Group unveils markers for 2 gravesites
May 23, 2005
— For decades, those wishing to visit the gravesites of historic
Chambers County figures Robert and Florence Mae Swinney could not. On
Sunday, however, they could not only see the sites, but also meet them
in person — thanks to some actors.
The Chambers County
Historical Commission unveiled new monuments at the recently discovered
gravesites of the Swinneys at the Anahuac Cemetery and also held the
first of what they say will be several historical re-enactments.
Wheat, chairman of the commission, played Robert Swinney. Swinney was
the former county treasurer, justice of the peace, Anahuac postmaster
and deputy sheriff who died in 1931. Karla Dean played his wife, who
died in 1929. Both
were dressed in period costumes.
vice chairman Bob Scherer, who also is county district clerk, said some
members of the commission began studying the Swinneys but could not
find their gravesites. The markers could have been made of wood and
rotted, among other possibilities, Jackson said.
a map of the cemetery and found the unmarked site. They determined
there were bodies buried there, and the commission bought headstones
for the Swinneys.
Jackson told the story of a woman who married
the love of her life, but felt isolated on the South Chambers County
ranch until they moved to Anahuac, where they prospered both
financially and socially.
Wheat told the story of a man who got
involved in politics and then business. Swinney not only held a few
elected offices in the early 20th century, but he also was a major
shareholder in The Progress, a city newspaper still in operation, and
Chambers County State Bank.
Swinney’s story segued into a big project on the horizon of the historical commission: locating the body of Sheriff John Frost.
told in gruesome detail about how Swinney was one of the last people to
see Frost, the only sheriff in county history to die in the line of
duty. Frost stayed with the Swinneys in 1900 the night before he
attempted to evict three squatters at the Smith Point estate of Col.
Swinney, a deputy sheriff, offered to help, but
Frost refused, saying he wanted to end rumors that he was afraid of the
“Little did I know he was headed to his doom,” said Wheat as Swinney.
Residents found his horse with a bloodied saddle the next day.
squatters admitted to the murder, but told conflicting stories on the
location of the body. The body was not found before the trial, and the
case was thrown out.
Later, a body was found in the mud on the
coast of East Bay. The sheriff had a distinguishing feature: he was
missing fingers on one hand. That hand on the body, however, was hacked
off, Wheat said.
Scherer said the commission hopes to find the
body and identify it conclusively. They believe it might be in the
pauper’s section of a cemetery in Wallisville. They might be able to
use modern technology, such as DNA evidence, to identify the body.
“Someday, we hope the body will come forward and be given a Christian burial,” Wheat said.
Scherer said the commission hopes to hold more of the re-enactments at various cemeteries in Chambers County.
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