Athens Review, Athens, Texas

In the News

January 20, 2014

Tombstone unearthed in Tyler after 131 years

TYLER —  Unearthed after more than 130 years from its resting place 6 feet beneath the surface, a baby's headstone found at the city parking garage construction in downtown Tyler this week led officials to a neighborhood history lesson.

Self-proclaimed history buff and relic hunter Rick Garrett said the discovery by Rodney Kinard, foreman with L&L Asphalt Corp., was amazing.

Kinard was digging a week ago with a track hoe on the site of the new parking garage at Elm Street and Broadway Avenue and called Garrett to tell him he found something he needed to see.

The foreman had unearthed a 2-month-old baby's tombstone from 1883, the Tyler Morning Telegraph ( ) reported.

Garrett, 57, of Tyler, knew he had to grab the tombstone and find the right people to take and preserve it. He gently dusted it off in the back of his pickup truck Tuesday.

"Is that not the coolest thing, y'all?" he asked. "This hasn't seen daylight in years.

"It's a baby's tombstone. I don't know what to do with it. It needs to be handled in a special way."

He said they have found no other signs of any headstones or bones on the job site, just a few old bottles.

"We're always careful when we excavate," he said, adding that they can't slow down too much because they need to stay on schedule. "In my opinion, (the headstone) needs to be preserved.

"It doesn't need to be cast aside . It needs some tender-loving care."

Garrett started Rainbow Sealcoat, an asphalt maintenance firm, in 1982. He merged his company with L&L Asphalt a few years ago.

Garrett said he is a history student and enjoys learning about Tyler and Smith County. Through the years, he has found a cache of Civil War relics, and about 10 years ago, he and a friend found 22 Tyler railroad baggage claim checks under the Broadway underpass, a rare find.

The question city officials faced after last week's discovery was if the headstone, dated Oct. 30, 1883, was part of a grave site at the location, which could have slowed progress as they excavated for additional evidence.

The headstone displays the name of a 2-month-old child named William T. Swinney, and Smith County Historical Society's Sam Kidd said records show the child was born to Charles T. Swinney and his wife, Josie, who married in 1882 in Smith County.

Kidd said the parents listed their occupation as farmers in the 1890 Census, and William, with his birth date in August 1883, appeared to be the first born of seven children. The records show the children went to the Model School in Smith County.

But how did the child's headstone wind up buried under 6 feet of soil in downtown and not on a farm?

Kidd and Tyler City Engineer Carter Delleney believe the answer is simple - it was made at the location, which was a marble yard, according to maps from the 1880s.

The marble yard sat on the corner of Elm and Broadway where the parking garage is being constructed.

Kidd said that since Swinney was listed as a farmer, he believes the family might not have been able to afford to pay for the headstone, and the child was buried on the family farm somewhere in Smith County.

The headstone was then just placed somewhere on the marble yard's property, and over the years and various construction projects, it was buried.

Kidd said records show the First Presbyterian Church, now on Rusk Street, was built on the site in 1919, and Montgomery Ward was built on the College Street side of the lot in the in 1930s.

The area also once held a horse barn and livery stable and a mechanic shop.

But it was not until construction crews moving vast amounts of dirt for the garage project that the headstone came to light.

Delleney said research will continue to see if the headstone might one day be placed with the baby's gravesite.

Garrett said the Swinneys were some of the founding fathers of East Texas, and he hopes someone can trace the baby back to their family and put the headstone with their family plot.

"It's a baby's tombstone," he said. "It means a lot."


Text Only
In the News
  • Parsons Athens woman confesses to killing daughter

    Stacie Marie Parsons, 25, walked into the Athens Police Department at 8:46 a.m. Monday and confessed to killing her 4-year-old daughter.

    July 21, 2014 2 Photos

  • g000258000000000000f99cd4724578efa27c155fb3a1dcc7c68e3109e5.jpg Suspects sought in armed robberies in Corsicana

    Corsicana Police are looking for suspects in a pair of armed robberies the past week.

