Atoka Cemetery, Novice, Coleman County, Texas

(Click photo for larger image.)

(Click photo for larger image.)

Taken 27 May, 2011

Contributed by Lynn Pollak, Wimberley, Texas

(Click photo for larger image.)

The Errant Headstone of Mary B. SARTOR

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On this page: Mystery, Research, Narrative, Research and Researchers

Latest update: Friday, June 24, 2011

The final resting place for Mary B. SARTOR is a mystery with a twist...


Sisters Paula BOOTH HAYNES, Mary Beth BOOTH STROUD, and Lillie Roberta BOOTH BROWN

have asked to honor their Great Aunt Mary B. SARTOR by bringing her headstone back to Atoka Cemetery.


There are six SARTORs documented as buried in Atoka Cemetery -- siblings and kin of Mary B. SARTOR.

In May 2011,

received the following email: "Last

month, someone brought a

headstone for Mary B. Sartor

(1873 - 1910) to the Wimberley

Cemetery here in Hays County.  

The headstone was left leaning against a tree. Mary was not buried in

Wimberley Cemetery!  No family members were buried here.  Her death

certificate states that she died in Runnels County, but does not give a

cemetery. Her brother Thomas J. Sartor signed the death certificate and

stated that she had been living in Marie, Runnels County, for the last 6

months and died of T.B... We'd like to reunite Mary's headstone with her



• Wimberley Cemetery, Old Kyle Rd, Wimberley,

Hays Co, TEXAS, 78676

• GPS Coordinates: Latitude: 29.99929,

Longitude: -98.09090


• Wimberley Cemetery is about 220 miles

from Atoka Cemetery

• Locations of the Errant Headstone Mystery

Mapped on GOOGLE.

TEXAS County Map


Mary B.'s younger sister Effie was buried in Atoka Cemetery

in 1913, just three years after Mary B. died.

Enlarge the photo above of Mary B.'s headstone and

this photos of Effie's headstone and study the similarities:

• the square shape

• the flower decoration in the upper stage-right corner

• the block lettering, and the italicized "Dau. of"

However, Roberta BOOTH BROWN, the great

niece of Mary B, observed the New Energy Cemetery

headstone of Mary B.'s little sister Bessie also has the

same lettering and italics.

• the first names justified with the next line but offset from

the rest of the data lines

• the phrase "Dau. of J. Y & L.C."

• the line under the death date

Next, examine the bottom of Mary B's headstone; it looks as if it was installed in a base or in the ground and then remove;

notice, Effie's headstone is install in a base.

• "When we noted '(rock)' at the Atoka Cemetery for the 1988 cemetery survey, what we observed

would have been a rock, not a cut stone or a base of a tombstone.  As we skipped a space between

the Sartor and Shelton graves, this rock could have been a short distance from them or a long

distance before the space between the rock and Angeline Ballew's grave.  Have you probed this

area for any underground stones?  Her type of stone usually had a pretty substantial base and

would normally be obvious without probing, but one never knows."

email from Ralph TERRY, 05 June 2011

• Update 16 June 2011: "The monument business owner ( Roberta has his name and info)  said that

he did not believe the headstone had ever been set.  It is identical to Effie's headstone." email from Mary

Beth BOOTH STROUD, 16 June 2011

In addition Mary B's headstone is described as small enough to be moved.

• "Hers is small for a headstone, about 2.5 feet tall and about 6 inches thick.  I would think that two or

three people could pick it up easily… The headstone is very clean." email from CANNON POLLAK, 30 May 2011

• (For an understanding of the size of the Errant Headstone, examine the photos of the Errant Headstone

returning home to Atoka Cemetery.)

