Lelah Squire and Arnett Cemetery

Newspaper article by Mable Scott
Unknown publication and date
Clipping contributed by Scott Jacob

Many complain about the cost of postage. Not me. Not when you can travel such distances for eight cents. Sometimes it is a round trip ticket back where you started from as in the present case.

Capper's ran an item about two men making headstones for an old cemetery simply as an act of consideration for those reposing in it without the benefit of markers. Lelah Squire of Blackwell sent in the report and, on impulse, I contacted her about the matter. It turned out that the men and the cemetery were in our own vicinity. Nelson Horner, Lelah's uncle, and John Pratt have been miles-apart neighbors for most of their lives. John has now moved into Arnett near his son, Arnold, but Nelson still lives on the place where his mother homesteaded South and West of Arnett.

Boundaries were quite different back in those days. Woodward County extended clear to the Texas line. Grand was the county seat and Lelah Squire's father was editor-owner of THE DAY COUNTY PROGRESS, one of the two county seat papers, and he was in favor of putting the county seat on the Gage-Grand Highway, where the Collins family had a post office in their front room. They called it Arnett in honor of one of their daughters. After Arnett won the honor, the fine courthouse was built mostly from the $25,000 given by Woodward County on the share of land being annexed between Woodward and Ellis Counties, it was not until 1909 that the county offices were moved to Arnett into spaces here and there until such time as a new courthouse could be constructed.

Arnett was booming. There was The Christie Drug Store, two or three general merchandising stores, the Baldwin Livery and Feed, a branch of the Gage bank owned by Jake Pryor and operated by Charley Johnson and many other businesses were taking hold. Miss Squire's father who had practiced law from his original homestead moved to Arnett later becoming County Judge for two years.

While it was still Day County, John Pratt's folks settled in the Allmon Community. His dad was L.W. Pratt and another resident of the neighborhood was the Dan Rowland family, one of whose girls John latter married. John was a member of the school board. At one time there were more than a hundred children in the district.

During those early years there were no undertakers or many burial grounds. Those who died were placed in crude homemade coffins and often laid to rest on the homegrounds. The widow of a Methodist preacher, Mrs. Thomas, who had come from Adair County, Missouri, to homestead a quarter of land in 1902 saw the need and donated a plot, over an acre, in the corner of her place for a cemetery with the stipulation that nobody should ever be charged for the service. So it was used by many of the early settlers. John Pratt's wife was buried there. As his children grew up and had families of their own John spent a lot of time working on the upkeep of the cemetery. His children are: Guy Pratt, Borger, Texas; Arnold Pratt of Arnett; Lois Ferris, Dearpark, Texas; and Erma Lee Teter, Pasadena, Texas. He has nine grandchildren and ten great grandchildren.

Mr. Pratt who will be 83 on March 31 and Nelson Horner who is 85 1/2 (and two very trim and spritely gentlemen they are) talked to me this week at Mr. Horner's farm. Nelson's mother homesteaded the place in this same section in 1903. He had just returned from a visit with his children at Oklahoma City. They are Kendall Horner and Elda Mae Workman. While he enjoyed seeing his children he admits the City doesn't compare with the enjoyment of country living even though he doesn't do the actual farming anymore. He and Mr. Pratt often talked about conditions at the cemetery.

(Missing part of the article)...woven wire fence and a sturdy metal gate. So for two years or more they obtained information when and where they could as to the identification of the various graves. They even moved one child's grave which had been wrongly placed in a aisle. Then they proceeded to experiment with a cement formula to make monuments resembling marble.

Mr. Horner gives Mr. Pratt most of the credit for actual construction of the markers. He used a wooden form making a slanted top where he could imprint the names and dates on the stones. These vary in size from taller ones for adults and short ones for the children. All were set on a substantial cement base and the writing is quite legible although Mr. Pratt claims it is not a very expert job. Actually, they have not kept account of the number of markers but they did identify all of the dead. I visited the cemetery and found it beautifully kept and around thirty of the monuments are the ones these men have made. Other record names on their granite surfaces of the people who first tamed this beautiful country of The Antelope Hills the numerous creeks, valleys and acres of grazing land. It would be a great shame if future generations did not preserve the charitable work Mr. Pratt and Mr. Horner have added to this space.

As for Lelah Squire who gave me a lot of the background on this story -- you will hear more later, I hope. She has been quite a noted newspaperwoman herself having worked for the Scripps-Howard newspapers, been a China correspondent for the London Times, as well as secretary to the owner of THE ADVERTISER in Honolulu. She describes herself as "just an old lady plodding along about her daily living, being a sarcastic, trying person to the good people with whom she associates." Pure malarky, Lelah. Anybody who writes such zestful letters could not be anything but a fascinating personality. The heck with flying carpets when you meet such interesting people riding on a stamp.

Notes: Arnett is in Ellis County, Oklahoma

Lelah's lineage is:
Ephraim Hiram Squire
.....Ephraim Marion Squire
..........Abraham Lincoln Squire
...............Lelah Patience Squire


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