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131-year-old tombstone returned to family

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Ron Swinney accepts William T. Swinney's tombstone 131 years after the child died. Ron Swinney accepts William T. Swinney's tombstone 131 years after the child died.
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SMITH COUNTY (KYTX) -

2-month-old William T. Swinney died in 1883. More than a century later his tombstone was returned to his distant relatives after being unearthed during construction of a parking garage in downtown Tyler.

Without much pomp or circumstance, William's distant cousin took possession of the child's headstone outside Tyler City Hall Monday.

"We weren't aware of him but we knew that he was in the family," Ron Swinney said.

Ron and Nelda Swinney had been working with other family members to the old grave marker a new home for months--ever since it was first found at that construction site.

"I was thinking, if it was our family then we needed to get it back to at least near family members.," Nelda said.

They went through all the Swinneys at Williams Cemetery (the name is a coincidence) on Highway 64 and realized they were all too young. As it turned out, William Swinney's branch of the Swinneys were over in Bascom.

"Because it was closer to where they lived, you know?" Ron said. "Years ago everything was a mule and a wagon."

All the Swinney graves are clustered behind the Bascom United Methodist Church. Once extended family members are notified, Ron and Nelda plan to place William's tombstone near the grave of T.T. Swinney. He's the one the family believes would have been the child's grandfather.

The cemetery's caretaker said there were approximately ten unidentified graves in the Swinneys' section of the cemetery.

The City of Tyler's Carter Delleney said his team city cleaned the stone and confirmed the genetics. An old map dating from 1885 shows a marble yard where the tombstone was found, giving a possible explanation for how it ended up there.

"As soon as we found out that somebody had located it, we didn't want it to go anywhere but back to the proper family," Delleney said.

Ron and Nelda said it was meant to be; they credit God with unearthing history.

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