Initiator and Charter Member
of the Crane Cemetery
by Paul Patterson

     
     Like the man who was being ridden out of town on a rail said "If it wasn't for the honor involved I'd just as soon walk."  The same could be said of the un-named Philipino cook who initiated Crane County Cemetery.

     However, these were not the man's intentions; his intentions were to confer this dubious honor upon Smoky Truan, a fellow cook in the Maxwell House Cafe on that Fourth ofJuly morning, 1927.  He chose to open this 'initiation ceremony' in the following manner:  Ice pick in hand he lunged at Truan but the latter,being much bigger and stronger, guided the weapon back into the would-be assassin's heart.  Alton Evans, Crane old timer, considers himself no more than six seconds short of being an eye-witness to murder.  He met the Philipino staggering out of the cafe.  Drunk Again,  Evans surmised; then he saw the ice pick handle.  Another step or two and the man fell dead on the sidewalk.

     By now a sizeable crowd had gathered, among which was Smoky Truan.  Evans heard him remark to a bystander "Boy, I guess I'm in for a bunch of trouble."  "No," the bystander told him,"You done it in self-defense."  Evidently the counselor's counseling wasn't very consoling for, as E. N. Beane expressed it "Truan took a powder" and wasn't apprended for two years, in Phoenix, Arizona.  Otherwise, Pat Passeur, early-day merchant who went on Truan's bond, would have been out a goodly sum of money.  In any case, Truan was indicted, tried and acquitted in Ector County.  Ector County at that time still represented Crane County in judicial matters.

Philipino's Stone       Meantime, back to Crane Cemetery and its initial occupant--and charter member, the Philipino cook.  Contrary to the rumor  "They just dug a hole and buried him", Claude Bailey built him a casket and a group of local citizens gave him a decent burial in what is now Crane's beautifully land-scaped, meticulously-kept haven of eternal rest.  To this day he lies "unwept, unhonored and unsung", likewise un-named and unclaimed.

     Ironically, the cook's first side kick lies unclaimed though not un-named, a one-legged ex-prospector whose marker reads:  Jan Birgel, 1868-1938.

Jan Birgel's 
      stone      Unlike the hot-tempered Philipino, Birgel was of gentle nature; also of great talent, in that he built his own casket, which he kept within eyeshot to the end.  His last words were said to have been "To home to me own bed" or words to that effect.  Until his death Birgel worked as a cabinet maker and carpenter for Jack Porter at the lumber yard.
      Occupant number three, flanking the Philipino on the opposite side from Jan Birgel is Wm. T. (or WMT) Brown, to be joined later by the fourth occupant, Mrs. Jackie Whiteside.
(Due to the passing of time and the altering of terrain, the exact location of Wm. T. Brown's 
      stone Mrs. Whiteside's grave in relation to that of the Philipino is open to debate.  In any case, the first four still lie side by side.)

     Other bodies, two of them babies, according to the recollection of Oscar Reynolds, were buried
Mrs. Whiteside's stone to the West of the first four; so far west, in fact, that they lie outside the cemetery boundaries,but were fenced in with the others.

     The area went un-fenced and untended, except for individuals with loved-ones buried there, until after 1940.  Oscar Reynolds, whose tenure of office as county commissioner began in 1941, at the suggestion of county Judge John Watts, negotiated with general manager of McElroy Ranch Company, Lester Grant, for land on which the graves were located.

     "However," the judge said, "the only way Crane County can obtain a cemetery and maintain it, it will have to be designated as a pauper's Cemetery."

     Grant readily deeded the plot of land to Reynolds who transfered it to Crane County.  Shortly thereafter the area was fenced and an archway was erected on the west side.  Through the years it has developed into the beautiful, land-scaped, well-watered, well-manicured spot you see today.  Up to this time three extensions have been added with the prospect of another in the near future.
Rock Archway Original Archway Entrance East Entrance Highway 385 Entrance


FOOTNOTE:  Bill Allman, early settler, civic leader and mayor of many years tenure, believes the first four graves to be in a different order from what the markers say.  But perhaps these differing remembrances can be worked out at the dedication.  In any case nobody--and nothing--can be blamed here except time.

Permission given to reprint here by Paul Patterson.

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