by Barbara J. Wood
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Keenan grave site

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SUNNYSIDE TEXAS .... How many people can you bury in one single grave? Well, the Keenan grave site from the late 1800's has three people recorded to buried in this one burial site. Located at the intersection of FM 427 and FM 537 in Sunnyside, TX. This is a Wilson County Historical grave site. The history of this family is impressive and if you care to explore when and why this is a piece of Wilson County history, you should research it......very impressive.

Mahala Reed Keenan
BIRTH 30 May 1844
Shelby County, Indiana, USA
DEATH 26 Jan 1900 (aged 55)
Floresville, Wilson County, Texas, USA
Floresville, Wilson County, Texas, USA
She was the daughter of John O. Reed and Elizabeth Ann Rouse. For a more complete biography of Mahala, please refer to the text portion of this book.

The Keenan Cemetery near Floresville, Sunnyside, Texas, where Mahala was buried contains only one grave marker; it is a very tall marble stone. The names, birth and death dates of Elva L. Keenan, her son, and Mahala (Reed) Keenan were engraved upon the front of the stone. Also on the stone's front at ground level was this biblical inscription: "Whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do. John 14, 13." On the back of the stone is engraved _____Grandson ____; one of her Curtis grandsons, Keene Spruce Curtis, is also buried there. Keene was a son of Myrtle (Keenan) Curtis and Myrtle was Mahala's daughter and the Curtis's accompanied Mahala and Elva on a wagon journey from Kentucky to Texas in 1899.

This Keenan Cemetery was located at the junction of Farm to Market Road 427 (FM 427) and its junction with Farm to Market Road 537, in Wilson County, Texas. There was only one stone in this cemetery. The county was using this site as a dump for gravel and the grave stone has a nick on one side likely the result of having been struck by a backhoe. The grave marker was located on the northeast corner of the intersection. It faced an iron gate, red in color, which provided access to a large pasture. The metal gate guarding the pasture had the name, D. P. REED, in iron letters attached to the gate. Reed was Mahala's maiden surname. This gate, raised a question concerning whether Mahala may have had a Reed relative in Texas at the time of her travel to that state. She had traveled to Texas, a warmer climate, in pursuit of a healthier place to live and breathe as she was suffering from tuberculosis at the time.

Mahala was known as a "revivalist" minister. Until she had a church, she preached anywhere that a group could be assembled, mostly to share croppers or poor whites. She was known to ride a white donkey side saddle through the hills of Kentucky singing as she traveled. (Source: Letter from Mary M. Keenan to son Francis, postmarked in Champaign, Illinois February 10, 1997.)

Mahala's mother died when she was three years old. She traveled to Clay County, Illinois, with her father where she eventually met and married Patrick B. Keenan. They returned to his home near Falls of Rough, Kentucky, and in 1887, with the help of others, built and founded the Keenan Chapel at Hickory Lick in western Breckinridge County. Patrick died in 1896, and later that year, Mahala went to Highway, Clinton County, Kentucky, to school her boys. Her health had been poor for several years and she next moved in 1899, by covered wagon, to Texas hoping the warmth would assist in the recovery of her health. Shortly after her arrival there in 1900, she succumbed to tuberculosis. Her son, Elva, also died from tuberculosis while a teen and was buried in the same grave as was his mother.

While in Kentucky and at the time of Mahala's husband's death, she had him buried next to the Keenan Chapel. This site is in the back woods and in a very remote location in the hills of western Kentucky. The old wagon roads which led to the chapel site can yet be recognized although they are now overgrown by vegetation. The chapel no longer exists but the sandstone cornerstones are yet extant on the site.

An interesting side note was that Mahala was extremely devoted to Methodism. When her husband died, she removed to a location in southern Kentucky near to the Tennessee line where there was a Methodist preacher who had a school for young boys. She wanted her sons to be educated there. When this community was to be formally organized as a township, the place had no name assigned to it. The preacher at the ceremony said that he would open his Bible and point to a verse and the landing point of his finger would become the name of the community. The place was named Highway in Clinton County, Kentucky. I do not know where the term "Highway" is in the Bible.

When Mahala went to Floresville, Texas, that spot was known to have a number of well respected Methodist ministers in residence there. That, no doubt, was the reason that Mahala selected that place as her destination when leaving Kentucky.

(Courtesy of Francis W. Keenan, Ph.D. Emeritus Professor SUNY at Brockport, New York)  (Courtesy "Find a Grave")
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This photograph of a group of students of the Sunnyside School posing in front of a building in Wilson County, Texas on FM 537. Undated Unidentified (Courtesy of " The Portal to Texas History")