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Unmarked Graves of L.D. and Laura Nelson

I’ve reached the land of corn and wine,
And all its riches freely mine;
Here shines undimmed one blissful day,
For all my night has passed away…

When I visited the L.D. and Laura’s unmarked graves in 2015 it was a shattering and haunting experience. Robert and the kids when with me and it was harrowing in ways that only the five us will remember.

Dreams Immortalized: Laura Nelson in Lavender

Greenleaf Cemetery where Laura Nelson and her son are buried.

While at the graveyard, strewn with broken and weathered stones, dilapidated grave houses, and faded fake flowers, I felt Laura Nelson there with me in my sadness. It is not an experience I have felt comfortable talking much about until now. I’d been so sad that their graves were unmarked. I thought eventually, I could do something to fix it. For example, I could spearhead crowdsource-funding to buy them headstones or commission a portrait of them, beautiful mother and loyal son.

In my mind, Laura would be wearing a lavender floral prairie dress. She would not just be dangling like a rag doll above that bridge in Okfuskee County. Instead, she would be frolicking as a young pioneer in a new state with her son by her side. It would be a portrait for the ages; one that would elevate their deaths beyond memory and time.

I know Laura loved her boy just like I love mine. And, I know he loved his momma so much. I think maybe he was defending her that day he shot and killed that sheriff. There were no video cameras or iPhones back then to capture what law enforcement was doing or trying to do. Was the sheriff groping her? Trying to rape her? We’ll never know.

I Thought We Could Do Something Together

I have dreamed of this painting a thousand times. I’ve imagined it hanging in the Oklahoma State Capitol. I worked in the arts and I know accomplishing this would have been no small feat. I would have had to advocate long and hard to make it happen and it would take a lot of people more connected than me, but I thought I could at least try. I thought we could do it together. I even talked to several artists but nobody grabbed ahold of my vision.

I thought these efforts would help us never forget Laura and L.D. and help ensure that things like this never happen again. I thought the painting would be a sign to everyone that the lynching days were behind us.

Man of Sorrows

Sometimes, I feel so alone in the things that break me. When I feel shame over my sadness I remember that Jesus was called a Man of Sorrows.

Sadly, the posts I wrote about the Nelsons drew very little attention and my ideas did not gain traction. It turns out people don’t want to share posts about unmarked graves of lynching victims in littered cemeteries in rural Oklahoma.

There is one thing that brings me solace. When I was at Laura’s gravesite I felt her telling me she wasn’t there anymore and that she had actually never been there. Her bones may have been folded into that earth but as I shared in 2015, her beloved soul was with God the second they lynched her and her boy above the Okfuskee County Bridge. May their dear souls continue to rest in the everlasting peace of our Lord. I hope these things never stop breaking my heart.

O Beulah Land, sweet Beulah Land,
As on thy highest mount I stand,
I look away across the sea,
Where mansions are prepared for me,
And view the shining glory shore,
My Heav’n, my home forever more!

Here are the three posts I’ve written about the Nelson lynching. The last one is my favorite because it’s about the sacrifices of old generations and hope for new.
Laura Nelson’s Grave
Oklahoma Lynching of Laura Nelson and Her Son
And, this one, How To Leave a Legacy For Future Generations.

Editor’s Note: Unbelievably, the murder of George Floyd occured on the 109th anniversary of the infamous lynching of L.D. Nelson and Laura Nelson in Okfuskee County Oklahoma.

Gen X Blog Jennifer Chronicles

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  1. Michelle S.

    Thank you Jennifer for doing your best to draw attention to this injustice 💜 It breaks my heart as a person of color but even more so AS A HUMAN BEING to see black men and women targeted and dying needlessly. I’ve been praying so much lately hoping Christ will come soon. I feel this world is at a breaking point what with the climate, school shootings, mass shootings, pandemic and this senseless and hateful violence. Its just too much. My hope is in God alone. And in the meantime help spread love and peace in His name as much as I can.

    • Jennifer

      It’s always so good to hear from you. I know it sounds so totally crazy, but when I close my eyes I see Laura in that lavender floral dress and she is happy and telling me everything is OK for her now. And, I KNOW she doesn’t want me to be sad. She is part of the Communion of Saints. I keep thinking of that old hymn, A Glorious Church by Ralph E. Hudson. God bless, you Michelle!! Much love to you and yours. Here are the words:

      Do you hear them coming, brother?—
      Thronging up the steeps of light,
      Clad in glorious shining garments,
      Blood-washed garments, pure and white!
      ’Tis a glorious church without spot or wrinkle,
      Washed in the blood of the Lamb;
      ’Tis a glorious church without spot or wrinkle,
      Washed in the blood of the Lamb.
      Do you hear the stirring anthems,
      Filling all the earth and sky?
      ’Tis a grand, victorious army;
      Lift its banner up on high!
      Never fear the clouds of sorrow,
      Never fear the storms of sin:
      We shall triumph on the morrow—
      Even now our joys begin.
      Wave the banner, shout His praises,
      For our victory is nigh!
      Following our conqu’ring Savior,
      We shall reign with Him on high!

  2. Alan Bates

    I missed your earlier posts about this lynching. I’ve read some about it and it is appalling and the photo that circulated near and wide is terrible. I just don’t know how such a thing could happen but of course such things happened a lot in the US and in Oklahoma.

    • Jennifer

      Isn’t it amazing that the photos were taken, survived, found (at a flea market!) and then finally circulated widely on the Internet? Otherwise, we would have not had the knowledge of it as we do. It is hard to look at those photos. Thank you, Alan.


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