Traces of the Wild and Rough Frontier — The Southward-Magee Cemetery

Grave site with marker and Texas Ranger cross of Lieutenant Van Roberts. (Courtesy photo)

By Jessica Crabtree 

Prior to the Civil War, the late 1850s were filled with pioneers leaving their home states, headed west on the trail to settle in the land of opportunity. Settlers from Alabama, Tennessee, North Carolina, Missouri and elsewhere forged the trail with their families and others in tow. What was ahead was rough trail, bad weather and the frontier, a line not defined, but specifically to Texas, known for its hostility.

North Texas was home to Native Americans such as the Kiowa, Apache, Wichita and Comanche. While history will teach you the frontier was violent, the pioneers were a different kind: survivors. Although, many didn’t survive, falling to the hand of burglars, disease, adversity along the trail, or raids. All that is left of the time are the cemeteries and tales passed through the generations. Recovered remnants are a rarity and considered remarkable.

While some cemeteries are marked and documented, others are abandoned or unknown. Out of the good nature of those who love history and want to preserve it for further generations, some choose to maintain even the smallest of areas where these pioneers came to rest.

With 115 identified cemeteries in Montague County, The Montague County Historical Commission has overseen such efforts in the cemetery known as the Southward-Magee near present day Alvord off Lanier Road. Presently the cemetery has 18 marked and identified graves.

After restoration of the burial grounds started, through the method of witching, more than 200 graves were found. MCHC secretary Margie Hess explained the lost and or unmarked graves were found through witching due to the fact that minerals from the remains were emitted into the soil, and the soil disturbance can be detected through witching, a method where two copper roads are held by hand and typically used to identify water once the rods cross.

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The Ben Steadham family, son of John Edward Steadham. (Courtesy photo)
The infamous Kiowa Chief Satanta, responsible for countless deaths across the plains is who Larry McMurtry modeled his character “Blue Duck” after in the highly acclaimed book and film “Lonesome Dove.” (Courtesy photo)