Cemetery all that’s left of Blacktower

Freedom New Mexico: Liliana Castillo Sarah E. Schooling Durham’s grave is one of about eight whose gravestones are still visible and standing at the Blacktower Cemetery located west of Chavez West housing.

By Liliana Castillo: CNJ staff writer

When the town of Blacktower faded away, the only thing left behind was its dead.

The Blacktower Cemetery, located west of the Chavez West Housing addition near Cannon Air Force Base, appears to be a fraction of what it used to be. About eight headstones stick inches, and possibly feet, above blow sand that has covered the century-old cemetery.

Clovis Historian Harold Kilmer has compiled a list of about 50 known burials at the cemetery, dating back to 1907.

Kilmer and members of the High Plains Historical Foundation began researching cemeteries in eastern New Mexico in 1978 for history books about Curry County and the High Plains. Blacktower is one of three “lost cemeteries” in the area. The other two at Norton and Bethel.

Don McAlavy, a member of the foundation, looked through funeral records at Steed-Todd Funeral Home and found most of the list of the known burials at Blacktower.

What makes Blacktower Cemetery unique is that research suggests two Civil War veterans are buried at the cemetery, Kilmer said.

Emmett Fulkerson, who died June 17, 1911, and William Brantley, who died Feb. 7, 1908, are the two Civil War veterans believed to be buried there.

“They deserve something,” Kilmer said. “That’s why people put tombstones to memorialize their existence out there.”

Jimmie Gayle Franklin of House is a relative of Fulkerson, who is on record as the first buried at Blacktower, and her family is hoping to give Fulkerson the proper marking for his grave.

Franklin’s family has records showing Fulkerson as a third lieutenant in the Confederate Army during the Civil War.

“It’s absolutely time to give both veterans their due,” Franklin said.

Kilmer said the cemetery was started by an unknown farmer’s family about 1906 after an infant’s death.

Records show the Clovis and Curry County Chamber of Commerce is now the owner of the cemetery.

Volunteers from Cannon and the surrounding community are scheduled to gather May 29-30 to help clean up the orphaned resting place.

Second Lt. Raymond Gobberg, chief of community relations for the 27th Special Operations Wing Public Affairs office, and Capt. Glen Smith, the Air Field Operations flight commander, were notified about the cemetery’s condition about five months ago.

Gobberg said Smith took the project on as a personal project to give the veterans a proper burial.

Gobberg is working with Smith to get the Cannon and Clovis communities involved in the rescue of the cemetery.

“It is our duty as service members to ensure that the veterans graves are marked properly. We never leave a wingman behind,” Gobberg said.

Gobberg said because the cemetery is buried under an unknown amount of sand, the weekend will serve as a time to determine how long and how much man-power the project might take.

“We don’t know where anything is located. … (Next) weekend is more about finding plots and where rows of headstones actually are,” he said.

Gobberg said about 30 volunteers have signed up to assist with the clean up this weekend.

“We feel working with the community is important because it is a part of the community and there is significant history there,” he said.

Fast Facts

What: Blacktower Cemetery clean up

Where: North of 60/84 on Curry County Road R, west of Chavez West Housing

When: noon – 6 p.m. May 29 and 9 a.m. – 6 p.m. May 30

Come prepared: Bring gloves, shovels, wheelbarrows and wear covered shoes. Saturday lunch will be provided. Water will be available on site.

Information: 784-4319

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