Well, for Pete’s sake! What are you doing here? Let me guess, you Googled “red dirt road” hoping for a close encounter with Brooks & Dunn, but instead found yourself meandering down a narrow lane just off the information highway. May I kindly suggest that you tune in your favorite music player to a round of Kix & Ronnie? Crank it up and let it provide the background music for this little trip down a red dirt road in Jackson County, Oklahoma.
Southwestern Oklahoma is home to farmers and ranchers, air force pilots and army generals, city folks and country folks, the Quartz Mountains and the Wichita Mountains, lakes and rivers, and yes, four-lane divided highways and a few red dirt roads. Nestled between the Quartz Mountains and Wichita Mountains are a lesser known range, the Navajo Mountains, located in eastern Jackson County, north of US 62 about 3 miles and east of Altus about 6 miles.
Seeking a good dose of red dirt therapy, I recently set out on a drive down the red dirt road that ends at the western base of the Navajo Mountains. For Pete’s sake, I stopped at the Navajoe Cemetery. My cousin Jacquie told me about the town of Navajoe, and my other cousin, Jackie, told me about the cemetery. There is also the Navajo School, but I’ll save that for another story. Both had mentioned the historical marker located in the cemetery that documents the town of Navajoe. The vertical marker is made of red granite, similar to the that of the surrounding mountains. Navajoe the town fell by the wayside years ago when the railroad went thru Headrick instead of Navajoe. The cemetery and memories are all that remain of the town.
Before climbing out of the car that bright sunny morning, I surveyed the area surrounding the cemetery. The Navajo Mountains provide a magnificent backdrop to this serene country cemetery. Farm and ranch land, parched by a long, hard drought surround the cemetery. Shade trees and chain-link fencing mark the borders, with a large gate and archway to welcome all who come to visit. I walked to the historical marker and discovered it had a story on two sides. One side listed many names of early pioneers of the area, the other side was engraved with a map of the town of Navajoe. My fingers traced the map, taking note of the markings for each business and many of the homes located there. They came to a rest on building # 21, Pete Asque Residence. Though the name was misspelled, I had finally found my earliest connection to Southwestern Oklahoma. William P. “Uncle Pete” Askew, farmer and the proprietor of the Navajoe general store came to Oklahoma around December of 1897 from Mississippi, via Texas. Shortly after arriving, he staked a claim on 160 acres of land near the Navajoe community.
Uncle Pete is Jacquie’s father, and my great-grandmother’s brother. My other cousin, Jackie, and I are both descended from this great-grandmother. Recognizing the abundant opportunities available in this new frontier, Uncle Pete encouraged his parents, William D. & Melissa Askew, and sister and brother-in-law, Mollie and H.D. Ellis, to move out west from their homes near Lauderdale, Mississippi. They did finally take Uncle Pete’s advice, with the men and boys arriving around 1907, followed the next year by the women and daughters. The men came first to survey the area, stake a claim to homestead some land, and build a half dugout for the families to reside in until stick and frame homes could be built. Uncle Pete’s foresight set in motion the chain of events that led to my birth in SW Oklahoma and my deep fondness for the red dirt roads of home.
I would be remiss if I didn’t add one more tidbit to this story, so here goes. I don’t use a GPS, just my eyes, sense of direction, and occasionally a map. The trip to the Navajoe Cemetery actually took two tries. The first, by myself, I missed the cemetery by a country mile. On the second trip a few days later, I took along my sister-in-law, Denice, who had been there before. Being the good genealogist that she is, she also brought along the book, Cemetery Records of Jackson County by Claudine Dollar. After perusing the listing of graves, we started walking the cemetery to find the one grave that might be an ancestor or distant cousin. As we walked along, I happened across a beautiful angel statue that was guarding a child’s grave. I called over to Denice to take a look. Just as she looked up, I put my hand on the back of the angel’s wing. Out fluttered an angry Mama Bird, scaring the beejeevies out of me! I jumped up and back, Denice yelled out “watch for snakes!” It took a few moments for both of us to recover. Finally, I did step to the other side of the angel, and tucked inside her wing was a beautiful nest full of eggs. Even statues of angels can make great guardians of God’s smallest creatures. We did find the relative grave, but haven’t quite figured out yet her branch on the family tree.
