, tells us of William Henry Mansker and his family emigrating to Texas from Arkansas by 1860: "William Henry, with his wife Sarah/Sallie Lindley settled in Eastland County, Texas, where they located on the lake now that bears his name. At some point they were joined by his nephews Ike and Henry Schmick, sons of his sister Mary Mansker and her husband Casper Schmick." The story also mentions the "Mansker family cemetery at Mansker's Lake" containing the graves of William Mansker, Jasick Mansker born 31 July 1820, died 3 December 1897, Sallie S. Mansker "wife of J", born 3 May 1825, died 3 December 1897, William's brother and his wife, Joseph and Sarah Hickey Mansker. These graves and the graves of several other members of the Mansker family are part of the early establishment of what is now known as the Alameda Cemetery.
As the Manskers began to settle in Eastland County, in the late 1850's and early 1860's, there were many dangers and problems between the settlers and the Native Americans. Excerpts from 1904's History of Eastland County, Texas, by Mrs. George (Carolyne) Langston shows the bravery and determination of early settlers in the Alameda community.
It is curious that a man, forgetting things he once loved, and moved by spirit of unrest, will sever ties of long standing and expose himself and family to untried dangers. This strange influence burned in the heart of W. [William Henry] Mansker, as he sowed and reaped on his farm in Arkansas, and fanned to flames by news of the Texas lands. With his family, he pushed across the unsettled wastes of Eastern and Middle Texas, and stopped awhile in Parker County, but hearing of the Leon country, he moved on and camped on a lake in the southern part of Eastland County. Later, he built a home there, and the lake still bears his name.
The next to cross the boundary line were James Ellison, from Georgia; J. Ellison from somewhere in Texas; Dr. Richardson from Arkansas, with their families, and the Gilberts, four or five young men from Alabama. All these took up or bought surveys around Mansker Lake.
Following these were C.C. Blair, who came from Georgia to Alabama, stopped awhile in Collin and Parker Counties, and finally settled six or seven miles northeast of Mansker Lake. A little later, this settlement became known as Blair's Fort at Desdemona.
W.C. McGaugh came from Georgia and camped at Blair's Fort. His first son, born at the Fort August 17, 1861, was the first white child born in the County.
During the years 1857-1862, the Indians were unusually active along the frontier. When one remembers the topography of the counties forming the boundary line of civilization, the numerous streams which cut their way through mountains, leap into canyons and tumble out pell mell into the valleys, where they wind in sinuous, undulating ways, is it to be wondered at that the red man of the forest yielded to the temptation of his environments and sought revenge for the appropriation of his domain to the uses of the white man?
Although the primal object of the Indians in making raids into the white settlements was to steal horses; yet, if there were the slightest pretext, they murdered with all the zest of their ancestral inheritance. During those perilous years, the pioneer settlers were forced to come together for mutual protection.
In the southeastern part of Eastland County, eight families were forted at C.C. Blair's Ranch. The houses were built and the tents stretched around an open square, and these were enclosed by a close picket fence eight or ten feet high. The families living at Blair's Fort were those of Ellison, Kuykendall, the Gilberts, Manskers, C.C. Blair, N.C. McGough, and a little later, William Arthur. There were others who found refuge in the Fort from time to time.
Ruth Terry Denny in A Short History of Ranger Texas writes of the Coffee family living on the Leon Creek near Alameda in the 1860's. The story tells of Mrs. Coffee going to gather their horses while her husband was ill. When she didn't return, Mr. Coffee went to investigate and saw the Indians throwing the body of his wife across a horse and riding away. Mr. Coffee pursued the Indians until they pushed her lifeless body from the horse.
That night the men of the community took board shelves from the W.H. Mansker house and made a casket. Mrs. Coffee was buried the next day in the Alameda Cemetery. It is the first known grave in the cemetery. The Alameda Cemetery Association donated a new marker with the inscription:
GIVEN IN HONOR OF MRS. COFFEE, KILLED AND
SCALPED BY INDIANS IN 1860 ON THE DUFFER RANCH
THE FIRST GRAVE IN THE ALAMEDA CEMETERY
replacing a concrete marker placed in 1902 by Mr. Coffee.
