Letter to Alejos (Rancho Grande Cemetery, Dallas County, Texas)

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Letter to Alejos
(contributed by Angelita)

Alejos Zepeda was born July 1850.
He died Nov. 14, 1925, in Dallas Texas.

Nov. 07, 2001


     I never knew you, or knew your name, until I started doing the family tree.
     I found out you were born in 1850 -- where, I don't know yet. You married my great-grandmother, Angelita Garza, on Jan. 08, 1879, in Del Rio, Texas.
     You had three daughters -- Bonefacia, Ylfonsa and Tiodora [Lola], my grandmother. You also had four sons -- Leandro, Manuel, Vidal and Merejildo.  I only knew two of them, Vidal and Merejildo. My grandmother married my grandfather, Ysabel Montalbo, on Jan. 19, 1901, in Sonora, Texas.
     They had one son, Rafael, my father, and eight daughters -- Anita, Rosa, Maria, Guadalupe, Elena, Paula, Victoria and Felipa. I only knew three of them -- my aunt Elena, Felipa and Victoria. The rest died before I was born.
     Tiodora and your other daughter, Elfonsa, and her husband, Julian Garcia, are also buried there.
     Your granddaughters, Paula and Guadalupe and your great-grandson, Braulio, and his sister, Natalia, your son-in law, Jose Angel Benavidez, and one of his grandsons, Elario Benavidez, are also there.
     So, you see grandfather, I never thought I would find out your name, much less where you are buried.
     So, because of the family tree, I found you and the rest of the family. I went three times to Dallas to find the cemetery, even though I didn't know where to start.
     I was only seven years old when my grandmother Tiodora died. All I remember is when they had her in the funeral home, and I remember my father crying by her casket, trying to wake her up. Then, when they took her to the cemetery, I stayed in the car. I remember that day as if it were yesterday; it was cloudy and raining lightly. There were a lot of people standing around her grave; almost all of them wore black and had black umbrellas.
     I was so scared, I wanted to hide.
     I also remember that there was a railroad track next to the cemetery, so, the first times we went, we would drive by the railroad tracks trying to find a cemetery close to them.
     So, the family kept on growing and I kept asking questions
until someone told me a name -- they said it was the Rancho Grande Cemetery.
     My aunt Dorothy told me that when uncle Joe Chaves was
alive, he would go almost every week to take flowers to his Mother Tiodora [Tiodora, my grandmother, married again when my grandfather Ysabel died.] She married Salvador Jose Chaves on Oct. 15, 1919, in Santa Anna, Texas.
     They had two sons -- Santiago and Jose M. Chaves [Joe]; Santiago died before Jose was born.]
     So, now I had a name, but where to start?
     I was also told that the cemetery was located behind a hospital. We kept asking but nobody knew of a cemetery by a hospital.
     We even asked some people who lived not even a block
from where you are, but nobody knew. My son Raymond told me. "Maybe they were moved so the city could build." I said, "No, they have to be there!" One of my sisters, Paula, came to visit from California, so we went back to Dallas again, but no luck.
     We were so close yet so far away.
     Then, my brother Vale [Ralph] came to visit from Phoenix,
Arizona. And, we went back for the third time. This time I printed a map from the Internet; still, we looked for about three hours.
     The address is Lee Hall. We went in there so many times,
it would take us back to a lot of stop signs, dead ends, and back to the entrance.
     We drove around all the hospitals that were close to Lee Hall.  We had stopped at a red light and I was looking around and saw a cross.  I told my brother, Vale [Ralph], "Look over there behind those trees; I see a cross, or am I seeing things?  I even see a headstone; do you see it?"  He answered, "Yes, I see it too!"  Lola had told me that her father -- your son Vidal -- had made the crosses for you and grandmother Angelita.  She told me that when she was six years old she went with her grandfather, Alejos, to visit Angelita's grave.  When she went back to the house, she ran to her father, Vidal, and told him that she knew where her grandmother was; that she was by the railroad tracks and there was a mound of dirt on top of her.  Her father asked Alejos what she was talking about and he told Vidal that they had gone to visit Angelita's grave.  Vidal said that he had to make a cross for her grave so it wouldn't get lost, and he did!  After you died, he made a cross for you, too. At last, we had found the cemetery, but there was no way to get through.  We parked the car by a gas station and tried to walk to the cemetery, but not even that way could we get through.  