And Mary B's headstone is in good condition. "I saw Mary's headstone not long after it was abandoned in Wimberley

Cemetery and took a photo of it some time in early April. The headstone was clean when it was abandoned in Wimberley

Cemetery; nothing needed to be cleaned on it by the Wimberley Cemetery members on Clean-up Day last Saturday [28 May

2011].  I was there.  It doesn't even have much dust on it.  It is not "brand new" though; it does have worn edges.  Overall,

very good to excellent condition.  It looks like a headstone that perhaps was on a grave for 40-50 years.  And I say that only

because of its worn, rounded edges.  I think it's marble. Its face is not scratched except for a little roughness near the upper

corners which are worn and rounded." email from CANNON POLLAK, 31 May 2011

Mary B's headstone was not included in the TERRY 1980's survey of Atoka Cemetery, so if the headstone was removed, it

was removed before the 1980s.


Consumption (TB) was thought to be hereditary until the end of the ninetieth century, when a French doctor proved TB was

contagious and a German doctor discovered the bacteria that caused TB, giving hope there was a cure. Two of Mary B's

brothers, living in the area around Atoka Cemetery, heard the news of a TB sanatorium in the developing town of Sanatorium,

Tom Green Co, TEXAS, just outside San Angelo and near Novice. Around 1910, what was left of Mary B's family living in

Crockett, Houston Co, TEXAS -- on their mortgage-free, SARTOR-owned farm, headed by brother Thomas Jefferson --

brought her west on the news of hope. In the May 1910 Census they lived on a rented farm in Runnels Co, TEXAS. Sadly

Mary B died in June 1910 of TB and was buried in Atoka Cemetery; Mary B's brothers and in-laws who lived around Atoka

Cemetery had already chosen Atoka Cemetery as their family place of burial, and so buried Mary B where they planned to join

her some day. Soon after Mary B's death, he sister Effie contracted and died of "gastric cancer of the stomach" in 1913 in

Tokeen (aka Content), Runnels Co, TEXAS and was buried in Atoka Cemetery. And soon after Effie's death, brothers Thomas

Jefferson and John Young Jr. and Mother Lizzie return to the SARTOR farm in Crockett, Houston Co, TEXAS.


• To date, there are no SARTORs or SARTOR kin buried in Wimberley Cemetery.

• There are six SARTORs and three SARTOR kin buried in Atoka Cemetery.

+5 Mary Bates SARTOR's younger brother James Gross SARTOR, his wife Lillie Mae (May) WATKINS SARTOR, and two of

their children John Robert SARTOR, Polly SARTOR FERK are buried in AC. In addition, James Gross's little granddaughter

thru son Earl, Mattie M SARTOR, is buried in Atoka Cemetery.

+1 Mary Bates SARTOR's younger sister Effie Cleora SARTOR was buried in Atoka Cemetery May 1913.

+3  Mary Bates SARTOR's younger sister Pearl W. SARTOR SHELTON DAVIS and her twin babies Elma (Elmer) and Velma

SHELTON are buried in Atoka Cemetery

The TERRY 1980's Cemetery Survey of Atoka Cemetery indicates eight of the nine SARTORs -- Polly SARTOR FERK was

buried after the survey -- are buried consecutively.

with an "unknown grave (rock)" nearby.

Could the "rock" be the remains of a headstone base, deteriorated a hundred years?

Mary B. SARTOR died in 1910, and would have been the first SARTOR to be buried in AC -- if she was buried in AC. Was

Mary Bates buried in AC with a plan to place a headstone later?


The database page for Mary B. provides her vitals.

• Mary B. SARTOR was born 08 December 1873 in Union Co, SOUTH CAROLINA to John Young SARTOR Sr. (b. 1841) and

Mary Elizabeth Catherine "Lizzie" GROSS SARTOR ( b 1852). Mary was the second child and first daughter who lived into


• In the 1880 Census, Mary was enumerated with her family in Boiling Springs, Wilcox Co, ALABAMA.

• The SARTOR family immigrated to TEXAS around the turn of the Twentieth Century.

• Mary B SARTOR died in Runnels Co, TEXAS 1910; Mary's Death Certificate indicates she

lived "In the State" of TEXAS  "17 years," so the immigration to TEXAS was about 1893.

• Younger sister Effie died 12 May 1913; Effie's Death Certificate indicated she lived "In Texas:

5 years, 6 months," which indicates the family immigration to TEXAS was the turn of 1908.