The Ranger Times wrote in December 14, 1986 issue an article on Alameda and the Coffee tragedy as related by Elmer Blackwell of Ranger. The Ranger Times also wrote an article January 23, 1983 detailing a story of a baby taken from his parents bed by a large panther in the early Alameda settlement. After tracking and killing the panther by the men in the community, all that was found of the baby was a few bones and a piece of the garment it was wearing. The baby is believed to be buried in the Alameda Cemetery in one of the graves marked with a rock.
As the settlers continued to emigrate to this community, that was to become known as Alameda Texas, they must have endured many tragedies and heartaches. By simply reading the markers and seeing the vast differences in their appearance, one can visualize the families who were so poor they could only place a stone upon their loved ones graves, and others using their self taught skills, built elaborate handmade markers from stone, shells and marbles. This is also evident by the earliest burial date of Martha Coffee in 1860 and the next eleven graves, along side of her, are marked with only stone markers and no legible inscription.
The next earliest dated markers are those of I. E. Bell, born 10-25-1854 died 4-19-1877, Allie Bell, born 2-15-1877 died 9-27-1877, Robert Lee Bell, born 9-7-1875 died 10-22-1877 and Frances Bell, born 10-6-1873 died 10-26-1877. One can only imagine what could have taken the lives of a family in such a short time frame.
Other family names known buried in the Alameda Cemetery in the l9th century are; Briskey, Bagwell, Fairly, Duffer, Stanfield, Fox, Blackwell, Moseley, Jones, Evitt, Odle, and several of the earliest known settlers:
|Alice F. Mansker
|Frank R. Mansker
|J. F. Mansker
|Kitty A. Mansker
|Sallie S. Mansker
|Davis Colson Schmick
|Ida E. Schmick
|Ike P. Schmick
|Mary P. Schmick
|Tom F. Schmick
|Carry Imalene Duvall
|Henry F. Duvall
|Jonathan L. Duvall
|Loyd M. Duvall
|Margaret T. Duvall
|Ruby Mae Duvall
The Mansker family generosity, allowing the use of a portion of their land for a community cemetery and by the donation of land to the Alameda School District Trustees on January l9th, 1885, was indicative of an era in our history when man truly did care for their neighbors and future of their children. The acre donated for a public school is now part of the Alameda cemetery.
After purchasing Mansker land, Mr. E.L. Reid, in 1911, deeded the land containing the cemetery, consisting of approximately five acres, to the Alameda Cemetery Association. This ensured what began as a family and community cemetery would continue to be a permanent burial ground for the relatives, friends and others who have already claimed it as their final resting place. Over the years, more land has been given to the Alameda Cemetery Association. Most recently, a one acre tract on the northeast corner, by Mr. and Mrs. Erven Hummel and Mr. and Mrs. Kenneth Brown, heirs of J.L. Brown (born 2-6-1871 died 8-8-1954) and J.S. Brown (born 1905 died 1985), in 1994 which guarantees room for future growth.
In reading about the history of Alameda Texas in The New Handbook of Texas, one can see the Alameda Cemetery and its Tabernacle (built in the late 1800's), is the only tangible evidence that there ever was an Alameda community:
"Alameda was a rural community six miles northwest of Desdemona in eastern Eastland County. The settlement was started by William A. Mansker in 1859 and called Mansker's Lake. Other early settlers were James P. and Ike Schmick, J. S. Stuart, and M. T. Duvall. Mai1 came from Stephenville. There was a mill at the nearby Allen Ranch, just east of Mansker's Lake. The first school in the settlement was built in 1874; a post office named Alameda operated from 1876 until 1882. A general store, a blacksmith shop, and a woodmen's hall were built near the lake... A map of 1936 shows only four houses near the cemetery and a school on State Highway 571. Later maps indicate only a community center (cemetery tabernacle) and the cemetery, but on still later maps the settlement is not shown."
