Discovering the past

A headstone for William Browder Lee is shown at the old Hird Cemetery, located 1 mile north of Staples on North Country Club Road. The Chickasaw Nation cemetery preservation program recently discovered the cemetery.

The Chickasaw Nation’s cemetery preservation program has unearthed a forgotten piece of Ada’s history.

The program, which preserves and maintains abandoned Chickasaw family cemeteries within the Nation’s 13-county jurisdiction, recently discovered the old Hird Cemetery in a grove of trees about 1 mile north of Staples on North Country Club Road.

The story began two years ago, when the program was trying to locate the cemetery, cemetery research specialist Mark Micozzi said Thursday. Staffers knew there was a small town named Hird in the area in the early 1900s, based on old survey maps, and they believed the cemetery was on the town’s east side.

“We had just recently acquired a 1902 plat map from the historical society, and we used our special techniques that we do,” Micozzi said, referring to the Pontotoc County Historical and Genealogical Society. “And lo and behold, we thought it (the cemetery) was located in the spot where it is now.”

He said program staffers went to visit the area where the cemetery was located, where a development was going in. A construction crew let the staffers look in the grove of trees in the back yard, and they found the cemetery with a few vertical headstones sticking up and other sandstone blocks lying on the ground.

Staffers determined that the cemetery was not Chickasaw, based on names from an old list from the historical society, so they cataloged the information and filed it away.

More recently, a woman named Anita Bryan recently submitted an application for services form to the cemetery preservation program, Micozzi said. He added that Bryan has some kind of connection to a man named William Browder Lee, who is buried in the cemetery.

The program reopened its file on the Hird Cemetery because Lee’s relatives wanted to clean the area up, Micozzi said. Program staffers asked if they could accompany the family, document the cemetery and see what else might be there.

The family arrived Wednesday in Ada to begin the cleanup effort, and Micozzi joined them so he could document the site. The cleanup continued Thursday, and Lee’s relatives will conduct a short ceremony at 10 a.m. today to dedicate a headstone for him.

Micozzi urged anyone who knows more about the cemetery or the town of Hird will contact the historical society, so that information will be available for others to use.

“I’m just trying to get the word out that if your family has connections to this cemetery, that it is still there,” he said.

Eric Swanson is the City Hall and general assignment reporter for The Ada News. He spent 15 years working at the Dodge City Daily Globe in Dodge City, Kansas, before joining The Ada News’ staff in 2012.

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