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The Untold Story of a Civil War Cemetery

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb
The Truth Network Radio
January 19, 2024 3:01 am

The Untold Story of a Civil War Cemetery

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb

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January 19, 2024 3:01 am

On this episode of Our American Stories, Nancy Bro of the GAR Cemetery in Miami, Oklahoma shares the stories of the unique and colorful characters buried within it...including a rodeo star, veterans of the Union and Confederate armies, and a few British pilots.

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Visit slash schedule for ways to watch. And we return to Our American Stories. Up next, a story from Nancy Breaux. Nancy is the office manager of the GAR Cemetery in Miami, Oklahoma, one of the earliest cemeteries in Northeast Oklahoma. Many would think that the cemetery would be the end of the story, but it's just merely one bookend of a much larger collection of stories from unique individuals. Let's get into the story. Here's Nancy.

My name is Nancy Breaux. I am the GAR Cemetery's office manager, and I started this job in October of 2012. GAR stands for Grand Army of the Republic. It is an organization that was created after the Civil War, and their main goal was to have a cemetery location for their comrades to have a place for their soldiers and their families to be buried. Since then, the cemetery has been handed over basically to the city of Miami. The GAR organization, Grand Army of the Republic, was a union organization, and this cemetery is unique in the fact that we have both union and Confederate soldiers buried within this cemetery. And I believe the reason for that is the fact that the city became the owners of the cemetery, and we allowed anyone to be buried here.

And we have over 22,000 burials here. We have a gangster, a true-life gangster, that run with the likes of George Machine Gun Kelly and others. We've got an actor that starred on, Dwayne Kelton is his name, starred on Gunsmoke and Charlie's Angels. We've got a Wild West bronc rider, world known. He went by Booger Red.

He's here. He had a family-owned Wild West show, traveled all over the United States and even the world, took a show on the road. And his wife and children all performed in this Wild West show with him. His name, Booger Red, was a nickname that he picked up. When he was younger, a friend of his and he put some dynamite in a tree and was going to blow it up. Well, somehow or another, he got too close to it, and some of the tree hit him in the face. It blew up in his face. And they put him in the wagon, taking him off to the doctor, and his friend looked in there and said, you sure are boogered up.

There's something along that line. So it just stuck with him. You know, he had some pretty bad scarring on his face from it, so everybody called him Booger Red for that reason. Samuel Privet was his actual name, but it has his real name and then it has Booger Red on his marker. The cemetery manager at the time did a fundraiser and earned money to have a marker put on his grave. And they did a ceremony to commemorate that several years ago.

It was probably in 2011 that they did that. One of the more prominent burials that we have is John Beaver. He was the second chief to the Quapaw Indians.

By second chief, I mean in relevance, for an example, to vice president of the tribe. So he originally, he was a miner, he was very wealthy, and he originally was buried on their Indian property out in the country. And the family ordered a life-sized statue of him to be placed at his burial site. But during the time in which he passed away, I believe in the early 30s, the roads out there were all unpaved and dirt roads and very hilly, and the trucking company that brought the statue could not make it up those hills.

So the family made the decision to disinter him from their family allotment and bring him into GAR Cemetery, therefore setting his statue up here within our cemetery grounds. So we have a treasure trove of history here that we are always very eager to share. We also have a ceremony, generally in the fall, that we honor 15 fallen British cadets. They were stationed here during World War II to be trained to become pilots.

So the name of the base was British Flying Training School Number 3 in Miami, Oklahoma. Now, there were over 2,000 of those cadets that flowed through here. Some of them washed out, obviously, but there were over 1,200 of them that actually earned their wings and went on to the war. Some survived the war and ended up having families, and obviously many of them didn't make it through the war. But during their training session here during the years of 1941 to 1945, there were 15 cadets that lost their lives in training accidents.

It was the understanding and the agreement with the different countries that if they did perish here in United States soil that they would be interred here and not transferred back home. The main reason why they came to the United States to train is because their airways were so horribly dangerous. They were getting shot down before they could even learn to take off, basically. And the majority of the cadets that came over here hadn't even driven a car yet, but they learned to fly the airplane.

So the whole experience for them was unfathomable. When you stop and think about it, that is why we have 15 British cadets that we honor here every year. We just recently, a couple of years ago, were able to obtain photographs of all of the 15 cadets that are buried here, and that was tough. That was really a tough situation to acquire, and it took me many years.

Like I said, I started here in 2012, and we just got it a couple of years ago. So we have a group photograph of every course that came through except for group number two, and I'm still looking for it. But not all of the pictures had the people's names below them.

Number one didn't. So I had to ask one of the ex-cadets that was in his 90s to help me figure out which one it was because he was one of the upper officers in his group. So it was pretty easy to figure him out, but it took me forever to get that done. Fortunately, no one in group two lost their life, so I didn't have to find anybody in that course. But just pinpointing who they are because, you know, a lot of them, they had the same last name, and there's only one initial. It was just time consuming, and the pictures aren't that great, but we do have them.

So I mean, I do get family members that do come here, but they don't always come to the office, which breaks my heart because I don't get to see them. Once those stories are forgotten or the people that know those stories have passed, they're gone forever, and no one can get them back. And it's so important to share your information and write it down. You know, we believe that every single person has their legacy. They have their story. We are on a mission to find those stories and those legacies and to keep everyone's legacies alive. And a special thanks to Monty Montgomery for the post-production work, Chad Straley for the pre-production, and Katrina Hein for collecting this audio. And a special thanks to Nancy Breaux, the office manager of the GAR Cemetery in Miami, Oklahoma.

And she is dead right. We've got to keep our memories and our legacies alive. That is what we do here on Our American Stories each and every day.

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