Thank you for joining me today on this trip down a red dirt road in Southwestern Oklahoma. Please feel free to leave comments and questions. I look forward to another dose of red dirt therapy next month! Hope you’ll tag along, too.
~ Southwest Sara
Dates and Family Names:
Jacquie Askew Cervin, Jackie Graves Rutledge, Denice Osborne Sadler, Randy Sadler
Askew Family Information, collected by Jacquie Askew Cervin and stored at the Museum of the Western Prairie, located in Altus, OK.
“Town of Navajoe, Greer County, Texas, 1887” – the historical marker located on the grounds of the Navajo Cemetery, Jackson County, Oklahoma.
25 thoughts on “Well, For Pete’s Sake! ~ SW OK, Navajo and Navajoe”
I enjoyed this article! I googled Jacqueline Cervin trying to locate her. I have lost touch with her.
When her grandfather, William D Askew went to Oklahoma, his brother, Phillip Henry Askew went to Dothan, Alabama, and settled there. His grandson was was grandfather. My father, Fay Askew, loved his ” Oklahoma cousins” and after he died Jacqueline Cervin contacted me (1996) . We corresponded a few years and I went out to see her in California, but lost contact. I am deep into Ancestry.com and finally untagled all of the Askew relations, so I am very pleased! I suppose Southwest Sara and is MY Oklahoma cousin… Good article! Loved the pictures. Martha
Thank you, Cousin Martha! As you read the responses to this blog, you will notice you have several cousins commenting. Look for a private email message from me.
I idly entered Jacquline Cervin”s name under Google and somehow was led here and I was astonished! Jackie is my Great Aunt. I grew up going to her house in California and all the other “aunts”, Sookie, Toy, Sister and Punkin who actually lived in Cinton Oklahoma. I remember going to the museum in Altus when they added the Askew Collection.. My Dad, Jimmie Grider was the son of Aunt Jackie’s older sister, Hazel Dean. I live in Midlothian, Tx. I have enjoyed hearing Aunt Jackie tell of writing the family history.
Thanks so much.
Thank you, Valerie! So glad you have discovered the Red Dirt Chronicles, and my piece about Navajo and your Aunt Jacquie! She is such a sweetheart! Hopefully you also saw Bill Milspaugh’s comments above as well. My father, Earnest Sadler, thought the world of your grandmother, Hazel Dean, and the rest of his Askew cousins.
Are you working on your family tree, too? Jaquie has mentioned a great niece in Texas with whom she had been sharing family history with – and those treasured Askew books. Thx again for the compliments – glad you found this site and the story about Jaquie.
Several of us worked together to compile “The Early Day Friendship Area.” Not only was it very fulfilling and a lot of fun, but thanks mostly to Verna Biddy Johnson of Altus, we also raised enough money from book sales to make contributions to several historical projects including the Navajoe Cemetery, State Historical Marker and signs in Friendahip, Altus Cemetery Centennial Project and Western Cattle Trail.
Thanks for the nice article on Navajo(e). For a fairly current list of those buried in Navajoe Cemetery see:
Also, for a Wikipedia article on Navajoe see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Navajoe,_Oklahoma
And, for a Wikipedia article on nearby Friendship see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Friendship,_Oklahoma
I’ll be looking forward to your next installment. Keep up the good work
Thank you, Don – for the compliments and the links! Are you the Don that wrote the book about Friendship, OK?
You have done a wonderful job Sara. I have been to the Navajoe Cemetary many times as I have a great grandmother Bettie buried there. I have kin on the Ellis and the Graves side there. It is very interesting to visit that cemetary. When you are down maybe we can hook up and explore the area together. Love, Your cousin Jackie
Thank you, Jackie! I would so love to see you again – so hopefully next time we’re down I can catch up with you.
We moved to this area just a few months ago. I find the whole area interesting & wish I could learn more about Navajoe. Would you know where there are other photos from that time? I am completely convinced our home was once a dugout. I loved your article & wish I’d have known the day you were there. I would have liked to join you. I will take heed of the nursery in the angel wing, thanks for the heads-up. I’d guess it is one of the huge doves that live around here.
