Sunday, February 5, 2017

Old Post Oak Cemetery - Beggs, Oklahoma

From time to time, I enjoy seeking out and photographing old cemeteries in Okmulgee County and the surrounding area. I do not have any relatives here; I only have one cousin buried in the entire county as far as I am aware. I don't do this for my own research as much as I do it for others. I have been lucky to have people around the country photograph headstones of my relatives in cemeteries I will likely never visit. I am paying those favors forward by photographing and documenting these cemeteries for folks who either can't visit, or in some cases don't even know the graves of their folk are here.

I have compiled video footage and some photographs, along with some information about the cemetery, into a video on the cemetery. You can watch that for the "I don't have time to read this whole article and look at every single picture" version of this outing. If you decide you do have time afterward, feel free to continue down the article for a more complete picture of the Old Post Oak Cemetery.

Though I had shared information from a survey of this cemetery conducted in the 1970s previously on (, the Old Post Oak Cemetery was not high on my list of "Cemeteries to Visit". But a relative of at least one, and possibly two, of the persons interred there asked me to get photographs for her since she resides in California. As I would hope for the same for a request of my own, I happily obliged.

The directions to the cemetery I had was vague, but luckily at some point someone mapped the GPS coordinates of the cemetery. The coordinates led to a spot among many trees on the outskirts of a small forest; the cemetery was not visible on Google Earth. I showed up and talked to two neighbors before getting the name of the owner. I wanted to secure permission, so using the White Pages online, I reached out to the owner, who lives out of state. She was very kind, and happy to allow me access. She herself knew little of the cemetery and was interested in who was buried there as well.

Finally, a co-worker and I ventured roughly 300 yards from the road off Highway 16 about 2.5 miles outside of Beggs, and came to a metal picket fence, painted white. The neighbor we had spoken to told us that the fence had always been white, and hadn't lost its color over several decades. That was the first sign we were entering the cemetery grounds.

Despite the care and love that went into creating this, no name was found of the person interred there. Perhaps there is one within it beneath the brush, but I did not want to enter and disturb it. A handful of other stones with legible writing on them lay nearby, as well as the beginning of a large collection of unmarked fieldstones. I began to photograph the legible markers, along with an above-ground memorial which had lost its marker.

Some stones, like that of Mose Richardson above, had been subjected to the elements despite the above canopy of trees. I was only really able to decipher it because I had the list of interments that the Okmulgee County Historical Society had collected, and his name and dates were on that list from 40 years ago, when it was more legible. In another 40 years, it will likely be completely unreadable.

Trees, thorns, and general brush has sprouted up among the headstones here. It made it very difficult to maneuver at times, or to move large branches or clumps of thorns to photograph the face of a stone. Though some large branches have fallen, it does not appear many have knocked over or damaged the stones. In fact, my friend remarked that the way the cemetery had been engulfed by the forest almost seemed like the trees themselves were doing their part to protect and preserve the cemetery as best they could. As we ventured deeper into the cemetery, it became clear it was actually rather large and expansive. From the white picket fence to the last stones directly west of it, the distance was roughly 80 yards. From that end to the northern end of the cemetery where the last stone could be found, it was another 50-60 yards. The cemetery lies right along the old Salt Creek, which at least along this section has completely dried up.

This funeral home marker was one of several scattered throughout the cemetery which have lost the information showing who was buried here.

The two above lovingly-etched, homemade stones for the Peviehouse brothers are simply heartbreaking. Their parents and siblings eventually moved to California, or I'm sure they would have seen to it that the resting places for these two well-loved little boys was kept up.

This stone is the main reason I visited this cemetery. Alberta Coleman Cato was the sister of the famed pilot, Bessie Coleman (

This stone was lovingly etched with the picture of a flower, but no legible name for it could be found.

Many stones, like this one, have fallen and broken and cannot be read any longer.

Based on the name of the cemetery, and the interments of two of his relatives, I believe this land once belonged to a man named Charlie Postoak. Some Native records refer to him as Charlie Williams. His mother, Pollie, and wife, Rachel, are buried here. He was of mixed African American and Native American ancestry. The stones of his wife and mother are the largest and most ornate in the cemetery. I believe based on its boundary of the Salt Creek, that at some point in the 1920s and 30s, it became too difficult to cross the river, or to go around it, with a casket and funeral party in tow. That is likely what caused the cemetery to go into disuse, and for the New Post Oak Cemetery to be founded. An obituary from 2001 reports a woman being buried there, but as a stone for her was not located, it is not clear if perhaps the obituary was in error. (

Charlie himself is buried at the New Post Oak Cemetery. Other than the possible interment from above in 2001, the cemetery appears to have ceased being active by the early 1930s. The earliest stones I could locate date back to the early 1900s. However, the Historical Society reportedly found at least a pair of stones dating back to the 1890s at that time. So the cemetery was active for roughly 30-40 years, and by the Historical Society's 1972 survey had already fallen into anonymity and become overgrown. There will likely be even less remaining in another 50 years unless the cemetery is restored.

This is the back end of Reverend James Coleman's above-ground memorial. It is not clear at this time, but it is likely that he was also a sibling of the pilot Bessie Coleman.

 Though the dates can be deciphered, the name of the person this stone was for appears to be lost. This stone design of many pebbles placed into concrete can be found in multiple other African American cemeteries in the county. I have found ones at both the Northwest and the Southwest cemeteries, and there are surely others.

