GUYMON, Okla. (KFOR) – It is one of Oklahoma’s loneliest spots, 18 miles north of Guymon, just south of the Kansas state line, and right in the middle of No Man’s Land.
“Bare pasture out here,” says local resident Ed Burden.
He used to drive by this spot all the time, especially here, where in 1906, a veteran of the Union cause in the Civil War, Oliver B. Jeffries, was laid to rest.
Ed always wondered, ‘Why here?’
“I was just kind of amazed that it was out here in the middle of nowhere,” says Burden. “Back then I was young and just didn’t think much about it.”
Let the grass grow a few years.
Burden hadn’t passed through in a while until one day around Christmas, 2020, when he tried to find the old marker and almost didn’t.
“It was all covered up in weeds,” he recalls. “I thought it was on the wrong road until I finally realized where I was at and started stomping down the weeds around the headstone.”
Ed’s father served in Vietnam, his grandfather in World War II.
The family ‘Burden’ for Ed’s generation too on the care and preservation of this grave site.
“I thought it was time to do something,” he says. “Fix it up and make something to be proud of.”
As he worked, Ed posted a few pictures and questions to social media, specifically the Forgotten Oklahoma Facebook page.
They caught the attention of amateur genealogist Leslie Livingston, who wasn’t great at actually dirt work, but really good at digging through old archives.
“I just kept plugging away,” she says. “Who was this guy, and how did he end up here?”
They’re still working.
So far, they’ve learned Jeffries was the local dog catcher and city dump manager in Decatur, Ill., when he answered a promotional call for cheap land in the ‘paradise’ around Guymon, Oklahoma Territory.
“Many Decatur families were coming on these excursions, coming out here, and making claims,” she reveals.
He staked a claim.
So did a grown daughter and her husband.
On his way home from town one morning his bad heart beat its last.
They buried him on his daughter’s claim, a marble veterans marker placed in 1929.
Livingston says, “It was nice to come full circle and find that he is actually home.”
It is a lonely looking place now.
Prairie winds are unforgiving of short human memory.
But there is one spot plainly visible again where an old settler and Civil War veteran is not forgotten, rescued from the obscurity of high plains grass and a sweeping gale that never stops.
For more information on this story and many others go to the Forgotten Oklahoma Facebook page.