Thank you, Jerri! Glad you are enjoying your new home in SW Oklahoma. What brought you there?
I was there last June, and hope to return this June. For more info, I would suggest visiting the Museum of the Western Prairie in Altus. If you don’t see the pictures there you want to see, ask to see the Askew Collection, it has quite a few pictures of the Navajoe area and some of its people. Another place to visit would be the Old Greer County Museum and Hall of Fame at Mangum. Old Greer County is made up of what is now Greer, Jackson and Harmon Counties, and part of Beckham County.
One more source would be the newspaper and genealogy section of the Altus Public Library. Check with Tammy there and she can probably hook you up with the pictures you would want to see.
Having grown up in the Friendship Community near Navajo Mountains, my brother and I are unaware of the St. Francis cemetary. Can you give directions to that cemetary beginning from the Navajoe Cemetary?
Hi Colleen – the actual name is Francis Cemetery (no saint). The general location of the cemetary is about 1 or so miles west of Humphreys. Will look up the actual directions and post them later, as my method of getting there isn’t necessarily the best/easiest way. I drive around the mile squares until I see the tombstones. 😉
ok – thx to google, here are some actual directions.
From the Navajoe Cemetary – head WEST back to Friendship.
From Friendship – head SOUTH to Humphreys
At Humphreys – go WEST/Right on CR E 1690, about 1 mile
Turn SOUTH/Left on CR S 209, go about 1 mile
Turn WEST/Right on CR E 1700, go .7 miles, and cemetary will be on the left.
Finally – here’s a link to site where Patti O’Bannon has transcribed the tombstones from Francis. If you want a picture of any of them, please let me know.
Thanks for the directions and the information.
My name is Bill Millspaugh. I was told of this site by my Aunt Jacqueline Cervin. My mother was an older sister of Jacqueline. Pete Askew was my grandfather and Molly Askew would have been my great aunt, but I never met her. There is another cemetery a few miles south of the Navajoe cemetery, the St Francis Cemetery, where Pete Askew’s mother, father, brother, and an uncle are buried. Most of the tombstones in this cemetery are very small. However, there are three very large tombstones, about 10 feet tall. These belong to Pete’s father, mother, and uncle. So, how is Southwest Sara related to this family?
Hi Bill! Jacquie told me she was going to let y’all know about this. Glad you found it! I am Molly & HD’s great-granddaughter, via their oldest daughter, Bess. Francis Cemetery is near & dear to my heart, as 4 generations of my family are buried there, just down the row from Uncle Pete’s parents & siblings. It will be the subject of a future blog.Your Aunt Jacquie has been a tremendous help to me as I work on the family tree. If it hadn’t been for her assistance, I’d still be stuck at Pete and Molly’s parents!
I loved reading this! I’ve never been to the old Navajoe site. I love visiting old cemeteries, though, so I may just need to go by there sometime. I think I’ll use my GPS. 🙂
Fantastic job Sara! Thanks for taking on this monumental project. Makes one long for the old red dirt roads of home!
Good job Sara! Hope you enjoy your writing. You are off to a good start.
Wonderful Sara!!! I’ll be checking back & getting educated 🙂 Thanks for letting me know !
This is very interesting Sara. You sure have a lot of knowledge and research on all of this stuff. Thanks for sharing it with me and the others.
LOVE LOVE LOVE IT!! This is right in line with one of my favorite authors; Jim Fergus author of Thousand White Women and Wild Girl..
Joe, thank you for your kind comments! Given how small the community was, I am sure our ancestors knew each other. Do you still live in the area?
The Navajoe Cemetery is one of the most beautiful, peaceful cemeteries I’ve ever visited and I enjoyed reading about your visit there. My great-grandparents were pioneer residents of Navajoe. They and numerous members of their family rest in the cemetery there. My grandmother Audrey Ophelia Chivers Wynn was born at Navajoe in March 1892, and as a youngster I heard many stories of her growing-up years, climbing all over those mountains.
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