The Casualness of Death

Julia and Mack Alexander's wedding portrait 1875

This young couple, Julia Caroline Garrett and Rufus McCormick Alexander, married on December 8, 1875 in Weimar, Texas. They became my great-grandparents.

Look at those faces and look into those eyes.  They knew that their marriage almost certainly meant a blessing of children, and soon, too.  And they most certainly knew it likely that they would lose one or more of those beloved children to an early death.  Almost every family did.

I wonder how their perspective on their children differed from my perspective of my children?

They never would have considered that their children could be pampered or spoiled; it would have been impossible on a ranch in Texas at that time!

Everyone had to work to raise food and earn money for the necessities, which very often, did not include a formal education.

Sickness would tail them, and there would be very little professional help for it; everything was up to the imagination and fortitude and experience of the grandparents and parents.

These two eventually lost two children early.  Scepter Gray Alexander was born September 28, 1876 in Weimar, Texas.  By the time he was a teenager, the family had bought a ranch in the little community of Round Mountain, Texas.

One day at the age of 15, he was out on horseback, riding through the pastures; we can imagine that he was probably looking after cattle or sheep.

For some reason his horse was spooked and threw young Scepter, catching his boot in a stirrup.  The teenager was dragged on his head across a rocky pasture, where he was found at the end of the day.

I have heard that he survived another half-day, then died of his injuries on July 2, 1892.  He was buried in the community cemetery at Round Mountain, and his parents planted a local juniper tree (called a ‘cedar’ in Texas) in his memory.

That tree now towers over the nearby graves, and squirrels and raccoons nest in its trunk.  The bereaved parents put up a small marble gravestone for their son.

Scepter Alexander's stone

Cedar tree in memory of Scepter, 1892.

I have a letter, dated July 3, 1892, offering condolences to Julia and Mack.

“Spring ___________”

July 3rd 1892

Dear Mrs. Alexander,

I am unable to come and see you, and indeed you will not wish for any visitors now; but I wish to tell you how very deeply and sincerely both Mr. Hyatt and myself sympathise [sic] with you all, in your very great trial.  I think the elder brother, too, will miss his companion fearfully so near of an age and being together so much.  It is impossible for us or any earthly friend, however sincere he may be to comfort you, but we can trust and pray that our Heavenly Father may send his divine strength and comfort to you all, and help you to bear patiently the cross He has given you!  Such trials seem too hard to bear and understand; but it is God’s will and what a comfort it must be to think of your poor boy’s life being well spent,  I have always heard he was a good boy and so useful.  You will always look forward to the happy meeting hereafter, where all our dear ones will be restored to us.  Does it not prove the Bible words, “Those the Lord loveth, He chasteneth.”  I should like very much to come and see you when Mr. Hyatt can spare time.

Your sincere friend,

Clara Hyatt”

Since Scepter seems to have been the first-born, I think that Clara is speaking of her own child as the “elder brother” who will miss Scepter so much.

From U.S. Highway 281, between Johnson City and Marble Falls, turn west onto Ranch Road 962 (old Llano Lane), then make a right onto the dirt “Round Mountain Cemetery Road” to find the grave.

When we buried my grandfather, “Dad” Robert Frank Alexander in January of 1990, we laid him in a grave near that of his brother who had died 98 years before! His brother’s tombstone was covered in moss and had cracked from moisture and the weather.