• In the September 1912 Application for Confederate Pension for Use of Widows, Mary B.'s mother Lizzie

indicated she had lived in TEXAS "since January 1880"; however, her family was enumerated

in the 1880 Census in Wilcox, ALABAMA. This immigration date is suspect.

• Mary was enumerated with her family in the 1900, Houston Co, TEXAS Census, where the SARTORs owned their farm,

mortgage free.

• Mary's DC indicates she lived at her place of death for six months, so at the turn of 1910, the SARTOR family moved from

Houston County to Runnels County.

• In the September 1912 Application for Confederate Pension for Use of Widows, Mary B.'s mother Lizzie

indicated she had lived "Three years. Tokeen, Texas [aka Content, Runnels Co, TEXAS]," which

supports the the SARTOR move from Houston County to Runnels County in about 1909-10.

Perhaps the SARTOR family moved from East TEXAS to Runnels Co, TEXAS for the dryer west TEXAS weather, which is

more beneficial to TB patients. Perhaps the SARTORs moved because of several TB Sanatoriums near Atoka Cemetery.

• "SANATORIUM, TEXAS. Sanatorium is in Tom Green County sixteen miles northwest of San Angelo

on U.S. Highway 87. It was never an incorporated town, instead, it was a relatively self-sufficient

tuberculosis sanatorium. The postmark "Sanatorium, Texas" began with the opening of a post

office on the campus in 1919 and disappeared on October 7, 1965, when the post office closed.

• This RootsWeb family tree indicates there was a tuberculosis sanatorium near Miles,

Runnels County, TEXAS "Ola Corrinne GIBSON 337,338,339 was born on 28 May 1879 in

Tupelo or Aberdeen, Mississippi. She died on 14 May 1908 in Miles, Runnels County, Texas,

at age 28. 340 She was buried in Miles, Runnels County, Texas. She died from childbirth

complications and is buried near the tuberculosis sanatorium where the family resided at her death."

• Here is another interesting GenForum reference to a TB sanatorium in Tom Green County.

"An elderly relative told me that there is an old cemetery at Carlsbad where most of the patients

from the Sanatorium were buried, unless the relatives could afford to have them taken somewhere

else for burial. The Carlsbad Cemetery closed in the early 1950's when it was full."

NOTE: Thomas Jefferson SARTOR's World War I Draft Registration Card (, signed 12 Sept 1918, indicates he

was back in Crockett, Houston Co, TEXAS, and Thomas Jefferson, mother and brother were enumerated in Houston County

during the 1920 Census, making it easier to believe the SARTORs travelled to Runnels County for Mary's health.

According to Paula BOOTH HAYNES' family story of the SARTOR migration, Mary's younger brothers James Gross SARTOR

and Henry Ezekiel SARTOR also moved their families to the area around Atoka Cemetery.

• Mary was enumerated with her family in the 1910, Runnels Co, TEXAS Census; they lived on a rented farm. The 1910

Census was taken on 18 May, 1910, less than a month before Mary died, and Thomas J SARTOR -- the informant on Mary

B.'s Death Certificate --  was the head of the family.

Death Certificate (DC).

• Mary was about 36.5 when she died 02 June 1910 in Runnels Co, TEXAS from Tuberculosis.

• Her younger brother Thomas Jefferson "Tom" SARTOR was the DC Informant and lived in

Marie, Runnels Co, TEXAS.

• Mary contracted TB "near Coleman."

• Length of Residence (For Hospitals, Institutions, Transients, or Recent Residence) At place of death: 6 months

• The physician who signed the DC and "attended the deceased from March 18 1910, to

May 30, 1910" was from "Bronte [Coke Co, TEXAS]"

• Former or usual residence: Crockett [Houston Co, TEXAS]

Obituary - "I searched the only Coleman newspaper for the late May - late June 1910 time period and found no obituary for

Mary Sartor.  There were very few local obituaries given during that time." email from Ralph TERRY, 05 June 2011

Could Mary B. have been buried with her father in New Energy Cemetery, Belott, Houston County, TEXAS?

