Gone, but not forgotten
87 years later, a Confederate veteran’s grave
receives a headstone
Bertig Cemetery was once on an island
in the middle of the St. Francis River, but since the levee was
built, the waters receded and the river is now about 100 yards away.
Clovis DeMent, who has family buried here, said there’s reason to
believe some of the graves are from as far back as the late 1880s.
But many of the graves remain unmarked, their presence detected only
by the slight indentations in the earth.
But on this day, Oct. 11, one grave will go unmarked no longer. A
crowd of about 40 milled in an open area: some are students from a
school nearby in Cardwell, Mo.; others held cameras and chatted with
kinfolk; still others are dressed in the drab grays of replica
Confederate Army uniforms, right down to the boots and the sabers.
The crowd is here to memorialize Thomas Jefferson Shaw, a Civil War
veteran who served in the 5th Regiment, Missouri Infantry State
Guard, 8th Division. His wartime service was spent as a scout in
Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest’s cavalry. He was wounded at Shiloh and
recovered from his wounds at a plantation in Cornith, Miss.,
according to family history.
After the war, he married America Ophelia Baldridge and had six
children. A daughter, Maddie Maude, was born in Paragould. He would
spend the rest of his days as a justice of the peace and sheriff in
Clarkton, Mo., until he went to visit his daughter, Eula DeMent, at
her home in Bertig in 1921. There he would die and be buried in an
unmarked grave in the Bertig Cemetery
Clovis DeMent knows the location of Shaw’s grave because DeMent’s
father was present at his funeral.
The intervening years had not been kind to the quiet graveyard on
the edge of a soybean field. DeMent said the cemetery was “grown up”
with weeds and underbrush until about 15 years ago.
“You couldn’t walk through here,” he said. “I promised myself I was
going to take care of it for as long as I can.”
He and other family members kept the grass mowed and tried to locate
and map as many of the graves as they could. Then a couple of years
ago, he got a call from Tommy French of Baton Rouge, La., another
great-grandson of Shaw’s.
“I didn’t know he existed until he called me,” DeMent said.
French was in search of Shaw’s grave, and it was the one thing
DeMent could help him with.
When French first came to visit four years ago, he said he decided
then to get Shaw a headstone. Through his efforts, the Veterans
Administration supplied the headstone, a plain, simple marker.
The ceremony Oct. 11 to dedicate the headstone was no simple affair,
however. Representatives from the Sons and Daughters of the
Confederacy were on hand to pay honor to the veteran with a
Confederate memorial service. Danny Honnoll, commander of Shaver
Camp No. 1655, Sons of Confederate Veterans, presided.
It was clear from Honnoll’s remarks about Shaw the man, the soldier
and the Confederate, that Honnoll was not only honoring him, but a
bygone time and a heritage that most present still held dear.
As the ceremony ended, Honnoll invited the crowd to sing. The
gathered voices rang out into the bright fall afternoon, clear and
“I wish I were in the land of cotton, old times there are not
forgotten ... “