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Graveside ceremony honors former Confederate soldier

December 4, 2012

Private Calvin McKee lay in an unmarked grave for 101 years until 11 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 17, when the Confederate Monument Dedication at Mt. Olive Cemetery brought 85 people — including 35 direct decendants — together to honor him.

The Sons of Confederate Veterans and Order of the Confederate Rose hosted the event.

“The unique thing about Pvt. McKee's dedication was the large number of family members who were in attendance,” said Gaylin Harrison of the SCV. “Usually, it is difficult to find a single kin to file the paperwork to get the gravestone from the (Veteran's Administration). It is a great tribute to Pvt. McKee and the family that so many of the family showed up to attend and pay respects.”

Harrison aided McKee's family in Confederate military research, set the grave marker and organized the dedication.

Members of the SCV's West Texas Brigade came from as far away as Amarillo, Junction and Abilene.

McKee served in Co. E, 1st Arkansas Cavalry during the war and served in the battles of Cane Hill, Praire Grove and Fayetteville, all in Washington County, Ark. The brigade surgeon discharged McKee in July 1863.

McKee died at age 87 on March 15, 1911. Three days later, his son, Preston McKee, transported his father's body from Denton County, Texas, to Big Spring and buried him in the Mt. Olive Cemetery. No grave marker was erected.

Until this year, descendants believed the grave was lost. Woodie Long, McKee's great-grandson, and his wife, Alice Long, renewed the search in August. They were aided in their efforts by Big Spring city employee Rebecca Pritchett and Howard County Historical Commission member Sue Ann Damron.

“All the credit goes to Rebecca Pritchett for producing accurate records of earlier burials in the cemetery and Sue Ann Damron for her military research,” Woodie Long said.

With the grave located, a military history record was submitted to the Department of Veteran Affairs, which then granted a marker.

The new marker was unveiled during the ceremony. A rose was laid at the grave by Golda Foster, member of the Order of the Confederate Rose San Angelo chapter. Several of McKee's great-granddaughters followed suit. The ceremony concluded with a rifle salute, the playing of Taps and the singing of “Dixie.”

“It was touching to see so many people there,” said Heather Moxley, one of McKee's great-granddaughters. “It was wonderful to see that people took the effort to honor him after so many years.”

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