Historic Rives Cemetery vandals strike again, Rives Cemetery, circa 1828, sustains damage to previous improvements

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Historic plaque mounted on the fence presented in 1964 by the Martha McGraw Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution.

Courtesy of M. Thomas – Martha McGraw DAR Chapter, DAR

Historic cemetery vandals have struck again. This time in Caddo Parish, Louisiana, just across the road from Marion County, Texas.

The Rives Cemetery is the burial place for many of the Rives descendants who settled the area as early as 1828, according to Marcia Thomas, Marion County history sleuth, and decades-long member of the Marion County Historical Commission (MCHC) and a founder of the Caddo Lake Historical Research Committee.

According to Thomas, the cemetery is located off Jim Bonham Road near Trees City near the state line and is now in the in the state of Louisiana. The family settled an area in what is now Marion County, Texas and built a log home.

In those early days of eastern Texas and western Louisiana there was a wide strip of land that separated the two areas and was known as a sort of “no man’s land” due to not having its boundaries set. As a result, there were various foreign countries wanting the land which bordered the once massive Caddo Lake that straddled the two states. England, France, Spain, Mexico and the United States were at odds over who would get it. Consequently, living in the area was dangerous and difficult because of all the riffraff hiding out in an area that had no law.

John Green Rives was the first burial in the cemetery that is located on a bluff overlooking Caddo Lake. He settled hundreds of acres in the area and raised cotton and crops until he died in 1846. His neighbors at that time included the famous Texan Robert Potter and his equally famous wife, Harriet Potter Ames who lived nearby at Potter’s Point.

Also buried in the Rives Cemetery is Rives’ wife, Elizabeth and his daughter Amelia who died as a young child in 1850. Other known burials there were Martha Harrison Lewis, sister of Elizabeth Rives and Nick Rives. Capt. B. B. Bonham, an early steamboat captain, was married to Lucy Rives, a daughter of John Green Rives, but he and his wife are buried in Shreveport’s Greenwood Cemetery.

In the early 1960s, the cemetery was found to be in poor condition with fencing gone and stones crumbling. The Jefferson’s Col. Jacob Lumpkin Chapter of the Colonial Dames went to the location, inventoried the grave site information, fixed the stones and the fence, putting the information in a book that they published about cemeteries in Marion County and nearby areas.

Thirty years later, the cemetery had fallen into bad repair once again. When it was made known to Shreveport resident Haynes W. Dugan, who had lateral kinship to the Rives family, he contacted the Marion County Historical Commission and the Genealogical Society who each agreed to assist him in a second restoration.

“That’s where I come in”, said Thomas. “I volunteered, along with several other ladies including Lucille Terry, Dorothy Craver and Juanita Cawthon to visit the location and see what could be done; contacting workmen to do the heavy work. Working with Mr. Dugan, I photographed the stones, and charted their location within the fence. It now looks like I’m getting involved in it again, and happy to do so. This early history must be preserved and hopefully, enhanced through cyber media, so that people will understand that it is important and they will help stop the destruction of cemeteries throughout the area.”

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Overlooking Caddo Lake, the damage can be seen to the ornate leaf-work gate at the entrance to the cemetery.

Dugan determined that a new replica fence should be erected with a large monument identifying the Rives family, placed squarely in the middle of the enclosure. When it was all finished, the cemetery was re-consecrated in 1993 with some descendants and many interested people attending. Now, within the past five years someone has gone to the cemetery, pushed over the massive granite monument, scattered the original stones and tried to dismantle or destroy the fence.

Thomas and a fellow MCHC member, Mary Humphrey, motored down to the site recently to view the destruction and decide what could be done about it. Oddly, the cemetery sits directly behind a modern house that was built about 30 years ago on the land that had become the property of Caddo Parish, but was subsequently sold. The owners of the house died a few years ago and it is now occupied by renters. The Stanfields, who moved in last year, have taken an interest in the property and made into a project to keep the briers and weeds out of the enclosure. They are thrilled to support the project and have indicated that they will help in contacting the house owner repairs to proceed as soon as possible.

In the meantime, most of those interested in the cemetery are wondering just who would do such an awful thing. It is similar to the toppling-over and near destruction of the Harriet Potter Ames cenotaph which is located only a few miles away on Potter’s Point.

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