The other side of the family, Uncategorized

Searching for a tombstone in Caldwell Parish

After my grandfather died in May, my grandmother started giving me her genealogy files. Let’s just say we may need to build an addition to the house.

My grandmother was a dedicated researcher when her health permitted it. She visited libraries, searched archives, wrote letters, made phone calls and explored every branch of the family tree.

I’ve so enjoyed reading her correspondence and notes. And I’ve discovered that she and my grandfather were sometimes a sleuthing team when it came to genealogy.

In 1971, my grandmother wrote the “Caldwell Watchman” in Columbia, Louisiana. She and my grandfather were on the hunt for the grave of his great-great-grandfather, Robert T. Stark. My grandfather apparently even made the drive from Houma to Columbia and poked around a few cemeteries. At the time, there were more than 60 cemeteries in Caldwell Parish so I’m not sure how many he actually visited.

The point is they turned to the local newspaper for help. Local newspapers – as Miss Marple always stated – are a wonderful resource. A few years ago, when a serial killer was snatching women in Baton Rouge, I was a newspaper reporter. I clearly remember the Baker-Zachary bureau reporter, who’d been around forever, musing aloud that someone should take a look at Derrick Todd Lee since he was known in the community for peeping into women’s windows. Newspaper reporters know stuff.

But I digress.

The Caldwell Watchman’s genealogy columnist (how many of those are left nowadays) H. Ted Woods opined that Robert T. Stark probably was buried on his property as old-timers were back in the day. He wondered if anyone had even bothered to place a marker.

So my grandparents did some more digging and provided more clues. They learned that the Stark family lived at Alfa “several miles west of Kelly on the mail route between Columbia and Castor Sulphur Springs.” That clears nothing up for me, but apparently Mr. Woods was familiar with the area.

There also was a sighting of the marker at some point. According to our family, one of Robert T. Stark’s grandsons visited the old home place and found Robert T. Stark’s grave about five and a half miles from Columbia a quarter mile from the old farm and not far from the road. It was located in an area with four graveyards close together. 

Mr. Woods couldn’t think of an area with four graveyards close together – and he was a local expert. Sadly, it’s a mystery my grandparents never solved, even with Mr. Woods’ help.

I was curious about Mr. Woods. Was writing genealogy columns in a small town his full-time job? Turns out, it wasn’t. He owned the newspaper and contributed his considerable knowledge even after retirement.

For now, I’m smiling, thinking of my grandfather making the drive to Columbia in search of his ancestor. He and my grandmother were always a team, even when it came to shaking loose the mysteries in the family tree.

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