City Manager James Melson inspects the cleanup
From the Lincoln County News, 13 Feb. 2014
by Robbie McCommas, Staff Writer
A 50th reunion that brought classmates together last spring encouraged a few individuals to consider the condition of a deserted graveyard. Though noticed as youth when driving around the county roads, the men hadn’t thought of the cemetery as the decades passed.
Chandler graduate Wayne Pounds, who now lives in Japan, spurred a conversation with Brent LaGere who in turn took action.
“After alumni Rick Evans and I went out to the cemetery and looked around one Sunday afternoon,” LaGere explained. “I had talked to Wayne and we wanted to recognize the area as sacred ground. Wayne’s cousin Eugene Stidham had family buried there.”
LaGere talked with City Manager James Melson. Soon he, and Board Member Rick Evans, got a city crew to work clearing the undergrowth. Carefully, the men removed the weeds and briars to unveil confirmation of community residents who helped to settle the area.
The cemetery, once noted as in “reprehensible” condition, was getting groomed for the first time in a long time.
History of the cemetery
The Lincoln County Oklahoma History book stated in 1988, “This old cemetery once numbering over 100 graves, was probably also used as a community burying ground. It is now nearly lost in the scrub oak.” It is located near CR 890 and CR 3410, one mile north and two miles west of Chandler.
The farm was homesteaded in the land run, by Elisha McCorkle and his wife Almira Smith McCorkle. Both sets of their parents were buried there, (the Joel McCorkles’ and the John Smiths’) according to history.
The McCorkle’s child, Bessie McCorkle, married Joseph Gibson and they too, made their home on the farm. The Gibsons raised three children, Emlee, James Robert and Doc.
Joseph and Bessie were ranchers and owned a rock crushing business. They were prosperous, according to Melson who was related to the family by marriage.
After the death of Joseph and Bessie, the homestead was given to Emlee who was married to Clee Fitzgerald. Emlee was the mother of Melson’s late wife.
“My wife and I would go to the property often,” Melson said. “The old rock house is still standing. I’d cut hay off for Emlee.”
On Nov. 23, 1962, The Indian Spring Chapter of the National Society of Daughter of American Revolution inspected the cemetery and found there were only 17 legible tombstones. They said many of the graves were probably never marked.
The legible tombstones recorded by DAR were as follows according to documents filed at the Lincoln County Museum of Pioneer History: Joseph Brown 1803; L.A. Cook 1898; Nan Cook 1899; Alma Matthes 1897; Pauline Mathes 1897; Joel McCorkle 1907; Mary Ann Earls McCorkle 1899 wife of Joel; Ardell Moreland 1894; Rice-three small children; John B. Smith 1902; Liddie Smith 1894; Smith-two small children and Mrs. Carolyn Thompson.
Bessie McCorkle Gibson told the DAR she remembered these burials: Beulah Chinn; Mr. Walker; Mr. Hopkins; Faultner-two small children; Nellie Mae McCorkle 1894.
In 1965, Bessie McCorkle Gibson still owned the land. She said she counted 36 graves at one time but knew that there were many more, according to DAR. She thought that after the inscriptions were recorded, some of the McCorkle family was moved to Oak Park Cemetery.
The last burials of the cemetery were 1923.
Chandler resident Eugene Stidham’s grandmother’s siblings are buried there.
“In 1992, I visited the cemetery with my dad,” Stidham described. “Upon looking at unmarked sand stones, Dad recalled the names of Glen and Loanie Rice who were siblings to his mother, Lennie L. Rice Stidham. My dad thought the girls were ages three and six. They were buried with native stone markers near a cedar tree in the cemetery.”
Stidham said the children died in the flu epidemic of 1918. Their parents were Gus and Addie Bell Stone Rice.
“The Find-A-Grave records reflects three Rice babies in the cemetery, though dad was only aware of two,” Stidham pointed out.
Bell Cow Lake caused disunion
With the construction of Bell Cow Lake in 1986, Emlee Gibson Fitzgerald objected to the release of her property including the McCorkle Cemetery to eminent domain, according to Melson.
“She reasoned that her relatives were buried there and had homesteaded the ground from the Land Run,” he added.
Eventually Emlee relented and 40 acres, including the cemetery, were consumed for the use of Bell Cow Lake. Though the cemetery was never touched during the lake’s construction, the property changed hands for the first time.
On Jan. 3, 1986 a warranty deed was filed to Chandler Municipal Authority for 40 acres, according to Lincoln County Assessor Deputy Kala Wakely. Wakely said a note in the file reads: the McCorkle Cemetery lies in the northeast corner. In 1972, 36 graves were counted.
As the winter weather clears, LaGere assured the cemetery would boast a new fence, gate and sign to complete the project.
If the article has jogged a reader’s memory and they have a recollection of the cemetery or an account of someone buried there, Pounds asked for those individuals to let him know by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. In addition, The Lincoln County Museum of Pioneer History would include the information in their file. The museum’s number is (405) 258-2425.