July 2, 2014

Vandals desecrate gravestones at Ranger cemetery

A family member says the people who did this are “cowards because they picked on someone who has no way of fighting for themselves.”

In August 1919, an Eastland County doctor diagnosed a sickly Callie Pruett with appendicitis.

“They put her on a train to Fort Worth,” said Jeane Pruett, a relative. “And she died on the operating table.”

Callie, 19, is buried in the Pruett family section at Merriman Cemetery, about three miles outside of Ranger. Over the years, other family members have joined her in the cemetery, which received a state historical marker in 1993.

Pruett doesn’t understand why vandals recently knocked over many of the gravestones — including Callie’s — and damaged other artifacts in the cemetery.

“They’re cowards,” said Pruett, secretary of the Merriman Cemetery Association. “That’s what they are. This is a person’s last rites. The people who did this … they’re cowards because they picked on someone who has no way of fighting for themselves.”

Randy Hooks, chief deputy sheriff in Eastland County, said the vandalism occurred between June 21 and Saturday, when the damage was discovered.

The cemetery, which is still active and one of the oldest in the area, is on Farm Road 2461 about one mile south of Interstate 20.

“Word is out there, including on Facebook; we just haven’t gotten any leads,” Hooks said.

“I’ve been doing law enforcement 35 years. For some unknown reason people like to go into cemeteries and tear things up.”

Pruett said four headstones from her family’s section were either knocked over or uprooted. A vase on another marker was broken. Speaking reverently, she named the relatives whose graves were desecrated.

“My husband’s grandmother, Nettie Pruett, who was born Jan. 11, 1872, and died Sept. 13, 1925.”

“Nettie’s daughter, Callie.”

“My husband’s brother, Clinton W.C. Pruett, who lived nine days and died in 1923.”

“My husband’s oldest sister’s twin babies,” who probably died in the 1920s. A vase at the grave of the sister, Billie Pruett Tudor, and her husband, Homer, was broken.

The oldest gravestone in the cemetery was toppled and moved from its grave site, she said. It belonged to Orthosias Scarborough, who died Jan. 6, 1879.

Other headstones broken include a large “Woodmen of the World” marker and some unmarked gravestones, Pruett said.

“They did tremendous damage,” Pruett said, adding that the sections closest to FM 2461 were the “least hit.”

Pruett said the cemetery association will have a board meeting next week to determine what to do next. She said family members are responsible for repairing or replacing their loved ones gravestones and “the ones we’ve reached have been pretty understanding.”

Pruett said the gravestone of her husband, Elzie Pruett, who died in 2011, was not damaged. She’ll someday be buried alongside him.

“My name’s on there too,” said Pruett, 79.

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