By Elizabeth Keys
STILLWATER, Okla. —
The Fairlawn Preservation Society is hosting a potluck supper at 6 p.m. Tuesday before the annual meeting of the Fairlawn Cemetery Association of Stillwater. The lot owners meeting begins at 7 p.m. in the cemetery building located in the center of the acreage at 1123 E. Sixth St.
Association secretary, Janette L. Bolene, said the organization meets every year to elect directors to fill positions on a rolling board. Lou Watkins is leading a dedicated group interested in preserving the cemetery.
Cemetery Sexton Debbi Walling, who manages the day to day operations, said the preservation society has been busy.
“The flag pole has been painted and lighted so we can fly the flag at night,” Walling said. “Several flags of different sizes from the nation’s capitol and family loved ones who served the country have been donated.”
The first formal presentation of colors at the flag pole will be before the 2013 lot owners meeting, Watkins said. The flag pole is in the center of the veterans memorial area.
“Gary LaFollette shepherded the flag project,” Watkins said with Rusty and Burl Carrier, Ray Kinnunen and Glenna Huff contributing, too. Volunteers are the backbone of the association with only two paid staff members at the cemetery.
Although many citizens believe the city of Stillwater owns and runs the cemetery, the association is a nonprofit organization. Funds are generated through lot sales and the opening and closing of burial sites. When the acreage no longer has vacancies, then there will be no more income generated so the association sees the need for a perpetual endowment fund to pay for maintenance and repairs of the grounds.
The preservation society also wants to create committees for veterans projects, landscaping, fundraising and historical genealogy. Mahlon G. Erickson created an extensive documentation of cemeteries in his book, “Payne County Oklahoma Cemetery Index,” which is available at the Stillwater Public Library and at the cemetery office. Erickson is a former Stillwater teacher now working as a geologist in Oklahoma City. His book was published in 1994.
In researching the cemeteries, Erickson discovered two of Stillwater’s founders, David Husband and Charles Knoblock, are buried in unmarked graves. Many pioneering citizens are buried at Fairlawn, the oldest cemetery in Stillwater.
The cemetery was started when a citizen donated the first ten acres during the booming land run days, said long-time cemetery association officer Yvonne Hornberger.
Fairlawn is 40 acres now, but early records, especially with pauper burials where the lot is simply recorded “occupied,” leave some history overlooked. As a Boy Scouts of America Eagle Scout project, Erickson’s son, John, researched the Civil War veterans buried in the cemetery with a special monument bearing the soldier’s names and state donated to commemorate their service. One black Civil War veteran, Calvin Warren, is buried in the pauper’s field where at least 200 pioneers were intered in unmarked graves during the early years of settlement. Erickson believes there is much more Stillwater history to uncover through researching the records and existing markers.
Walling said the new gazebo houses a directory of the lots. The gazebo records indicate the block, lot or row and space beside the intered names. A large map is posted for easier direction. New block signs have also been posted throughout the cemetery.
“Meridian Technology masonry class reconstructed the wall sign facing Sixth Street,” Hornberger said. “Several community members assisted in the project including Bob and Betty Kerns, Lefty Little, Burl Carrier and Jess Ross.”
There is much more work to be done. Many more monuments need repair, Watkins said. Trees are needed to replace those lost through drought and damages from wind storms.
“We would like to start landscaping the angel garden for babies and the veterans memorial area,” Watkins said.
The preservation society meets the third Monday of each month at 1 p.m. in the cemetery office. Volunteers do not need to be lot owners. Those interested in donating can call 405-372-8603.