So, we got in the car again and drove around. We had to go to Harry Hines Blvd. to Lee Hall again.  Then we had to go through two houses to get there.  At last, we were there!  There was a fence around the cemetery, and the gate was locked.  So my brother, Vale, jumped the fence so he could go look at the graves.  Then he yelled, "Here is my aunt Guadalupe and here is my aunt Pauline," and then he helped me over the fence so we could look for the graves together.  At last, we found your grave with the cross that your son Vidal had made.  Then, we found Angelita's grave, too, and grandmother Tiodora, and all the familiar names that I have heard of.  I can't describe how I felt, the only way I can say it, is when I had my children and you see them for the first time; you can't wait to touch them; to hug them, to kiss them, and to hold them in your arms; that is how I felt, grandfather Alejos.  But, you see I could not do this to you or the rest of the family.  Seeing where you and the rest of the family were, felt the same way.  Now, we can come visit and bring our children and tell them about all these families that once were lost, but now are found.  
     I had also been told that on El Dia De Los Muertos, people would get together at the cemetery and the priest would come and say mass and bless all the graves.  So, my son Raymond, his children, and I went.  We came and it was a nice day, Dorothy and her daughter, Barbara, went also.  My cousin Marce and her husband, Pablo, went, too.  Almost all the people that were there were related to us, one way or another.  The Zepedas, Montalbos, Benavidez and Garcias -- they are all decedents of you, Alejos.  So, you see, grandfather, because you and all the people that are buried here in Rancho Grande, we are all coming again next year.  A lot of family from California also want to be here.  So are all my sons and daughter and all their children.  We are keeping in touch with all of our newfound family.  
     Now, I am finding out the city wants to get rid of the cemetery and to remove your remains somewhere else.  So, grandfather, after all you and grandmother suffered the first time you came here, not even dead will they let you rest.  Lola told me about the first time you came here in 1919; how grandmother Angelita was very sick.  You had just come in from Santa Anna, Texas, by wagon.  She said you stopped at the Gomez house that was by El Rancho del Japones; you asked for water for grandmother; they saw that she was sick and offered you a place to stay, but you said no.  You were looking for La Hacienda Del Rancho Grande, as the Hispanics called it then.  Then, she died a few months later. How sad it must it must have been.  You still had your son, Tio Merejildo, and your daughter, Aifonsa, with you.  They would not let you bury her at the white cemeteries, but the people from Rancho Grande were kind to you and let you bury her there; also, a lot of other people later on.  If only there were more people like them, this world would be a better place for all.  If only they would walk in our shoes for a couple of days, they would think different.  I know how you must have suffered, going form place to place and from job to job.  
     I have been told about your son, Manuel; how he wanted to join the war in the U.S.A., but you wouldn't let him go, so, he did what you said because back then, kids obeyed their parents.  He wanted to join so bad, but he didn't, so he went crazy.  You had to put him in a mental hospital in Dallas; that must have been very hard for you.  I've been told that he died there.  I'm trying to find out where he is buried and about your other son, Leandro; how he went to California and married over there.  Then, you were told he went to Mexico and you never heard from him again.  Well, Alejos, I found out he married a girl named Elena and they had two sons and one daughter. He died at an old age.  My father, Rafael, used to tell my children that you were related to Emilino Zapata.  I will try to find out about that one of these days, because Zapata and Zepeda mean the same name.  I have father Edwardo Fuentez and Mrs. Villanueva to thank, because, if they had not tried to save Rancho Grande and all the people that helped them, I would have never found you.  
     So, I will try my best to help father Fuentez, so that you and all the people that are buried here at Rancho Grande can rest in peace forever.  And, I hope that one day my grandchildren can bring their grandchildren here and tell them about you and tell them about you and the families that came here to work and help build the city of Dallas in their own way.   

                  Your great-granddaughter,