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Legacy families visit community cemeteries

Email   Print   Share By Heather Graham-Ashley, Sentinel News Editor
May 31, 2012 | Living
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Scotty Bates and his relatives stand by the gravestone of Bates’ great grandfather, W.A. Bates, who served in the Civil War before returning to the Fort Hood area. The Bates family was at Bethel Cemetery Sunday to visit the graves of their family members. Heather Graham-Ashley, Sentinel News Editor
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Grave markers at Bethel Cemetery give some insight into the history of those who lived on Fort Hood before the area become one of the world’s largest military installations. Families of these former homesteaders are welcomed to the installation each Memorial Day weekend to visit the 19 cemeteries on post. Heather Graham-Ashley, Sentinel News Editor
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Perry and Janice Price came to Bethel Cemetery on Fort Hood Sunday to place flowers on the gravesites of Perry’s family. Every Memorial Day weekend, the post opens to legacy families of those who lived in communities that are now part of Fort Hood. More than 41 communities were absorbed to become the installation in the 1940s. Perry grew up in Pleasant Grove, now part of the North Fort Hood training area. He has family members buried at Bethel and Pleasant Grove cemeteries. Heather Graham-Ashley, Sentinel News Editor
Perry Price was on Fort Hood Sunday visiting the graves of his family members and telling forgotten stories from the area before it became Fort Hood.

Price is one of dozens of legacy families to whom Fort Hood opens the training areas the Sunday before Memorial Day. Legacy families, those whose families lived in more than 40 communities on the land that is now Fort Hood, come to the post Memorial Day weekend to visit the 19 cemeteries that still dot the installation.

Price grew up in the community of Pleasant Grove, which is now part of North Fort Hood.

“There are now helicopters where the house was,” he said.

Price remembers when his family moved to Gatesville in the winter of 1942.

“We bought a house on Golf Course Road,” he said, “It was hard to find a place to live.”

He and his wife, Janice, still have the home Price’s family purchased back then.

“I was 9 or 10 when we moved,” Price said. “I used to work in the fields all around here. In the old days, they would take us around in jeeps to work.”

Back then, Price said, the families in the communities built their entire lives in their home community.

His father owned a cotton gin near Pleasant Grove. Price was born in the family home at Pleasant Grove.

“I loved it,” Price said. “I thought it was super here.”

He recalled daydreaming while watching Soldiers train at South Fort Hood.

“It was grand to see all the equipment,” Price said.

He has seen a lot of history at Fort Hood and makes sure he comes twice a year to honor his family and ensure their final resting places are in order.

The couple comes to Bethel and Pleasant Grove cemeteries each Memorial Day weekend and at Christmas to lay flowers and tidy up the graves of his parents, grandparents and brother.

Scotty Bates brought his family to Bethel Cemetery to teach the younger generations about their forefathers.

Bates’ great grandfather and great grandmother, as well as other family members, are buried at Friendship and Bethel cemeteries.

At Bethel, Bates recalled his great grandfather, W.A. Bates’, service in the Civil War.

“He really was a veteran of the war,” Bates said while standing at his great grandfather’s gravestone. “He was captured twice and wounded twice, then came home and raised 9 kids.”

Bates’ parents lived in two different communities at Fort Hood and met on the lands that now cover the Great Place.

“I have many descendents here,” Bates said.

Bates’ father claims to have “put the first nail in Fort Hood,” Bates said. His father had a carpentry group in the 1940s and was hired to work at Fort Hood when the post was preparing to train troops.

Bates’ family left the Fort Hood communities in 1935, more than five years before the government claimed the land to develop Fort Hood, but Bates’ relatives’ graves still lie on the installation.

Each year, the Bates family meets at the Gatesville Courthouse at 9 a.m. and travels to the cemeteries located at North Fort Hood and on the installation’s east side.

“It’s very sentimental,” Holly Bates-Mack said.

Legacy families said they were pleased that Fort Hood continues to maintain the burial grounds and allows access to the families.

“The Army has been good,” Price said.

Randall McCullum, a contractor with Katmai, the organization tasked with maintaining the Fort Hood cemeteries, was out Sunday ensuring the cemeteries were in good shape for the families.

Preparation for Memorial Day weekend visits start about one week ahead of time.

“We make sure the grass is cut, and the roads are clear,” McCullum said.

For the Price family especially, the maintenance is important.

Price said his daughter is hoping to one day be buried out at Bethel Cemetery with her grandmother and great gransparents.
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