Tromping Through the Tombstones

I don’t normally admit to this, but I like walking through cemeteries. Not at midnight and not for the purpose of raising the hair on the back of my neck. And it can’t be just any cemetery. It needs to be an historic one. One with old tombstones and centuries of past lives beneath the soil.

Last month, I was in Granbury, TX for a writers retreat, and I realized I had the perfect opportunity to engage in a little tombstone tromping. Just a short drive away from where we were staying was the historic Acton Cemetery. I made sure to stop by there on my way out of town on Sunday afternoon. Here are a few of the highlights:

Davy Crockett’s second wife, Elizabeth, is buried here along with two of their children. I love how the monument depicts her looking into the distance as if waiting for her husband to come home. So bittersweet.

David and Elizabeth Crockett’s son, Robert, and his wife Matilda were located to the left of Elizabeth’s grave. To the right were her daughter, Rebecca, and her husband J.M. Halford. Unfortunately, Mr. Halford’s tombstone was so weathered, it was nearly impossible to make out the words. Thankfully, a new marker was erected for him indicating J.M. Halford was a Baptist preacher. Rebecca’s original tombstone was nowhere to be found, but she, too, had a new marker erected by her descendants.

John Washington Middleton is buried here, a Texas Ranger from the early days. He rose to the rank of Captain and fought valiantly against outlaws and Indians. A bit ironic, since his son, John Whitfield Middleton ended up being a rancher and adventurer who many believe fought alongside Billy the Kid during the Lincoln County War of the 1870s before splitting ways with the famous outlaw and returning to Texas ranch life. Both men lived into their 90s.


My heart broke to see the numerous tombstones of children who’d not lived to see their first birthday, a somber reminder of how difficult life was back in the 1800’s.

And then, I found this pair . . .

My favorite find in the cemetery was this pair of grave markers. They instantly made my romantic imagination run wild. This hand-carved tombstone seemed so precious and personal. Carved, my imagination wants to believe, by the grief-stricken physician husband who’d not been able to save his beloved wife. In fact, his grief was so great, he left the “c” out of their surname – McPherson – and had to add it to the left of the name as an afterthought. No date is visible on the wife’s grave stone, but the doctor was buried beside her in 1905 at the age of 87.

  • Do you ever walk through old cemeteries and imagine the lives of the people who lay there?
  • What are some of your favorite history-related finds that you’ve come across either on vacation or just a random encounter?
  • Any famous ancestors in your family tree?