Mary B.'s father, John Young SARTOR Sr., died 16 Mar 1906 and was the first SARTOR buried in New Energy Cemetery. Ten

other SARTORs have followed. Chronologically, Mary B was the next to die after her father; she died 02 June 1910 in Runnels

Co, TEXAS from Tuberculosis. Did the SARTOR family have Mary B's body sent back to Houston County to be buried next to

her father? There is no evidence - direct or circumstantial -- to support this theory. In fact, Lynn Pollack contacted New Energy

Cemetery management, and they concur with the theory Mary B was not buried in New Energy Cemetery.

"I just talked with Glen Walker, an older gentleman who is charge of New Energy Cemetery in Houston County near

Crockett, Texas.  He went to the New Energy Cemetery at 7:00 tonight and studied the Sartor grave sites there. These

graves sites include those of Mary's parents John Young Sartor and Lizzie Gross Sartor as well as the grave of her

brother Thomas Jefferson Sartor.

"Mr. Walker grew up next door to Thomas Jefferson Sartor, Mary B. Sartor's brother.  He knew Tom as a neighbor all

his life until Tom's death in 1958. Tom Sartor’s house is about 500 yards from his own. Tom planted 2-3 acres in

fruit trees. The trees are still alive and bearing fruit. Tom’s house though is abandoned, and weeds are everywhere.

"Mr. Walker does not believe that Mary B. Sartor was buried in New Energy Cemetery.  He said that there is no sign

of a missing headstone or even a space for a grave without a headstone among the Sartor family group.  He

asked me to describe the headstone which I did.  He said that none of the Sartor headstones look like Mary's.  I told

him about Effie's stone in Atoka which looks much like Mary's.  He thinks we are doing the right thing in taking the

headstone to Atoka Cemetery.  To quote Mr. Walker, 'Sounds like that's where she ought to be.'"

email from Lynn CANNON POLLAK, 12 June 2011

Why would Mary B. have been buried in Atoka Cemetery?

As mentioned above, Mary B.'s younger brother James Gross SARTOR and his wife Lillie Mae WATKINS SARTOR are both

buried in Atoka Cemetery, and it was Lillie's family who brought the SARTORs to Atoka Cemetery.  Lillie's mother was


[Note: Margaret Jane BIRDWELL and her family were enumerated in the 1860 Houston County,

TEXAS Census, so the BIRDWELLs were established in Houston County, forty years before the

SARTORs were enumerated in the 1900 Houston County, TEXAS Census.]

Margaret Jane BIRDWELL YARBOUGH WATKINS -- Mary B.'s younger brother's mother-in-law -- was the  3X1R cousin of

Elijah Garner BIRDWELL. Elijah Garner "Eli" BIRDWELL, the head of the BIRDWELL clan buried in Atoka Cemetery, was

buried in March 1910 --  just a few months before Mary B. died in June 1910.

[Note: The Immigration of the Atoka Cemetery BIRDWELLs to TEXAS. Elijah is from the

Moses BIRDWELLs, and Margaret Jane is from the John BIRDWELLs.]

Mary B's brothers and in-laws who lived around Atoka Cemetery had already chosen Atoka Cemetery as their family place of

burial, and so buried Mary B where they planned to join her some day.

There is a strong evidence that Mary B. SARTOR was possibly -- and probably -- buried in the "unknown grave

(rock)" consecutive to the other SARTORs buried in Atoka Cemetery.

• Mary lived, was ill and died near Atoka Cemetery.

• Mary's kin-in-law, the BIRDWELLs, had already chosen Atoka Cemetery as  their family cemetery.

• There is evidence of a SARTOR family plan to bury SARTORs in Atoka Cemetery. Mary B.'s younger sister Effie Cleora

SARTOR was the first SARTOR documented as buried in Atoka Cemetery; Effie died 12 May 1913 at the age of 25. If Mary B.

was buried in Atoka Cemetery, she would have been buried three years earlier in 1910.

