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Rest of the Tubervilles

Rest of the Tubervilles

Linda Dennis, meet Alex Troup. He's the guy who knows what the city did with your dead relatives -- at least one of them, anyway.

"I know where the Tubervilles are," says Troup, a local historian who recently contacted the Dallas Observer after reading a news story about Dennis' quest to find her dead relatives, Nancy and William Tuberville ("In search of the Tubervilles," December 9), whom the city had lost or misplaced.

Dennis' ancestors had once owned the land where the Convention Center is located, and sold it in 1871 with the restriction that part of the property be set aside as a family cemetery. They then made the mistake of dying. Goodbye, Tubervilles.

Troup, whose business card states that he researches deeds and titles and produces "fine interior painting," knows about the Tubervilles. He remembers the day in 1970 when he watched city crews rip out a number of graves, including William Tuberville's, from a spot now covered by the sidewalk in front of the Convention Center. The remains, smashed caskets and all, were reburied several feet away in what is now Pioneer Park.

On a December afternoon, Troup made a beeline for two rows of flat, leaf-covered gravestones lined up at the edge of Pioneer Park. "This is where I found all those bones," Troup says, scanning the headstones at the edge of Pioneer Park. Sure enough, William Tuberville is there.

Two clues support Troup's claim that these graves are not the originals. The first is the fact that the two rows of headstones are of identical, modern design. The second is that Tuberville's name is spelled wrong -- Turberville. You know, government work.

Troup's story about being present on the day the bodies were moved is bolstered by an article that appeared in the Dallas Times Herald (may it rest in peace) on May 13, 1970. The story details how city employees had moved more than 50 graves to make way for the Convention Center. Troup says backhoes ripped apart caskets and bones were spilled out everywhere.

"They left coffin parts in the ground," says Troup, who recalls how the body of what appeared to be a soldier came spilling out of his iron casket -- sword, boots, hat, and all. "It all kind of slid out as [the casket] broke in half," he says.

The city's history of disrespecting the dead -- particularly the Tubervilles -- is a long one, according to documents on file at the downtown library. One of those is an inventory of headstones that were destroyed in the Old Downtown or City Cemetery, and it includes William Tuberville, his name spelled wrong again. Another is a 1953 letter signed by a Mrs. Geo. F. Carlisle, who was upset by the city's plan to expand Field Street through the cemetery.

Carlisle asked the city manager a question that sounds a lot like something Linda Dennis would ask today. "How can we, of the City of Dallas, have confidence in our City Government if this desecration of graves be continued by running Field Street across the cemetery, where many stones have been destroyed?" she wrote.

As for Nancy Tuberville, the woman who specifically requested that an eighth of an acre be preserved as a cemetery? The location of her bones remains a mystery.

-- Compiled from staff reports by Patrick Williams

 
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