ABILENE, Texas (KTAB/KRBC)– The discovery of a former slave’s unmarked grave is now a quest to properly honor his life. That a former slave by the name of Wash Lytle was laid to rest right here in Abilene at the age of 111. And there are more findings that have been discovered.
Lytle is buried at the Abilene Municipal Cemetery on Cotton Street, but if you look for Lytle’s grave, there is no headstone, it’s just grass according to local historian, Dr. A.C. Jackson.
“They showed where he’s buried but there’s nothing there to recognize him,” says Jackson.
Right now, only a marker created by Dr. Jackson honors the legacy of Lytle’s lengthy history. Wash Lytle was born in 1844 and Abilene was still a tent town. Lytle arrived somewhere in his 30’s. He was a former slave, cowboy, and trail driver, but there’s talk that he was also a veteran.
“And I thought for a genuine Texas hero, he deserves more than that.”
After a lot of research and genealogical studies, Dr. Jackson is working with Bryan Massey at the Taylor County Veterans’ Service Office. They’re both looking into Lytle’s military background in an effort to give Lytle the proper headstone and recognition.
“I was shocked to know; a veteran had been placed here and had no marker. I was shocked that it had gone on this long and nobody seemed to care anymore, but that’s over with because I care and I’m going to make something happen,” says Massey.
The office was then able to retrieve Lytle’s’ death certificate, which stated he served in World War I.
“I’ve sent the paperwork in and we’re going to do our best to try and find out what we can find out and pull those military records.”
But according to the U.S. Military, more evidence regarding his military record is needed to confirm his service.
“Hopefully, they weren’t destroyed in the fire in 1973 because a lot of them were but we’re going to get him a tombstone, he deserves that.”
Both Dr. Jackson and Massey tell us that they know this will be a long process but believe in the end it’s something he deserved.
If anyone has family relations to Mr. Wash Lytle or knows of someone that may do, please contact the Taylor County Veterans’ Service Office. Once more military records are found on Mr. Lytle, the office plans to move him into the Texas State Veterans Cemetery here in Abilene.