Oakwood Cemetery was established in 1873 as a public cemetery for Denison. It was divided into sections, with areas designated for Protestants, Catholics, Jews, Blacks, and Masons. This working-class cemetery became the final resting place of many people who lived within the two city blocks of today's Eisenhower Birthplace State Historic Site. In celebration of Texas Archeology Month, we're going to explore some of their graves to learn more about these people's lives and learn what you can do to help preserve your local cemetery.
Residents of the Eisenhower Birthplace
The house on the corner of East Day and Lamar Street was built in 1877 and was occupied until 1946. Many people lived in the home, including:
Francis M. Walker
She was born in 1825 in Alabama. Sometime in the late 1830s or early 1840s, she married Noah Caleb Lindsay (buried next to her). The couple had nine children. Sometime in 1852 or 1853, the family moved to Titus County, Texas, with their extended family. Details are fuzzy, but the Lindsays first attempted to move to Denison in the 1870s. Noah Lindsay died in 1879, and Frances moved back to Titus County. In 1883, she decided to give Denison a second chance. Francis Lindsay purchased the home at Lamar and Day in 1883. She lived in the house for a year before she died in 1884.
James A. Redmon
He was born in 1863 in West Virginia. By 1880, his family had moved to Hunt County and farmed outside Greenville. In 1886, he became a locomotive fireman for the Katy and was soon promoted to engineer in 1890. He married Fannie Edwards in 1889, and the newlywed couple found lodging with a family named Eisenhower. James Redman ran for the doctor when Dwight D. Eisenhower was born. Fannie Redman died in 1892, and the couple had no children.
He remarried in 1894 to Nettie D. Jackson, and they had six children. He worked as a railroad engineer until his retirement in 1929 and was an active member of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers. He died in 1945, just before the city bought the Birthplace.
Frances A. Lane Wertz
She was born in 1860 in Illinois. She married Douglas Mullen in 1880, and they had one son Edgar Mullen. The couple divorced sometime in the late 1880s/early 1890s, leaving Wertz to raise Edgar alone. She ran various boarding houses in Illinois before moving to Denison around 1912. She purchased the Birthplace in 1914.
She remarried in 1916 to John Wertz, an employee with the Katy Railroad. She lived in the house until she died in 1942.
Edgar H. Mullen
He was born in 1882 in Illinois. Around 1912, Mullen moved to Denison with his mother, Frances Mullen. In 1914, Francis Mullen purchased the Eisenhower Birthplace. Edgar Mullen lived in the Birthplace for 32 years and was the longest occupant of the house.
His World War I draft card lists Mullen as "partially deaf."
Residents of the Visitor Center
The house at 609 S. Lamar Avenue, today used as our Visitor Center, was connected to three generations of a single family:
William Etzel was born in 1860 in Round Top. He farmed with his father in Fayette County before eventually moving to Denison. Around 1901, Etzel began to purchase property on the Lamar block between Nelson and Shepherd. He also rented the Red Store, located at 600 S. Lamar, and opened a grocery store. By 1910, Etzel owned most of the property on the block.
In 1908, he married Alpha Corker Traweek, a widow with three children. Alpha Etzel inherited the property when he died in 1917, including the current visitor's center and the Red Store.
Alpha Corker Etzel
She was born in 1865 in Columbia, Texas. She married George Traweek sometime in the late 1880s, and they had three children before he died in 1897. Sometime between 1897 and 1908, she moved to Denison and, in 1908, married her second husband, William Etzel.
Monterey (Monte) Bales Jones
Monte Bales Jones was born in 1892 in Texas. She married her first husband, Manual Bales, in 1907 and had three children: Alpha Louise, Frances Elizabeth, and William Manuel. The couple divorced in the 1920s, and Jones moved into 609 South Lamar Ave.). She worked as a clerk in a music store before eventually opening an antique shop in the Red Store.
During World War II, her son William died in the Philippines. His death led her to be involved with the Gold Star Mothers, one of the organizations that ran the Birthplace in the 1950s. She was an active hostess for the site and was one of the key organizers of Eisenhower's 1956 visit.
Alpha Louise Bales
She was born in 1909 to Monte and Manuel Bales. When her parents divorced in the 1920s, she moved into 609 S. Lamar (the current Eisenhower Birthplace visitor center) with her mother. She helped operate the antiques business in the Red Store building. She lived there the rest of her life, holding numerous clerk positions before working at a local bank.
Frances Elizabeth Bales Turnbull
She was born in 1912 to Monte and Manuel Bales. When her parents divorced in the 1920s, she moved into 609 S. Lamar (The current Eisenhower Birthplace visitor center) with her mother. After graduating high school, she went to Baylor University and became a nurse. In 1957, she married William Turnbull; however, the marriage ended in divorce. Frances sold the family’s property which is now part of the Eisenhower Birthplace.
Other Residents of the Street
She was born in about 1847 in Alabama. By 1870, she had married her husband Isaac Sims, and they were farming in Fannin County. An Isaac Sims is listed on property tax rolls in Fannin County, although it is difficult to tell if this is the same person. By 1900, Ester lived with her husband at 613 South Lamar. They were one of two black families living on the 600 block of South Lamar.
The 1900 census lists her as keeping house, which was the most common occupation for women in 1900. She would have spent her day cooking, cleaning, and managing the house while her husband worked.
Are you interested in preserving your local cemetery?
Reach out to the Cemetery Preservation Program through the Texas Historical Commission (What Can I Do? | THC.Texas.gov - Texas Historical Commission). The program provides tools and resources to help with everything from maintenance/conservation to how to declare your local cemetery a Historic Texas Cemetery.