Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Harry Daves

Harry Daves was a Texan of the old school. He was cranky and persistent, but modest and respectful. Nevertheless, the language heard in his living room could drop a Yankee's jaw. It did mine. He loved history, but his modest education, or maybe it was the cranky persistence, kept him at odds with the more formal historians of his section of Texas. So it seemed to this visitor from the north.

Harry contacted me the first time when he heard there was a Yankee poking around the local libraries, museums, and woods, trying to find the lost gravesite of his ancestor, Samuel Barber. Local historians advised me that Harry wouldn't have much to help my search, but they were wrong--Harry had more than all the others put together. He had long been interested in finding Samuel's grave but had not succeeded. He had interviewed everyone he could find who had seen it, none more recently than the 1960s. The site was deep in the woods of East Texas and any marker had long since disappeared. On a collection of paper scraps Harry had notes from each, describing what each knew. One knew on whose tract it lay. Another knew it was north of such and such fence, but south of another. It was in the woods but the prairie was visible. No piece of information alone was sufficient, but in aggregate they could narrow the possibilities to a radius of a few hundred feet. Harry also knew the hunters who knew the woods and who would join us in a sweep of the area and, better yet, guarantee we could find our way out.

We made multiple sweeps until we were convinced we found Samuel's gravesite. See the detailed description here.
Harry in his trademark red coveralls with Neale Rabensburg, Gayla Tilton, Mike Pomykal; 1994.

Thank you, Harry.