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Puzzling headstone leads to history mystery in Oklahoma City

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Ulysses G. Moore, a World War I veteran, is buried in Trice Hill, an all-black cemetery in northeast Oklahoma City. But there is no marker on his final resting place. A new homebuyer recently found a headstone for Moore in his back yard. [JIM BECKEL/THE OKLAHOMAN]
Ulysses G. Moore, a World War I veteran, is buried in Trice Hill, an all-black cemetery in northeast Oklahoma City. But there is no marker on his final resting place. A new homebuyer recently found a headstone for Moore in his back yard. [JIM BECKEL/THE OKLAHOMAN]

Carl Watson did not want to bump into U.S. Army Pvt. Ulysses Grant Moore, 1896-1964, in his living room in the dark of the night — stumbling across the World War I veteran's headstone in the backyard was shock enough.

He was worried that his grandkids would visit him once at his new-to-him home and never come back if they saw the grave marker, official looking or not.

Under a cross in a circle, the rectangular stone read:

ULYSSES G. MOORE

OKLAHOMA

PVT CO M 65 PIONEER INF

WORLD WAR I

JUNE 10 1896 — JAN 20 1964

Who was Moore? Why was his headstone in the backyard at 2304 E Madison St.? Why at all, but why, indeed, after 55 years?

Watson said he discovered the stone while cleaning up debris from a long-collapsed garage or shed. He was especially disturbed, he said, because the stone appeared to have been placed deliberately and properly for burial.

Was there a body down there?

One afternoon, Watson spied a man across the property line, in the parking lot of Trinity Presbyterian Church, inspecting the fence. Did he know anything about it? The houses faces north; the church fronts NE 23, facing south.

No, the church elder did not.

Nor did I, the pastor, as my worlds collided again: ministry, history, mystery, journalism.

At first, I thought maybe Moore had been a member of Trinity and for some reason he had been either buried there, or the marker placed there, and the fence had drifted across the property line, as they can do over decades. But no one knew anything about it.

What a property puzzle! So, doffing the clerical collar and arming myself with tools of the journalism and history trades, I went to work.

A check of property deeds and other records revealed several things.

Records show that U.S. (not U.G.) Moore and his wife, Mentora, bought the house, built in 1940, from John and Leona Hicks on June 13, 1963. Mentora Moore lived until 1980. Title to the property got tangled up with never-completed probate, quit claims and death until Alma Lucas, a granddaughter, went to court for a quiet title — and clear title.

I called James A. Slayton, her attorney, he emailed her, and she called me.

Lucas, 74, said she had not lived in the house, or in Oklahoma, since 1966. After decades in California, she'd recently relocated to Copperas Cove, Texas, about 75 miles north of Austin.

She knew about the headstone, although it, and the oddness of its location, slipped her mind over years, distance and generations.

"I don't know why it came, and I don't know why it was sent to the house," she said. "Why it was delivered to the house is a mystery to me."

She did know one thing: Ulysses Moore was not buried at 2304 E Madison St. He was buried at Trice Hill, a large African-American cemetery at NE 50 and Coltrane Road.

Good, I thought. My church neighbor can relax, and its pastor can quit ribbing him about his unusual, possible and, frankly, unwanted resident, since his body was in a cemetery where it belonged.

(Watson has been good-natured about my kidding him: "Well, Carl, if Pvt. Moore does show up, y'all are both welcome to church next door at 2301 NE 23, at 11 a.m. Sunday!" I can be lightning fast at switching from my journalism-history hat to ministry hat, and vice versa.)

So, I called Trice Hill Cemetery, and they knew right where Ulysses G. Moore was buried: Section 26, Lot 32, Grave 5. So, I assigned a photographer — and was floored when the pictures came back showing an unmarked grave site. All this time, I'd assumed that the backyard headstone might have been left there because his grave was already marked.

No. Who knows why it was left there, but it was. And I think that needs to be ceremonially remedied. Who will take this on?

Moore served in Co. M of the 65th Pioneer Infantry, which formed in October 1918, at Camp Funston, near Junction City, Kansas. The camp was eat up with the Spanish flu. The war was over in December. Moore was drafted, probably got sick as could be, served briefly, and presumably came back home to Oklahoma, honorably.

Who will see that his grave is properly and ceremonially marked?

You can email Real Estate Editor Richard Mize at rmize@oklahoman.com .

Related Photos
<strong>The headstone for Ulysses G. Moore was found by a man in his backyard on E Madison St. [TRINITY PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH]</strong>

The headstone for Ulysses G. Moore was found by a man in his backyard on E Madison St. [TRINITY PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH]

<figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-6664d0ecc5a19f7e1c9286bbe60002c8.jpg" alt="Photo - The headstone for Ulysses G. Moore was found by a man in his backyard on E Madison St. [TRINITY PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH] " title=" The headstone for Ulysses G. Moore was found by a man in his backyard on E Madison St. [TRINITY PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH] "><figcaption> The headstone for Ulysses G. Moore was found by a man in his backyard on E Madison St. [TRINITY PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH] </figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-bc4238cfb34fdb9f4b86d63f6ef88274.jpg" alt="Photo - Ulysses G. Moore, a World War I veteran, is buried in Trice Hill, an all-black cemetery in northeast Oklahoma City. But there is no marker on his final resting place. A new homebuyer recently found a headstone for Moore in his back yard. [JIM BECKEL/THE OKLAHOMAN] " title=" Ulysses G. Moore, a World War I veteran, is buried in Trice Hill, an all-black cemetery in northeast Oklahoma City. But there is no marker on his final resting place. A new homebuyer recently found a headstone for Moore in his back yard. [JIM BECKEL/THE OKLAHOMAN] "><figcaption> Ulysses G. Moore, a World War I veteran, is buried in Trice Hill, an all-black cemetery in northeast Oklahoma City. But there is no marker on his final resting place. A new homebuyer recently found a headstone for Moore in his back yard. [JIM BECKEL/THE OKLAHOMAN] </figcaption></figure>
Richard Mize

Real estate editor Richard Mize has edited The Oklahoman's weekly residential real estate section and covered housing, commercial real estate, construction, development, finance and related business since 1999. From 1989 to 1999, he worked... Read more ›

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