Just west of the small Texas town of Gustine lies the old Union Cemetery. My husband and I visited the cemetery last week, a side-excursion on our way home to Oklahoma from South Texas. The cemetery is the final resting place for many of the Comanche County Kee’s, my paternal grandmother’s family. As a genealogist, visiting the family burial grounds is a must anytime we are within a “short” driving distance. I tease my husband that we have to visit the ‘dead relatives’. Fortunately, he is very understanding.
The small cemetery is enclosed by a stone fence with a couple of iron gates at either end. You cannot drive through the cemetery, but there is parking off the road and the gates were not locked. The Union Cemetery sign states it was established in 1879, several years after the town was originally settled, but before a post office was established. In the older part of the cemetery, there is a sign marking burial site of Susan Mary Rogers Speed, the first burial. The cemetery itself is well maintained and most of the markers are in good shape.
Having never been to the cemetery before, I didn’t know where to start, so I picked one end and began looking for anything that said Kee. Having just come from South Texas, where the weather was warm, I was not prepared for the fierce wind of an early February morning. My light sweater did very little to keep out the cold. Fortunately, I quickly found my 2nd-great grandmother, Plaiscetta Adeline Culp Kee. In keeping with Texan tradition, her grave marker only lists her initials, “P.A. Kee, wife of J.S. Kee.” Plaiscetta was born April 23, 1822 in Chester County, South Carolina. She was the great-granddaughter of German immigrants who settled first in Pennsylvania and then South Carolina. Culp was an Americanization of the original name, Kolb. Plaiscetta married John Silas (“J.S”) Kee , also from Chester County, around 1840. Plaiscetta, John, and their children moved to Alabama about 1848 where she and John had several more children before John died in 1867. She moved to Texas in the 1870’s, following in the footsteps of some of her sons.
The other important grave I found was my great-grandmother, Elmira Renfro Ford Kee. “Mira” was born in 1859 in Union Parish, Louisiana. She was married twice; first to William Issac Ford and then to John Culp Kee, son of Plaiscetta and John Silas. Like many of the Kee women, Mira lived a long life, dying at age 90. I can remember a story my grandmother told me once about her. Mira was very young during the civil war but apparently old enough to throw rocks at Union soldiers as they passed by. Her strong feisty nature was definitely passed on to a few of her daughters.
Had I been more prepared with warmer clothes I would have stayed longer but it was a cold day and we had a long drive ahead. Missed during this visit were Mira’s husband, my great-grandfather John Culp Kee, also known as “Kit” and Lilla Renfro Kee, Mira’s sister and wife to her step-son John Jefferson Kee. This just means I need to make another trip, which is just fine with me.
**Union Cemetery is located 1.5 miles north of Gustine, Texas on Highway 36 at the intersection of County Road 1476 in Comanche County. ***