I can’t say enough about the kindness of strangers. I use the Findagrave.com website quite often to search for ancestors. If I’m lucky there may be a picture, a biography or at the least a link to other relatives in that cemetery.
In this instance, I was looking for my Aldridge family that I found in the Rusk Cemetery in Boley, Okfuskee County, Oklahoma. I requested photos from a local volunteer and I waited. In the meantime, I did more digging and found I had another ancestor there: my 3rd great-grandmother, Susie (Crenshaw) Holbert. So I emailed my wonderful volunteer, Angela Dionne, to ask if she could look for Susie’s final resting place as well. I had no idea of the wealth of information I would soon find out about my ancestor, and the history lesson to come.
Angela explained that Okfuskee County had a lot of black cemeteries that have not been documented. Apparently, there was someone who took the time to add lists but not pictures, so they were in the process of trying to photograph as much of the cemetery as possible. Problem was a lot of the graves only have a rock, or a headstone that is no longer readable. I kept my fingers crossed, but I wouldn’t hear back from Angela for a while.
Then one day out of the blue, I get this in my email:
As you could guess I was ecstatic enough to have a picture of her headstone and a likely date of death. But if you look closer, you can see there is a symbol and inscriptions above Susie’s name. I emailed Angela again to thank her for the picture and to ask her if she knew anything about the symbols. She said she would go back to the cemetery and take another picture of the headstone to see if she could get more detail. So I have to wait again, but I am so grateful to Angela for making another trip in the Oklahoma summer heat!
While I waited, I tried to make the picture as big as possible. In the center it looked like some sort of Masonic symbol, but I couldn’t make it out clearly. I searched for anything that looked similar on Google images, then one day I found something that looked familiar:
There were similar markings, and there is more detail at the bottom of the stone. I learned that it is not a Masonic symbol, but the marker of the Mosaic Templars of America, an organization founded by two former slaves in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1882. But how did my grandmother end up with this marker in Oklahoma? Stay tuned to Part 2 to learn more about my incredible discovery!