The Alameda Cemetery is located on a very beautiful, scenic and fenced seven acre tract of land in Southeast Eastland County on County Road 483 (once known as the Desdemona to Ranger road). It can be reached by taking Texas Farm to Market 571, North 8 miles from Desdemona or Gorman Texas, or 13.6 miles Southeast of Eastland Texas or 12 miles South of Ranger Texas, then 1.2 miles West on County Road 483, which is surrounded by farm land and rolling ranch land with numerous pecan and oak trees.
Upon arriving to the cemetery, the first attraction is to the newly installed arching pipe entrance with decorative iron gates, inviting you into a gorgeous cyclone fenced area full of towering Oak and manicured Cedar trees, which shade the majority of the seven acre cemetery. The tabernacle built in the late l9th century, used for funerals, community gatherings and cemetery work days, stands at the forefront of the cemetery. Still in use today, its hand made benches and overall structure represent a time in history when community building projects were built to endure time.
Alameda Cemetery currently consist of 872 graves. Of those, 37 are WWII veterans, 4 WWI veterans, 2 Civil War veterans, 2 Vietnam veterans and 9 Korean veterans. Other special monuments are 8 tall Woodmen monuments and 12 Mason and Eastern Star markers. A total of 92 rock markers with no legible Identification are also included in this total number. The grave of Billy Wayne Reid, born 8-16-1929 died 5-27-1961, designates the first grave in Alameda Cemetery dug by machine. Ail previous graves and several after were dug by hand.
The Alameda Cemetery Association was formed in the late 1800's. Incorporated in 1973, the association currently consist of a five member board of directors. Their primary function is to preserve the cemetery, its history and its future. They accomplish these things by overseeing and maintaining the cemetery on a daily basis. All graves are well documented and inventoried both on paper and computer. In order to maintain a clean uniform cemetery, any grave sites needing repairs are taken care of immediately by people on the board and members of the association. A hired contractor cares for the lawn and trees, mowing and trimming as needed. The board of directors maintain the financial support of the cemetery by continuing a tradition dating over 100 years of meeting on the first Saturday in May for a business meeting and cemetery work day. Approximately 200 people attend on this day and use it for electing directors, reporting on the activities affecting the cemetery, showing the respect and appreciation for the veterans by placing flags upon their grave sites, fellowship with families from all across America and the sharing of home cooked meals in the Tabernacle and under the surrounding trees. Donations are taken, at this time, to help fund the cost of maintaining the cemetery.
Over the years generous amounts of money have been donated to the Alameda Cemetery Association, allowing them to maintain an interest bearing account with a 50,000.00 dollar balance. This money is a symbol of the commitment and dedication to preserving, maintaining and preparing for the future of the cemetery.
The cemetery is visited daily by family members, friends, community members and curious people admiring the beauty of such a scenic tranquil place and the history it offers. It would be very appropriate, as these people memorialize their past generations for them to reflect on the contributions the early settlers made to the great State of Texas through the dedication of a historical marker noting the final resting place of many of the Alameda, Texas pioneers.
Mansker, Dennis, The Mansker Chronicles, The Texas Manskers
And Eastland County; World Wide Web (Internet Address:
[Note: this is of course now found at www.mansker.org -- DM]
Langston, Carolyne, History of Eastland County. Texas; 1904,
Excerpts from The Mansker Chronicles; World Wide Web (above address)
Denny, Ruth Terry, A Short History of Ranger. Texas;
A Thesis presented to the Graduate School of Hardin Simmons
University, 1941, Abilene, Texas, Reprinted 1996, Ranger
Historical Preservation Society, Texas Tech Press, CTHGP.INC
Texas State Historical Association, The New Handbook of Texas;
Austin, Texas, vol l, page 82
Eastland County, Texas, County Clerk, Deed Records, Eastland,
Texas, 1885, 1911, 1994
Ranger Times, December 14, 1986, vol 82, no. 100, Joyce Duggan
January 27, 1983, C.L. Yarbrough
Ouida Hummel, Lettie Craddock, Margie Lamb, LaFray Hart
and Della Galloway, 1995 (updated as necessary through
Addendum I, Deeds of Cemetery
Addendum II, Inventory of Cemetery