    July 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • Feds: Texas voting maps deliberately discriminated

     The U.S. Justice Department told judges Monday that Texas lawmakers carefully crafted electoral maps marginalizing minority voters despite the state's exploding Hispanic population in a deliberate effort to racially discriminate and protect conservative incumbents.

    July 14, 2014

  • Four children among six dead in suburban Houston shooting

      A father opened fire at a suburban Houston home Wednesday, killing four of his children as well as two adults who were with them, and critically wounding his 15-year-old daughter, authorities said.

    July 10, 2014

  • Corsicana firefighter killed in one-car crash

     An off-duty Corsicana fireman was killed and his two young sons were injured in a one-car crash on FM 709 north of Dawson Tuesday night.

    An off-duty Corsicana fireman was killed and his two young sons were injured in a one-car crash on FM 709 north of Dawson Tuesday night.

    Justice of the Peace Jackie Freeland identified the deceased fireman as Louis Lachney, 46. He was a Lieutenant with the Corsicana Fire Department.

    The crash was reported at 11:27 p.m. Tuesday and occurred  at a sharp curve in the roadway on FM 709 about two miles north of State Highway 31 near Dawson.

    DPS Sgt. Thomas Moore, supervisor at the crash site, said Lachney’s convertible Mazda was traveling north on FM 709 and failed to negotiate a sharp curve, leaving the roadway and overturning several times.

    Moore said Lachney and his two sons who were passengers in the car were all ejected from the vehicle. Moore said the three were apparently not wearing seat belts.

    The two injured boys walked to the roadway following the crash where they were discovered by a passing motorist, who notified law enforcement of the crash.

    Moore said the two boys were transported by air ambulance to a Dallas hospital. He said they were in serious but stable condition when transported from the crash site.

    DPS Trooper LaTonya Daniels is investigating the crash. Corsicana EMS, volunteer firefighters, and Navarro County Sheriff's Office deputies assisted at the crash site. - See more at:

    July 9, 2014

  • RNC to be held in Cleveland

    A Republican National Committee panel is recommending Cleveland to host the party's 2016 presidential convention.

    July 8, 2014

  • ADR logo.tif Border money request won't include policy change

    July 8, 2014 1 Photo

  • Killer of 2 Henderson County deputies loses appeal

     An East Texas man sentenced to death for a shootout that left two Henderson County sheriff's deputies dead seven years ago has lost a federal court appeal, moving him a step closer to execution.

    June 30, 2014

  • Bond set at $1M for ex-cop in suitcase deaths

    ELKHORN, Wis. (AP) — Two women whose remains were found stuffed in suitcases dropped along a rural Wisconsin highway may have died accidentally, perhaps during consensual sex, the defense attorney for a former police officer suspected in their deaths said Friday.

    June 27, 2014

  • Texas DMV prepares for sticker shock of losing inspection tag

    In less than nine months Texas windshields are going to start looking different, and Department of Motor Vehicles officials are gearing up to avoid a sticky situation when car owners transition from having two state-required tags to one.

    June 25, 2014

Biz Marquee
AP Video
Judge Ponders Overturning Colo. Gay Marriage Ban Airlines Halt Travel to Israel Amid Violence NYPD Chief Calls for 'use of Force' Retraining VA Nominee McDonald Goes Before Congress Bush: Don't Worry, Sugarland Isn't Breaking Up US Official: Most Migrant Children to Be Removed Police Probing Brooklyn Bridge Flag Switch CDC Head Concerned About a Post-antibiotic Era Raw: First Lady Says `Drink Up' More Water Courts Conflicted Over Healthcare Law Holder Urges Bipartisanship on Immigration Raw: Truck, Train Crash Leads to Fireball US Airlines Cancel Israel Flights Obama Signs Workforce Training Law Crash Victims' Remains Reach Ukraine-held City Diplomatic Push Intensifies to End War in Gaza Cat Fans Lap Up Feline Film Festival Michigan Plant's Goal: Flower and Die Veteran Creates Job During High Unemployment