Thursday, January 22, 2009

A Hidden Graveyard on a Well-Trodden Path

South Adams Street in Fulton is perhaps the busiest street in Fulton. Each morning heavy traffic comes into Fulton from the south and west – factory workers, office works and college students heading north into town, all making the street quite congested. Along this stretch of highway are fast food restaurants, auto supplies stores, offices, businesses and industries. Within a stone’s throw west of this busy scene is a shaded peaceful oasis – a small spot of hallowed ground.

The old Stokley Roberts Graveyard contains perhaps seven or eight graves – all members of the Roberts extended family. Surnames in this old family cemetery include Roberts, Mize and Bowen. At one time during the 19th century, this land was well south of the town of Fulton. The 160-acre farm belonged to the John Walker family. Walker purchased the place during the early 1840’s. After the death of the Widow Walker, the 160-acre farm was sold during at estate auction at the door of the county courthouse on December 2, 1872. As A.P. Gaither banged the gavel declaring the property sold, Stokley Roberts was the new owner of the property. Paying $830, Roberts was the highest bidder and he soon moved his family to the old farm overlooking the Fulton and Aberdeen Public Road.

Roberts was an Itawamba County lawman. During the Civil War he was head of the Home Guard and during Reconstruction, served as a United States Marshal for northeastern Mississippi. Many accounts of him fighting outlaws have been passed down through the years. He had married into the prominent Spearman family of Tremont before the war, marrying Laney Spearman, daughter of Elijah Spearman, one of Itawamba County’s largest planters on Bull Mountain Creek north of Tremont.

Stokley Roberts and his wife left Itawamba County around 1899 heading west like so many other Itawambians. He settled in Coryell County, Texas. On a Monday morning, January 25, 1904 his body was found in the Leon River near his home about three miles north of Gatesville. The evening before he had left his home to go across the river to check on some cows and hadn’t returned. It was thought he had fallen in the river and drowned.

Today the old Stokley Roberts family graveyard is all that remains of the old Roberts farm south of Fulton. The constant sound of nearby traffic on Fulton’s busy South Adams Street interrupts the peaceful solitude of this little hallowed knoll in the edge of Itawamba County’s piney woods.


Mona Robinson Mills said...

Wow, Bob, what an interesting find and story. I wonder if some former Unionist bent on revenge caught up with Stokely out in Texas or if he died of natural causes.

Bob Franks said...

Mona, I've often wondered that, as some other local researchers have. With his long career, not only being the head of the home guard during the war, and then a U.S. Federal Marshal, lawman and detective during the rough Reconstruction era afterwards, it does make one wonder.

Anonymous said...

Is there a list available of who is buried in this cemetery? I am a descendant of Stokley Roberts.