(Article reprinted from "News To You?", November 2006 (Edited 2014)
I have had eye surgery and during the time I was “shut-in”, I decided that while I was still around to tell it, I should write the history of our cemetery, Lakeview Memorial Gardens.
Now this may be too long but I feel I owe it to the 313 (408 as of 31 DEC 2013) persons that are buried there to date, to their families and to those who have purchased lots or will in the future.
I went to the court house to trace back the ownership of the five acres we own. I got back to the year 1905 in the old, old record books where the paper was so fragile but I ran out of time. The property had changed ownership 11 times from 1905 until Cities Service Oil Company sold it to the Town of Oil City. During the oil boom “leasehounds” were buying up all the land. One owner had been a man from Heerland, Holland, Jan Koster, who bought lots of land in this area. A group of Oil City citizens had tried to purchase some land for a cemetery but couldn’t find a large enough tract that was for sale, we were handicapped by lack of funding.
John Charles Dickey, Sr. was the Mayor of Oil City at the time and I will never know how he managed to get Cities Service to sell the land to the city back then but he did and I sure am glad. Doyle Skinner, who was on the City Council told me that his only claim to fame as a politician was that he found that five acres and that he and Mr. A. B. Hanner checked it out to see who owned it. They had wanted the land right across the street from Evans Cemetery but it could not be bought. They brought the five acres to Charle’s attention and he got it deeded to Oil City on May 27, 1976 for $5,000.
Roy M. “Hoppy” Hopkins who had been a councilman in the prior administration became the next Mayor. Jack Alexander was the Town Clerk and members of the council were Willa McCord, Kenneth Densmore, John Holt, Frank Wilson and Ralph Barnett. Hoppy immediately began having the growth and underbrush cleared off the land. Trees had to be cut and drains put in. Lots of people donated time and labor. Dub Allen had heavy equipment and he had an abandoned roadbed site somewhere, off which he loaded out dump trucks that brought the material in to build the roads in the cemetery. We had a big old dump truck at the time and I have no idea how many loads my husband, Bruce, hauled to the site. Later the Parish black topped them.
Hoppy did one of the best and most lasting services he could have made to a small town cemetery when he had the survey of it made. We’ve had people from other cemeteries ask to see our Plat. We will never have lost graves in our new cemetery as they are in our Evans Cemetery even if they don’t have tombstones. Every lot is numbered aswell as the plots and sections. The survey is recorded at the court house.
As they were preparing the cemetery, the Mayor and Council decided to have a “Name the Cemetery” contest. They had lots of entries and I WON! A copy of my entry was run in the Caddo Citizen on July 15, 1976. I’m putting a copy of it in this edition of the paper. You can see I was “hooked on Caddo Lake” long before I wrote the articles for “News to You”.
On February 1, 1977, Mayor Hopkins and the Council adopted Ordinance No. 9 of 1977, Town of Oil City, Louisiana.
AN ORDINANCE ESTABLISHING THE LAKEVIEW MEMORIAL GARDENS CEMETERY.
On December 1, 1977, they amended Section 3 of the above ordinance and appointed a committee for the purpose of managing all business affairs of the Lakeview Memorial Gardens Cemetery subject to the supervision of the Mayor and aldermen. The original committee consisted of:
President Margaret Weaver
Vice President S. R. Brown
Secretary-Treasurer Clara Norris
Members Edward White, Willa McCord, Robert Sibley
On December 8, 1977, we buried our first person in the Cemetery, Mr. Little Berry Barton. His wife, Louella Barton was a brave woman to put her husband there not knowing if the cemetery would “go over”. It was on November 28, 1978 before we buried the second person, Mrs. Abe Goff and on February 15,1979, Mr. Abe Goff was buried.
On May 27, 1979, we held the dedication of our new Cemetery and honored Evans Field Cemetery. We had only buried three persons but we had 181 visitors to sign the register and I know a lot of them didn’t sign in.
We had a big trailer there for a stage and lots of speakers and singers. Willa McCord was in her glory. She had worked so hard to see that cemetery become a reality. Nobody loved Oil City more than Willa and we ALL loved her. We laid her to rest there in 1983.
I’ll never forget looking up to see Mr. Coy Blackmon walking toward me that day and he said, “Margaret, I need to buy a lot, I lost my wife today”. The downside of working with the cemetery is the sadness I have seen. There have been so many tragedies, so many young ones taken in the prime of their lives and so many friends, old and young, gone.
Lou Barton had a brand new Murray mower and I had a new John Deere, we wore them out. We would go to the cemetery each time we had a funeral and oh how rough that ground was then. We’d make it look as good as we possibly could. We started out with a ZERO bank balance. Lou quilted a quilt and we all sold chances and made over $500. Lou, Willa, Clara, Slick Dickey and I rented a booth at Gusher Day and dressed up in bonnets, aprons and straw hats. We had big pots of red beans and rice and had desserts. We hung up a big sign, LAKEVIEW MEMORIAL GARDENS, and sold completely out of everything. We bought ourselves a lawnmower!
The Sorosis Club paid for the walkways in the front circle of the cemetery.