Some of the stones like this once had writing on them that is no longer legible.

Another fenced in plot without a marker of who is buried here.

Some fieldstones like this had only a first name and no other identifying information.

A concrete cinder block that has been improvised into a marker; no legible information was found.

Clusters of unmarked fieldstones like these were common across the cemetery grounds.

The view from the beginning of the cemetery to the road.

If you look for the red, that is my vehicle, which shows roughly how far the beginning of the cemetery is from Highway 16.

My hope is that one day an initiative will be undertaken to restore this cemetery. Whether by relatives and descendants of the people buried here, or simply by people with large hearts that hate to see such a place remain in ruins. All 150 or so markers, including fieldstones, represent a person who once lived and breathed like of all of the rest of us. They loved, and were loved by others. They had their own unique stories and experiences, and most of those are lost today. The last remnants of their existence in this world should not be lost as well. They should not be forgotten.

The following is a list of known interments at the Old Post Oak Cemetery. This includes names collected from the 1972 survey conducted by the Okmulgee County Historical Society, and additional information I have collected, as well as amendments to the original survey.

*-Denotes stone was found and photographed
#-Denotes stone was not located

Adams, Martha (d. 10/11/1907)*
Alered, Leon (No dates)*
Alered, Leroy (No dates)*
Asher, John E (7/18/1892-12/28/1909)*
Asher, Willie (1/10/1886-4/4/1914)*
Boa, Sandy (d. 11/30/1913)#
Brinnley, G (No dates)#
Brooks, America (8/15/1906-4/10/1916)#
Bruner, Jane (1871-1929)*
Cato, Alberta (12/5/1880-12/18/1927)*
Cleveland, McKinly (12/20/1898-10/12/1918)*
Cobb, Thomas (1886-1927)*
Coleman, Reverend James (1889-1917)*
Cousin, Jack (1813-12/30/1919)*
Cousin, Nellie (d. 8/25/1919)#
Cousins, Thomas (1894-9/24/1914)*
Cranshaw, Sallie (1/18/1893-12/3/1914)*
Dean, Baby Jewel (3/4/1925-9/9/1925)#
Franklin, Phillip (9/1/1901-1/28/1927)#
Freeman, Malindia (1856-6/6/1914)*
Givens, Archie (d. 4/12/1919)*
Gray, M. Rose (1846-1928)#
Gray, Robert (d. 8/23/1905)#
Griffins, Anderson (12/18/1909-1/19/1910)#
Griffins, Baby (1/14/1911-1/14/1911)#
Harris, Arther (7/22/1899-1/21/1918)*
Harris, Betsy (d. 10/28/1908)*
Harris, Jim (No dates)#
Henderson, Shelton (d. 8/16/1909)*
Hester, Oliver (11/13/1913-3/17/1917)#
Hill, Claude E. (1/26/1894-10/17/1918)#
Holbert, Guss (7/19/1876-7/4/1918)*
Hollier, Jack (11/11/1864-12/9/1929)*
Holmes, Julia (5/5/1861-10/6/1915)#
Jefferson, S. H. (1870-1935)*
Jefferson, Sisly (12/5/1879-10/15/1917)#
Johnson, Nellie (3/21/1904-9/25/1916)*
Jones, Eliza (12/1/1867-2/11/1917)#
Jones, L. O. (10/23/1870-9/28/1930)*
Keys, Jim (3/15/1858-2/19/1917)#
Linly, S. J. (8/27/1851-6/19/1921)*
McPherson, Isaac (7/31/1899-2/8/1917)#
Miller, Hagar (d. 8/1913)*
Nash, Annie (d. 5/28/1911)#
Nash, Asa (1849-8/25/1913)*
Nero, Polly (1799-1/25/1895)#
Perryman, Millie (d. 12/11/1917)*
Peter, Inola Evans (11/15/1917-8/22/2001)# (Indicated by 2001 obituary)
Peviehouse, Carl (10/3/1913-4/5/1916)*
Peviehouse, J. D. (1/1/1911-9/15/1913)*
Postoak, Pollie (1829-1919)*
Postoak, Rachel (1865-1916)*
Prudhone, A. L. P. (9/18/1855-7/22/1923)*
Redeau, Luella (d. 7/4/1926)*
Richardson, Mose (1818-2/28/1918)*
Robinson, Lillie (9/10/1891-10/1/1932)*
Ruff, Baby (d. 1919)*
Ruff, C. M. (d. 1919)*
Ruff, Joe E. (d. 1919)*
Sango, Peter (d. 4/30/1907)#
Shaffer, Orethia (7/26/1936)#
Smith, Albert (11/10/1894-3/2/1932)*
Taylor, A. B. (No dates)#
Taylor, Addison M. D. (d. 3/15/1895)#
Taylor, Emma (d. 10/5/1891)#
Taylor, Mary (1863-1915)*
Taylor, Miss (No dates)#
Thomas, Morris (3/17/1916-9/21/1917)#
Tiger, George (5/10/1897-10/31/1915)*
Unknown, Alfred (No dates)*
Unknown, _____ (9/12/1898-5/1/1931)*
Vanpell, Robert (1/1/1879-6/1/1914)#
Venters, Adam (12/27/1912-4/17/1913)#
Venters, Baby (1/13/1912-1/30/1912)#
Venters, Lucille (5/13/1914-6/30/1914)#
Watson, Albert (1906-1927)#

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