• In addition, there is visual evidence of the significant similarities of Mary B's headstone and of her younger sister Effie's


Why was Mary B's headstone removed from Atoka Cemetery?

One theory is built on Mary B's death from Tuberculous, a contagious and therefore secretive illness.

A Brief History of TB: Texas Dept. of State Health Services

A Brief History of Organized Efforts Against Tuberculosis in the State of Texas:

Diseases of the Chest, April 1941

Perhaps Mary B's family had Mary B buried without a headstone, planning to place her headstone after the cause of her death

had faded in the local memory. And, instead of finding its home in Atoka Cemetery, the headstone travelled with a migrating


A second -- and better built -- theory contends Mary B. was buried in Atoka Cemetery with a headstone in a base -- like the

base in which sister Effie's similar headstone was placed three years after Mary B died. Based on a current description of Mary

B's headstone (in the HEADSTONE section), the headstone stayed in place for several decades, even half a century. Mid-

twentieth century, a SARTOR relative visiting Atoka Cemetery found Mary B's headstone base broken -- damaged by time, by

nature, or by vandalism.  Not wanting to leave the headstone for further destruction or deterioration while waiting for the repair

of the base, the family removed the headstone from Atoka Cemetery. And family or historical events diverted the headstone's

return. However, the base remained and weathered for a century, leaving what was described during the 1980's Atoka

Cemetery survey by TERRY as a "rock" marker, near the graves of eight other SARTORs.

No matter the reason for removal, Mary B's headstone does not look as weathered as Effie's headstone, supporting the theory

Mary B's headstone has not been outside in the elements for its full century.

Why is Mary B's headstone leaning against a tree in Wimberley Cemetery, Hays Co, TEXAS?

This part of the mystery is more illusive.

• Did a resident of the Wimberely area find the headstone in a newly purchased property, abandoned elsewhere, as part of an

estate, and decided to rid himself of the burden by dumping the Errant Headstone in the nearest cemetery or in a cemetery

where he was least likely to get caught?

"Mary's headstone was leaned against a tree that is next to a cemetery road. Unless you were right there,

it would look as if someone had parked to visit a grave.  Her gravestone is not large, and the drop-off could

be easily accomplished in a minute or two.   That part of the cemetery is difficult to see from either of the two

roads that pass the cemetery property because the cemetery grounds slope down to a creek."

email from Lynn CANNON POLLAK, 12 Jun 2011

• Although brother Thomas Jefferson returned to the Houston County, family-owned farm after Mary B. and Effie died (1918

WW1 draft registration and 1920 Census), Thomas Jefferson died in Burnet County just north of Hays County, and was taken

back to Houston County for burial in the SARTOR family plots in New Energy Cemetery.  And similarly, youngest brother John

Young Jr., who traveled with the family from Houston County to Runnels County and back to Houston County, died in

Lampasas County, just north of Burnet County, and was taken back to the New Energy Cemetery in Houston County. Mary

Beth BOOTH STROUD provided the Lampasas County - Burnet County Connection of the SARTOR Family. So both Thomas

Jefferson and John Young Jr. died close to Hays County where Mary B's errant headstone was found. Could Mary B.'s

headstone have traveled with Thomas Jefferson and/or John Young Jr.?

Did a SARTOR family member "inherit" the Errant Headstone and, having neither the time, nor the energy, nor the perspicacity

to find its associated grave, leave the Errant Headstone for others to shepherd home?


• The following SARTORs have contributed family documents and family stories.





Charles Gene JOHNSON checked the SARTOR family Bible and reported it does not mention

where Mary B. is buried.

Gladys Virginia DUREN SHERER

Belinda NEEL ALLEE of Callaway Allee Funeral Home in Crockett

• Volunteers from Atoka Cemetery Association

• Volunteers from Wimberely Cemetery, including Lynn CANNON POLLAK

• Volunteers from FindAGrave, including Carol Anne JOHNSON HOCH

Ralph TERRY, a historian of Coleman County, checked his research and found no additional information to add

to the above proof.

Stevens Funeral Home referenced the Coleman County Cemetery Book.