By Linda Kor
Holbrook’s history, like that of most towns, is found in its people. It lies in stories told over coffee at a local cafe, the reminiscing at a family gathering or what has been left behind by those no longer here such as buildings, news articles and cemetery markers.
One story in Holbrook’s history was revisited by Nancy McAllester on Oct. 10. It was on that day exactly 100 years earlier that her great-grandfather Antonio Lopez died a heroic, albeit tragic, death.
Lopez had been working for the Santa Fe Railroad for 22 years, 13 of those as a section foreman. On Oct. 10, 1913, he and his crew were in a handcar on the tracks heading for Adamana, seven miles east of town. As they approached a sharp turn in the track Lopez spotted passenger train No. 9 coming at full speed directly toward them on the same track. According to the Holbrook News, Lopez instantly called to his men to jump from the handcar.
“He then realized the danger of the oncoming train being wrecked by the handcar and in trying to throw the car from the tracks to prevent possible disaster, he heroically gave his own life,” the News reported.
The paper also noted that Lopez was always a respected citizen and, at the age of 43, left behind his wife and 11 children.
Today, there is little left to mark that event that happened so long ago. McAllester, who is a fifth generation native of Holbrook, occasionally visits the gravesites of her great-grandfather and great-grandmother, who are buried side by side at the Holbrook Cemetery. Lopez’ marker, a weather worn cross with his name barely visible on the metal plate nailed to it, was all that marked his grave.
“I came to tend my great-grandmother’s grave, which is next to his, and the cross was gone. It was found over by the wall and I have no idea how it got there, if it fell over and was placed there, I don’t know,” McAllester recalled.
With the assistance of the Holbrook Old West Cemetery Group, the cross was placed back at the gravesite, resecured with the rotted wood at the base removed, and a new marker made of stone that clearly states his name, birth and date of death was added.
“I love that the cross is still there with the new marker. The wood is old and rotting, but even if it should fall apart completely, the grave will always have a marker,” she said.
The group has restored many gravesites in the cemetery, anywhere from 30 to 35, estimated member Jerrie Jennings Paschal. The efforts of the group include a great deal of research done primarily by Mike O’Dell. Looking through maps and records of who is buried in the cemetery can be challenging to ensure that each grave is marked correctly. “We have several graves that just have little metal markers and we have found them on the ground in other places and even at sites they don’t belong,” said Jennings Paschal.
Their efforts have not gone unnoticed by McAllester, who sees their efforts for what they are, a restoration of history not only for the families of the deceased, but for the community as well.
The cemetery group provides the stone markers through donations to the cemetery project. To contribute to the endeavor, donations can be made to an account that has been set up at Holbrook City Hall, located at 465 First Ave.
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By Linda Kor