Just after I moved to Tulsa, the city celebrated its centennial. Since I had grown up the Ohio Valley, near Fort Pitt, I remember thinking that was pretty cute. Pittsburgh’s history dates back to before the Revolutionary War. Some sweet little pioneer town having a big blow out over 100 little old years.
As I grew to love Tulsa, to splay out my roots despite every effort not to, I fell in love with its “short” history. That short history included the land run, women sent by their families to stake a land claim, the rise of African-American only towns, the establishment and eventual destruction of Black Wall Street.
Knowing these details endeared the city to me. But I wouldn’t have learned them if I didn’t dig a little. The city didn’t just open up it’s books and reveal itself to me. I had to ask the question s. I had to scratch the dirt on the buildings and ask the people who lived there longer. I had to explore the streets and visit the buildings.
I miss that city. I miss its history.
And now I get to scratch the dirt off some new buildings, to kick up the dust on some new trails. One of the main features of Rome is the Myrtle Hill Cemetery. It may seem sort of macabre to celebrate a burial ground, or to bandy about that this is a major feature of the town. If you were to drive through town once, you would see it, on one of Rome’s seven hills with six terraces. Before it was a cemetery it was a battle ground. During the Civil War, forts were built on the grounds to defend the city from Union soldiers.
Over 300 Civil War soldiers are buried here, as well as one former First lady, Ellen Axson Wilson, the first wife of Woodrow Wilson, who grew up in Rome. As it turns out, Tulsa’s 100 year old history pales in comparison to this sleepy town in the foothills of the Appalachians mountains.
Soon, I’ll climb the terraces and drag a finger against the tombstones. There’s one, close to the street emblazoned with the name Peacock Jones. We are determined to discover the truths behind the owner of such a great name.
I have baby roots here now. I can get to the doctor, the grocery store, even Atlanta, without a map. But I don’t know all Rome’s secrets. That will take time.