For some time, Gainesville radio personality Tom Carson and several others have been on a quest to find the final resting place of Clyde Smith.

Smith — who died May 8, 1904 in the Philippines — is thought to be the first casualty of Muslim fundamentalists and is buried at Fair View Cemetery. The problem is that no one, including Fair View Cemetery sexton Dusty Luton, is certain where Smith’s plot is.

Some have speculated that perhaps Smith, his parents, Leonard and Tabatha Smith, and one of Smith’s sisters are buried beneath a gravel road near the sexton’s office.

Luton is not so sure.

“To the best of our knowledge, they are not under the road. We don’t have any way of telling otherwise, and there is probably no way to really know for sure. Finding the information can be difficult because sometimes it depends on how the records are written,” Luton said in a telephone interview Monday afternoon.

He said one obstacle to solving the problem of finding Smith’s grave site is that over the years, various sextons devised their own record-keeping methods and maps of the property.

Cemetery census records are often riddled with marks made by different sextons. Maps often contradict one another.

It’s a conundrum that has kept Carson busy.

He said he was disturbed when he found out Smith did not have a headstone and that in the hundred years since his death, the young man and his enormous sacrifice have been forgotten.

“It was the fact that a serviceman did not have a headstone or a flag over his grave, was scarred and killed and didn’t even get remembered...” Carson said in an August interview.

Carson said his interest in Clyde Smith’s story began one day while he was doing some research at the Cooke County Library.

“I was looking in old copies of the Gainesville Hesperian,” Carson said.

Carson came across an item in the April 1, 1905 edition of the newspaper. The small article stated that the body of Clyde Smith was to arrive in Gainesville for burial.

It went on to say Smith was reared in Gainesville and died during the Spanish American War.

“His record in his company was the highest and by his brave death he paid a tribute to his county which is in itself a eulogy,” a Hesperian reporter wrote.

Carson said he became curious about Smith and continued his research.

Although he was a Gainesville native, Smith joined the army in Oklahoma City when much of Oklahoma was known as Indian Territory where he had been living with his brother.

During his research, Carson discovered that Clyde Smith was not killed during the Spanish American War but after it at a time when the United States kept thousands of troops in the Philippines.

After the Spanish American War, the U.S. gained the Philippines as a United States territory. Many Filipinos resented the American presence just as they had disliked Spain’s occupation of their country.

Battles erupted.

“As it ended up, Clyde was killed in a conflict in 1904 in the Philippine Islands. He was in a reconnaissance detachment that was ambushed by Muslim fundamentalists known as Moros,” Carson said in an August interview.

The Moros were a group of Muslim Filipinos who made up a small part of the population of the islands.

Carson has since found out that Smith came from a fairly prosperous family.

His uncle was a former governor of Missouri. His father, Leonard, was an official with a local bank.

Carson learned almost everything he knows about Smith through old newspaper articles.

“If not for newspapers, we would never have known about Smith. Newspaper stories were the only lasting connection with the guy,” he said.

Carson said Smith’s stone — ordered by the Veteran’s Administration at the request of VFW Post No. 1922 — has arrived and is at a local monument company awaiting engraving.

He said the headstone is made of granite, the stone of choice for monuments made during Smith’s time.

“It’s the harder, more expensive rock, the style used during that era,” Carson explained.

He said the VA strives to obtain grave markers that are reflective of the time in which the veteran served.

The next order of business is finding Clyde Smith.

“Dusty has the difficult task of determining where Clyde Smith and his family is interred,” Carson said. “The actual plot (site) seems to be in question.”

Once a suitable site for Smith’s headstone is found, Carson and others have planned a ceremony in Smith’s honor.

He said he plans for a Denton reenactor to participate in the historically accurate program.

The Cooke County Historical Society is also set to help with the presentation.

“The VFW has planned a brief ceremony because Smith never got to have one,” Carson noted. “The ceremony will be along the lines of (other) historical ceremonies, telling a little about Clyde and the fact that the headstone has been brought about.”

Carson said the ceremony will be a bit like an official state dedication just “without the state monument.”

In addition to the Clyde Smith effort, local 4-H club members have also signed on to help with another veteran recognition project which will place bronze markers on the graves of veterans.

When a veteran dies, the family is eligible to receive a bronze foot plaque to place on the veteran’s gravesite, Carson said. The plaques are etched with the name, place of service, the veteran’s branch of the U.S. military and the dates of the soldier’s birth and death.

Cooke County extension agent Phyllis Griffin, who also heads up 4-H and youth development programs in the county, said she and Carson were talking one day about finding donors for concrete to make the slabs for the plaques.

Griffin said Carson told her there are about 40 plaques that were ordered by Cooke County families and, for one reason or another, never placed on the veteran’s graves.

From that conversation, Griffin came up with the idea of challenging her dedicated group of 4-H members to help prepare the gravesites and place the previously unclaimed plaques.

She said she knows the project will not be easy.

“It’s going to be a process. Forty is quite a few,” Griffin admitted. “We need to build several new wooden forms and get the concrete poured into them as well as help prepare the sites. They say it takes one to one and half bags of concrete for each marker,” she said.

Griffin said the bronze markers are fairly large — 24 inches long by 12 inches wide. The markers weigh about 18 pounds each.

She hopes that each 4-H club will work to get plaques placed in the cemeteries nearest their clubs. Some 4-H groups have already begun work on the projects, she said.

“Right now, there are several 4-H groups working on this. The Lindsay group, for example, is doing leg work to determine which cemeteries are involved,” she said, adding that Tom Carson is still working to get concrete donations for the project.

Griffin said she believes the extensive effort could “eventually involve each club to a certain degree.”

“I’d like to see that once all the slabs are done, each group could prepare the graves in their own areas,” she said. “We want to get as many people involved as possible — both parents and children.”

Reporter Delania Trigg may be

contacted at dtrigg@ntin.net

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