Cleburne Times-Review, Cleburne, TX

Cleburne

October 26, 2010

Once lost, now found

Relatives visit reclaimed graves near Grandview

A chance encounter, several months back, culminated in an emotional homecoming on Oct. 16.

Descendants of two Johnson County families for the first time met, so to speak, relatives whose whereabouts they had only recently discovered. The descendants of the Dendy and Evans families never met their respective ancestors in question for good reason. All four died more than a century ago.

Outside Grandview, tucked in the woods on land in rural Johnson County, sits the Dendy and Evans Cemetery. A cemetery descendants from both families said they learned about thanks to a June 18 Times-Review story.

Three gravestones marking four graves — two Dendys share a single stone — lay on the ground near their bases.

A man trekking a runaway cow, AWOL from a nearby property, “rediscovered” the cemetery and passed word along to Mitch Wadsworth, a self-described history buff who also lives nearby. Wadsworth contacted Doris Lanfear, president of the Johnson County Cemetery Association, and Johnson County Sheriff’s Office deputy Jim Sloan, who oversees inmate work crew members who maintain numerous cemeteries throughout the county.

A Times-Review article on the find led to phone calls and e-mails from family members on both sides who knew of their ancestors in question, but previously had no idea where they were buried.

“I knew [the Dendys] had to have been buried in Johnson County, but did not know where,” said Susan Nash, a Cleburne resident and Dendy descendant.

SuZann Stone, an Evans’ descendant, said she and her husband, Al Stone, were pleasantly shocked and surprised to see the story in the newspaper.

Laying among leaves and overgrowth, the three stones relay little information past the birth and death dates of L.M. Dendy, Sarah E. Dendy, Wm. H. Evans and John Evans. Wear and tear from age and the elements has rendered the birth date on John Evans’ stone illegible.

Sloan, from the square and compass insignia on his stone, pointed out that Wm. [William] Evans was a Mason.

Nash, the great-great-great granddaughter of Larkin Milton Dendy, and SuZann Stone, the great-granddaughter of William Evans and great-great-granddaughter of John Evans chimed in with additional family history.

Nash recalled the tragic Christmas season of 1876, which saw the death of Larkin and his 15-year-old daughter Sarah Dendy occur eight days apart on Dec. 20 and Dec. 29, respectively.

“I don’t know what they died of,” Nash said. “My great-grandmother’s family story just says they became ill and died, but not of what.”

Cassie Parmer, Sarah Dendy’s best friend, had planned to marry William Milton Dendy, Sarah’s brother, just before Christmas. Instead, they postponed their wedding to January. Conditions being too rainy and muddy to reach Cleburne to purchase material for a burial dress, Parmer gave her wedding dress so that Sarah Dendy could be buried in white, as was the custom at the time, said Nash, the great-great-granddaughter of William and Cassie Dendy.

On a lighter note, Stella Dendy Ragsdale, L.M. Dendy’s granddaughter recalled, in a written family history, Dendy’s wedding mishap. Engaged to Elizabeth Box, Dendy traveled to New Orleans where he paid $100 for a suit and $50 for boots. Dendy arrived home the night before his wedding day only to discover he had two boots for the same foot. Fortunately, Dendy’s brother-in-law, a shoemaker, soaked the sole of one boot in water overnight and placed it on a shoe last the next morning so it would fit.

The discovery of William H. Evans’ grave in Johnson County caught the Stones by surprise. They previously assumed he was buried somewhere in Tennessee given that a family tree, researched by Al Stone, lists that state as his birth and death location. Other records, however, list Evans’ 1877 marriage in Texas while 1880 census records list him as a Johnson County farmer.

Nash and the Stones initially said they did not know of any relationship between the Dendy and Evans families or how, or if, they knew each other. Mary Anne Dunn, L.M. Dendy’s great-granddaughter, subsequently discovered a family tie through the marriage of Irene Parmer and Billy Evans.

Whether the family members lived near where they are now buried remains a mystery. Other than the gravestones, the wooded area retains no signs of previous habitation.

The adjacent property owners, Carl and Delma Abt, said they discovered the cemetery soon after purchasing their property in the mid 1970s.

“It wasn’t as grown up back here then,” Carl Abt said.

Both said they wondered about, but were never able to confirm any possible descendants still in the area.

“I contacted some local people named Dendy years ago, but they never really got back with me,” Delma Abt said. “We’ve taken a few people over to see [the cemetery] over the years.”

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