Historic marker unveiled

Dorothy and Joe Penney stand with Tom Penney, the oldest living descendant of the Baysinger family, at the unveiling of the Baysinger Cemetery's state historical marker Sunday. (Johnny Johnson/Sentinel staff)

Historic marker unveiled at secluded cemetery

By JOHNNY JOHNSON, Sentinel staff

Daily Sentinel, Nacogdoches, Tx

MAY 27 -- Baysinger Cemetery is not on the road to anywhere.

Actually, it's not on a road at all.

Driving into a narrow clearing between two walls of towering East Texas woodlands, off Rusk County Road 4236, the only indication that anything lies ahead are two strips of tire-sized sand, which are work as a surprisingly visible guide through the woods.

Martin Baysinger, an early East Texas pioneer, once owned this Southwest Rusk County spot between Cushing and Henderson, as well as the 7,000 acres surrounding it.

And although Baysinger was buried on his property about 99 years ago, this Memorial Day weekend he threw a party for his family. At least that's how descendant Joe Penney sees it.

"He has paid for this whole thing," Joe said. "I didn't spend a cent."

Joe, who inherited land purchased by Baysinger, recently leased the oil and gas rights to the land, and he has used the money from the lease to improve the historic burial plot where there could be more than 14 people buried.

Baysinger Cemetery, dates from 1870 to 1915. But there is little known about those who were laid to rest there. There are no words carved in granite monuments, only distinctly shaped iron ore stones sticking out of the ground, serving as markers. The identities of some of those buried in or near the plot have disappeared along with the pioneer lifestyle that brought them there.

The last person to be buried in the cemetery is identified by Baysinger descendants as "Uncle Billy," who died in 1915. The story is that "Uncle Billy" had an accident and "wrapped himself around a tree," leaving him paralyzed. For his pain, he received cocaine in the mail, which he regularly sprinkled on the side of his hand and licked off. He lived for 10 years after the accident.

When Joe was a young man, his grandfather charged him with making sure that the cemetery was never forgotten. He took him to the site and they worked to keep it in good shape several times, according to Joe's wife Dorothy.

"(Joe's) grandpa wanted to make sure that this place would not be forgotten, and he sure loved that grandpa," Dorothy said.

During a private ceremony Sunday morning, the Baysinger family held a family reunion of sorts, where a Texas Historical Marker which tells the history of the cemetery, was unveiled and Joe was finally able to rest easy, knowing that now the cemetery would never be forgotten.

"All of this is because of that man," Penney said. "He showed up with a wife and a baby to feed in 1839, and there was nothing but woods. But because he came to Texas, my life has been easier."

The marker at the sight reads "In 1839, not long after bringing his family to Texas from Tennessee, Martin Baysinger (1803-1903) received a 640-acre land grant near here. He established a plantation that included a grist mill, brick making pit, syrup mill, cotton gin, "big house," general store and post office. His land holdings increased to nearly 7,000 acres, out of which he set aside this small burial ground upon the death of his first wife, Adeline Tipps Baysinger (1812-1870). A wooden grave house that once marked her plot is now gone, as are markers for blacks said to be buried nearby. The remaining graves serve as a record of the pioneer days of Rusk County."