The Union Cemetery

 

The Union Cemetery ~Est. 1891
 Union Township, Payne County, Oklahoma Territory


[located on the southeast corner of Grandstaff Rd. & Battle Ridge Rd., 2 mi. W - 1 mi. N of Cushing.]

Updated: Wednesday April 09, 2003

AKA "Old Driggs Cemetery"

(photos by T. A. Driggs©)

John Hamilton Driggs Family plot
Looking SE towards Cushing

 

HISTORY - map & original document forthcoming!

Union Cemetery BURIALS List ~

Soon to Include:  photos & epitaphs

Hope to have a Brief Biography about some of these Union Township Families and individuals who were buried here, as many were among the Original Settlers who made the Land Run of 1891. Most of the Founders and original Union Cemetery Board Members are also buried here.

If you have a family story you would like to contribute or can provide a LINK to your web site about any of these families, please contact me at: tedscott@brightok.net

Contributions needed & welcome for the new Union Cemetery Entrance Gate Fund.

Recent History

Early this year, the first street signs were set at the corner of Grandstaff & Battle Ridge Roads. More recently, in September 2000, Grandstaff Rd was blacktopped all the way to the city limits, and soon a new arched sign and gate will mark the entrance to this now beautiful little cemetery! I like to believe that my parent's unselfish deeds have been a catalyst for the attention that north Union Township is now receiving & the improvements that are beginning to be made in and around the Union Cemetery .

The Story of the Change that began in a Labor of Love

My Grandfather, William Walter Driggs, had been the caretaker of the Union Cemetery for many years. Many of those years, it had not been cared for as my grandparents had moved to California. When they returned to Oklahoma, Grampa was not at all well, but tried to do the work. He had cancer but did not tell anyone. It was all he could do to care for Gramma, who was not at all well either. When he passed away in February, 1973, my Pappa, Ted Edwin Driggs, took charge of the cemetery and immediately began to restore it. The responsibility had been given to our family since it was established in 1891, handed down from father to son. It had been abandoned for many years as a burial site and grown over with weeds and wild grasses. Trees sprang from some of the graves and what few ornamental shrubs that existed on the grounds, planted many years ago, had become overgrown and hid the graves of many. Tree roots had pushed some of the stones from their original places.

The Entrance gate was vandalized in 1984. (photos and story to be added). Stones were toppled over and broken, apparently the vandals used a pickup-truck to drive through and do their dirty deeds.

There was no sign to show the name of the Cemetery and there was no road sign out on the US 18/33 highway to indicate that one existed. Indeed, many people didn't know where the cemetery was located. No one ever visited the dead (except my family to my knowledge) and doubtless anyone would have wanted to then, if they had known.

Some of the stones had toppled over and others had been vandalized & broken. Rodents and mice ran in and out of some of the graves and one plot had been dug into by a coyote, who used it for her den for her pups. He went to work right away restoring it to its present lovely condition - even better that it had originally been. It took three months going through 5 lawnmowers and two grass trimmers just to clear away the growth from the years of neglect. Since that time, He and Momma do all the work and pay for it out of their own pockets. Stones were set right and Pappa made a few little stones for babies buried there that had none at all. He even repaired some of the broken ones. No one had been buried there for many decades. Indeed, most of the sons and grandsons of John Hamilton & Lucinda Driggs were buried either at the Fairlawn Cemetery in Stillwater or the Fairlawn Cemetery in Cushing.

For nine years my parents took care of the cemetery. Then in 1981, my father's cousin, Marlin Driggs, gave him the records and old documents, thus turning the keys of Sexton over to Pappa. He took the responsibility as the new Sexton for the Union Cemetery with a serious attitude that it would never look like that again as long as he lived. The books were not current and he and Momma went about finding and recording in the record book the names, dates and information about every person buried there, even contacting the Davis Funeral Home to get there help in updating the records. Several grave sites were discovered where no stone or marker had been. Even one burial of a child that was done apparently in the dark of night...too poor to buy a lot, so they sneaked in and buried their loved one, unawares. My parents made the child a stone, and although it has no name on the stone, at least it will not be disturbed. Pappa literally cried thinking about that family, too poor to even have a funeral and buy a lot to bury their child.

Native Oklahoma Yuccas

Over the years they have planted lawn and trees and flowering shrubs to beautify the grounds. He planted these lovely Native Yuccas around the flag pole which he also erected in the center of the Union Cemetery, and flies our beautiful American flag on all special occasions. (see image below)
Pappa built benches for visitors to enjoy. He has given new life to the old Union Cemetery and once again, it is being visited and people are choosing to be buried there again. Some good people send my parents a check every year, generally around Memorial Day at the end on May. He and Momma receive letters from long lost relatives of those buried there many years past, thanking them for the work they have done and often sending them a token of their appreciation, which goes straight to the Cemetery account. But can you believe it? Some people complain about his having planted trees! Unreal!!!