On the day of the Dedication, we took orders for the brick posts along Hamill Street. Each was purchased in memory of a loved one. You may have noticed the eye bolts on the sides of the posts. Our plans were to make swags between the posts with big heavy chains like we had seen in some of the old cemeteries. We soon found that chains like that were no longer to be found. Some had thought we could get them down in South Louisiana at shipyards…no luck. We then thought we’d settle for that huge rope, we never could find it either. The posts have leaned and some wanted to remove them but some who had given them as memorials strongly objected.
On January 2, 1980, I buried my husband, Bruce Hamill Weaver, Sr. I couldn't believe he was the eleventh person being buried there, he was 59 years old. That was the day the cemetery ceased to be a civic duty for me and became my responsibility. Now my mother and father are there, my tiny great grandson and my precious daughter-in-law. Priscilla Weaver. Sometimes I stand at her feet and look around at my relatives and so many dear, dear friends and that old hymn comes rushing to my mind, "WE ARE STANDING ON HOLY GROUND AND I KNOW THAT THERE ARE ANGELS ALL AROUND". Call me a sentimentalist, I am, but there are very few persons buried out there I didn't know.
1980 was the year the cemetery “took off” as people started moving family members back home that they’d buried elsewhere. The W. C. “Dub” Allens moved their two daughters from Chapelwood, Vivian; Bill and Ella Mae McKnight moved their son, Terry, from Gray, Texas; John Charles Dickey, Sr. moved his father from Chapelwood, Vivian. Mrs. Blanche Chipman and her daughters moved their husband and father from Chapelwood,Vivian and my mother, sister and I moved my father, John Henry “Jack” Pace home from Gray, Texas.
I, who had never believed in disturbing the dead, never felt such a peace as when I had Daddy back within a stone’s throw of his house and Mama, little old oil wells pumping nearby, old Caddo Lake just down the hill, street lights overhead at night, the sound of a train whistle in the distance, even a big Woodstock wind chime at a home across the street that has the sound of a far off church bell when a breeze blows. By now you’re probably thinking, the old girl’s lost it, being a “shut-in” got to her. Nah! I just hope that when I’m there, my boys will know how I feel about that Cemetery. It’s personal.
“Hoppy” moved on to serve as our State Legislator in Baton Rouge before his term expired as Mayor of Oil City. Bob Sibley became our Mayor.
On April 13, 1982, John Charles Dickey, Sr. had been elected Oil City’s Mayor again and on that day the Mayor and Council held a special session and created Ordinance #4 of 1982:
AN ORDINANCE TO CREATE A CEMETERY BOARD AND TRANSFER OPERATION OF LAKEVIEW MEMORIAL GARDENS AND EVANS FIELD CEMETERY FOR THE TOWN OIL CITY.
Charles called me in to his office and told me they were transferring the complete operation of the Cemeteries from the Town to the Cemetery Board. Of course the Town had invested the purchase price of the land and had spent quite a lot of money getting the new cemetery operational. He said if we would relieve the Town of the maintenance of Evans Field Cemetery permanently by combining the operation of the two cemeteries we’d be relieved of repaying the indebtedness to the Town. Strapped as we were for money, it came as a blessing for us. We were selling lots for $125 each and allowing people to pay them out. We went through some trying times, buying equipment and trying to keep it up and getting someone to run it until we finally got smart enough to hire maintenance people who furnished their own equipment.
We cleaned up Evans Field, put a cyclone fence around it and every time we cut the new cemetery we cut the Evans cemetery. We’ve been doing that for about 24 years now. Of course there is no income from Evans, we don’t sell lots and don’t bury there unless it is someone who already has family there. There are too many lost graves there and we don’t know just where they all are.
It has worked out well for both us and the Town. It allowed us to begin investing the money as we sold lots and collected money for those sold on credit. We knew we had to put together enough money to set up a Trust so we can know that our cemeteries are provided with perpetual (lawn) care. We have been very lucky because we drew such good interest on our money (initially).
I don’t know about you but it makes my old heart feel good just to know the grass and weeds won’t grow on my grave as we’ve all seen it grow at Evans in years past.
Now you all know as much about the Cemetery Business as I do, and that is what I set out to let you know when I started writing this.
I wish I had room to give credit to all the people who have served on the board and to all those who have given so much time and put so much effort in to getting the Cemetery where it is today. Charles Rathbun spent years marking graves as they were needed and my husband, (the late) Bill Bateman, worked tirelessly there for over 14 years. I can’t begin to name them all and if I tried, I’d be sure to miss someone so I’ll just say, “THANK YOU ALL”.
Needless to say, no one has ever been paid a dime for anything done in and for the Cemetery except the lawn service people and that includes ME. I’m not even going to get into my job description, I’ve done a little of it all.
It’s been a long haul getting us to where we are today. I’m hopeful that now we can concentrate on prettying up our cemetery.
One has to face reality and after nearly 30 years, it’s about time for me to
“lay by my cemetery role”.
It’s been a labor of love,
Margaret Pace Weaver (Bateman)