Bonnie and Clyde Killed H.D. Murphy
By Deborah Burkett
While putting together a display for the courthouse in Rusk recently with the topic 'cleaning and preserving cemetery headstones', I came across many heartfelt stories linked to cemeteries throughout Cherokee County. I located headstones which are visible reminders of our ancestors; names etched on grave markers serve as a 'directory' of early pioneers who shaped the history of Texas. I found the oldest known graves, burial sites of Native Americans, Veterans of many wars, as well as community leaders and county educators.
For this column, Old Palestine Cemetery will be featured. Located about four miles east of Alto, Texas, the cemetery was originally called Palestine but the 'Old' was added later when there was some confusion between it and the town of Palestine located in adjacent Anderson County.
Old Palestine has the gravesite of Holloway Daniel Murphy who was shot to death during his first day on the job as a Texas Highway Patrolman by Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow. H.D. Murphy and another patrolman thought Bonnie and Clyde were two stranded motorist and stopped to render aid to the two gangsters. As they dismounted their motorcycles both patrolmen were gunned down by the infamous pair. A farmer who saw the incident said Bonnie and Clyde then walked up to the dying officers and shot both of them in the head. To this day H.D. Murphy holds the record for being the youngest Texas Highway Patrolman killed in the line of duty and also had the shortest tenure as a Texas Highway Patrolman that was killed in the line of duty. The accompanying photograph speaks to Murphy's youth.
What can we do to ensure these stories and grave markers are preserved? Visit local and family cemeteries, work together to ensure well kept burial grounds. Even in the best of cemeteries, grave markers are subject to long-term deterioration from natural forces such as weathering and uncontrolled vegetation. To facilitate preservation efforts, the Cherokee County Historical Commission is sponsoring a hands-on workshop with the Old Palestine Cemetery. Initial conservations with Helen Selman and Judy Johnson have led to a Saturday, May 19th date when many will be cleaning the grave stones of their loved ones.
Further illustrating that cemetery headstones are valuable historic and genealogical records, I want to close with an inscription found on one of my newly discovered ancestor's grave stone. He is buried in the Cedar Hill Cemetery in Rusk, Texas.
William P. Long
Born Aug. 7, 1849 - Died Nov. 1, 1918
To Live in Hearts We Leave Behind is Not to Die
- H. D. Murphy (Photo courtesy of Cherokee County Judge, Chris Davis)