More Good Deeds

At that time my Pappa, who was a professional house painter (and oh so much more), had not retired yet. Jack Kendrick, then married to Mary Jane Stiles had hired Pappa to paint their home. The house belonged to a lady who lived next door to my cousin, Vaughn Driggs who at that time lived on Moses Street in Cushing. In passing conversation while he was working, it came out that Mrs. Kendrick was a Stiles and had a relative buried at the Union Cemetery. Pappa told them of the work he was doing in restoring the old township cemetery which had fallen into ruin and had been abandoned as an unfit burial as a result.
When a new gate was needed, Jack and Mary offered to do the work of repairing the old dilapidated gate.
The Stiles family deeded back their plots sometime later in the 1980s, to be given to some family who would need them. The Stiles family had for years been interring their family members at the Brethren Church Cemetery several miles west of there, and no longer needed or wanted the family burial at the Union Cemetery.

Such good people.

My son, Charles, enjoyed helping his Grampa with the mowing and trimming from the time he was just a wee lad of only 6 years old, and even planted the little cedar trees that can be seen in the picture below of my Momma...the little ones behind her on the right along the fence. Now they are nice big trees that filter out the dust from the dirt roads and provide a wind break, as well as beauty to the little Prairie Cemetery on the wind-swept hill. He had planned to take over for Grampa one day.

When Charles was killed in an automobile accident several years ago, he was laid to rest here in the place he loved and helped care for with his Grampa Driggs. Looking N. Eastward

I miss you so much Charlie!
 

Charles Eric Ledbetter (1981-1995), son of Teddie A. Driggs

Looking Eastward

Another view of my family burial plot

Pappa planted the little trees just after he was buried. He made the little fence surrounding the grave and recently planted more Weeping Willows to mark the cornerstones of our family plot. They add a feeling of peace & tranquility along with their beauty. Charlie loved flowers, so I planted Bridle's Wreath (Spirea), Forsythia, Irises, fragrant Herbs, Tulips and Jonquils & pink Antique Carpet Roses to grow up on the fence for my Blue-eyed Angel.  And because he liked the old cedars growing over John Hamilton Driggs's gravesite, I planted some on the east side of our family plot.

 

More improvements and the changes they have wrought

Now the once abandoned burial is again being visited and others are choosing to be buried there. More and more relatives of those interred in the Union Cemetery have begun contacting my parents, happy to discover that a relative of theirs had been buried there. A professional genealogist from Stillwater contacted my parents gather and record all the information they had recorded in the Cemetery log. He added it to his Payne County publications for cemeteries, posted at the public library genealogy room in Stillwater, the county seat.

In 1995, the State Highway Department was contacted about the lack of a State Highway Cemetery sign out on the main highway. Funeral directors and folks attending funerals had not been able to find the place many times. My parents would put post board signs out on the road, but not everyone saw them. Indeed, even for my son's funeral, many people called me afterward, apologizing for missing the funeral. - they had driven around for hours and not been able to find the place. So my parents called the highway department to see if something could be done. As a result, a green and white CEMETERY sign was soon placed out by highway on the Battle Ridge Road turnoff.

Looking westward toward the corner of Grandstaff & Battleridge Rd.

Annie Frances (Hindorff) Driggs (Abt.. 1990) - as colorful and cheerful as the clothes she wears!

Here you can see Momma, assisting Pappa, as usual, in Spring clean-up chores at the Union Cemetery - a labor of love.

Every Memorial Day (Decoration Day) my parents place flowers on the graves of those who are never visited by relatives. When I lived in Cushing, this was a family endeavor - Momma and I making up floral arrangements and wreaths to take out to the cemetery and my kids going along to help with the mowing and yard work in preparation for the Memorial Day weekend. Those were good times. Thanks to my parents, the VFW now sees to it that all the Veterans receive a little American Flag to show honor to them for their service to our country. Pappa is very patriotic. Every year he goes out to raise the flag in solemn ceremony...a tear in his eyes and his hand over his heart, as the colors rise and the flag unfurls....even if it is just he and Momma that show up for it.

My Pappa - Sexton of the Union Cemetery ~ Memorial Day, 1999 Looking S. Westward

For all your dedication, diligence, long-suffering unselfishness and hours of back-breaking work; for all the hours spent doing the paperwork, calling funeral directors, state agencies, & even family members; for the many times you helped others in arranging funerals and for your service to the VFW; for all the rainy days and hot days you spent out there and all the money you took out of your own pockets to buy equipment, tools and supplies; and for every letter you ever answered and every phone call you ever made to relatives....and only God knows what all you have done through the years
in your
LABOR of LOVE....

I Love You Pappa & Momma

and I'm proud to be your daughter. ~Annie

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Oklahoma
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