Serving the High Plains

Digging up cemetery history

You do one story on an old cemetery and before you know it you're labeled as the guy who writes about old cemeteries.

That's what I was thinking recently when the phone rang and the lady on the other end of the line identified herself as a Fort Sumner resident and she wanted me to get to the bottom of that cemetery out just north of Cannon Air Force Base.

Alright I'm punning with you a little bit when I say get to the bottom of the cemetery because, trust me that's not were any of us want to be.

The lady said she regularly read my column and no, she didn't remember reading the one I wrote about locating my great-grandmother's grave in the Locust Grove Cemetery north of Fort Sumner. She just figured I was the man for the job.

I tried to tell her that the story had been told recently but I couldn't immediately recall the name of the cemetery for her so I'm not sure she believed me.

After a quick Internet and history book search I put my memory of the story back together and I'll do what I can to relate it to my faithful if not somewhat demanding readers in Fort Sumner and beyond.

The Curry County Centennial book published by the Clovis News Journal reported the town of Blacktower was originally where CAFB is now and then became Portair.

The name is Blacktower Cemetery and it is located to the north of the Chavez addition base housing near CAFB. It appears that every few years the cemetery gets "rediscovered" and fixed up by folks.

A story from 2009 was the one I remembered where Cannon service members were carefully digging out the sand that had blown into the old graveyard. Then this summer a story in the Clovis News Journal talked about a young man looking to earn his Eagle Scout badge by working to restore the cemetery.

Further back in the online record local historians Harold Kilmer and Don McAlvay were credited with a "known burials" list for the cemetery in 1994. They showed approximately 50 burials dating back as far as 1907.

There was one set of infant twins listed that died about three months apart in 1910. Lots of other children were buried there in the years 1909 and 1910.

According to Kilmer and McAlvay's account the cemetery also contains the bodies of a pair of men who killed each other in a 1908 shoot-out about seven miles from the site. The two apparently were arguing over a fence line or a gate.

On this Veterans Day perhaps the most notable of those buried at the nearly forgotten plains cemetery were two Civil War veterans. One from the Union and one from the Confederacy.

Could be I'll need to get out there this long weekend and see Blacktower first-hand.

Karl Terry writes for Clovis Media Inc. Contact him at: [email protected]