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November 16, 2012

County Commissioners strive to end longtime Killough Monument vandalism

RUSK —  It long has been the bane of Cherokee County Commissioners, family members, area visitors and even graveyard ghost chasers.

The vandalism to the Killough Monument, the stone obelisk north of Jacksonville in Precinct 3, simply won't stop. The sheer amount of garbage that comes with such abuse tends to replenish almost as soon as it is cleaned up.

Unsightly pentagram symbols are found scrawled on the pavement. Beer can, broken glass and plastic cup litter is strewn about the ground haphazardly. Trespassers are caught on videotape urinating on graves. And worst of all, the historic monument itself often is shoved cruelly to the ground.

Commissioners have long had difficulties policing the monument, which commemorates the Oct. 5, 1838 Killough Massacre, said to be the last and largest Native American attack on caucasian immigrants in East Texas.

On Tuesday, the County Commissioners discussed different possibilities on how to stop the problem, but ultimately tabled any extensive decision on the matter, which Precinct 3 Commissioner Katherine Pinotti had placed on the agenda.

However, commissioners did agree during that meeting to put signs up in the area restricting visitors to between the hours of 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. throughout the week. Younger vandals tend to offend between 9 p.m. and 5 a.m., with adults more so during the day, reports show.

"We're also going to meet with our historical people to decide a direction on what to do," said County Judge Chris Davis.

Pinotti said Thursday she is ordering two sets of warning signs created – one for hours of visitation and the other warning that the area is under 24-hour video surveillance.

Additionally, the sheriff's office and area constables are being asked to help monitor the area, she said.

Pinotti said some of the videotape already taken of  area vandals captured the images of several teenagers doing “unspeakable things to the area.”

The commissioner said she ordered the videocameras put up after learning of the pentagram graffiti.

She was even more alarmed after she received word that arcane rituals were being performed in the area.

There's a lot of bad behavior there, the commissioner said.

“We have watched on videotape what we believe are drug deals going down in that area,” Pinotti said.

“The worst part is when we have to watch people take four wheelers and drive them right over gravestones like they are some kind of obstacle. It really is horrible,” she said

The vandals, most of whom do not know they are being recorded, consist of half school children and younger and half adults, Pinotti said.

“It's the adults who are urinating on graves,” she said. “The kids I think – ages 12, 13, 14, and 15 – are just there for the thrill.”

 On the Tuesday County Commissioners' agenda, Pinotti had also requested permission to shut the County Road 3424 gate to the monument site to the public for varying hours during the winter and summer months.

Instead, the gate will stay open and Pinotti will focus on setting new signs up and monitoring the area by video.

Judge Davis said designating who exactly was supposed to open and close that particular gate given its location would have been problematic.

"We're going to have to do some more research on the entire matter,” the judge said.  “Adult probation or someone has talked about cleaning the area up."

Pinotti has long tried to take care of the problem. Road crews in the past have cleaned up the area, just to have the trash quickly replenish.

"It is such a shame that this area is not kept cleaned up by the Historical Commission or the owners," she lamented years ago on her website, www.katherinepinotti.com.

In August 2010, monument descendent John Henry Killough described the vandalism situation as "hopeless." Killough posts on the Killough Reunion Association’s killough.org website, which is dedicated to helping research on Killough ancestors.

"There is no way to stop the vandals short of a 24-hour heavily armed guard," Killough wrote.

"We tried to keep it nice for a while, but a favorite act of the vandals is to knock over the official state marker by the entrance.  We repeatedly had it reset at some expense only to see it back on the ground."

Killough said it has been difficult for him to drive a 100-mile round trip to keep the area mowed and cleaned up.

"The vandals immediately descend on it to have their beer and drug parties so we give up," he wrote.

Even those prone to frequent the area because it is believed to be haunted say the disrespect to the monument is far too blatant.

A blogger writing under the name "Bewitchy" wrote in October 2011 that the last time he was at the monument, stones commemorating the dead were overturned, the black gates that used to surround the place 20-odd years ago were long gone, and a vile, "bloody" T-shirt was hanging over a growing pine tree.  

This spectacle disrespects the memory of those who died in the Killough massacre and also kills any fear, excitement and wonder the area might offer visitors, the blogger wrote.

"I will say that that is not what I felt as I looked upon this silent lonely place. I felt a sadness for these people. Not only for what happened here, but for what continues to occur – vandalism."

It's sad because, when let unmolested, the monument is a thing of wonder, Bewitchy said in his blog.

"The monument itself is extraordinary," the blogger wrote.

Meanwhile, Pinotti urged people to not steal the signs she is having placed in the monument area because they are sorely needed to direct directionally-challenged outsiders there.

The commissioner said this is a major historical site that is good for both tourism and Cherokee County's economy.

“We want people to visit there,” Pinotti said. “We just don't want them to vandalize that area. The people who are doing that should be ashamed of themselves.”

 

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