Tombstone Tuesday: Evergreen Negro Cemetery

Historic Evergreen Negro Cemetery
Photo Credit: WhisperToMe

One of the most difficult cemetery visits I’ve had to make has been to the historic Evergreen Negro Cemetery that’s located south of Interstate-10 at Lockwood Drive and Market Street in Houston, TX. My difficulty is not so much due to its neglect, or the vandalism that has taken place there for years. Make no mistake about it, the condition of this cemetery is heartbreaking too. No my difficulty comes from learning that many of my ancestors who were buried there from 1890 – 1930 are probably no longer there!

According to Rice University’s news article, “Unearthing the past: Rice group plots historical Houston graveyard,” published 30 November 2006 – [1]

In Houston’s earliest days, a cotton plantation stood where modern-day Lockwood Drive and Market Street intersect. In the late 1800s, acreage from this plantation was converted into one of the city’s first Negro cemeteries. Named Evergreen Negro Cemetery, this land served as a final resting place for former slaves, Buffalo Soldiers and World War I veterans until the 1940s.

So what exactly happened to this resting place for former slaves, Buffalo Soldiers and World War I veterans? According to Lisa Gray, reporter for the Houston Press, [2]

490 graves were removed by the City of Houston for the development and expansion of Lockwood Drive in 1960!

Below is a plat map I accessed from cemetery researcher George E. Wolf, Jr.’s website, Cemeteries of Harris Co., Texas, that shows how Lockwood Drive, a major thoroughfare of the Fifth Ward community, splits this cemetery down the middle creating the eastern and western halves that exist today! [3]

Evergreen Negro Cemetery Plat Map

Where did they move all the graves?! The Rice news article goes on to say,

When the city decided to expand Lockwood Drive in 1960, hundreds of graves at Evergreen were moved to three other Houston cemeteries, but no records exist for the graves that were not moved.”

It was at FindAGrave.com, where I learned that Johnson Funeral Home which was located on Lyons Avenue at that time, was awarded the contract for the removal and re-burial of the bodies. They were to be interred at Eternity Park Cemetery, Oak Park Cemetery, and Paradise Cemetery. BUT what is so unsettling about where the bodies were supposed to be interred —

[t]here are no records . . . regarding the remains and relocation as there were no cemetery lot/plot records and many of the graves were unmarked and/or unknown individuals. At the time of the removal, very few family members were located who could connect names with burial location.” [4]

That last line above — “… very few family members were located who could connect names with burial location” — leaves me absolutely speechless!

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Source Citation:

1.   Wiederhoeft, H. M. (2006, November 30). Rice group plots historical Houston graveyard.Rice University News & Media. Retrieved May 27, 2013, from http://news.rice.edu/2006/11/30/rice-group-plots-historical-houston-graveyard/

2.   Gray, L. (2000, September 28). Grave Importance: Old cemeteries rarely die. They just get buried under weeds, development and indifference. Houston Press. Retrieved May 25, 2013, from http://www.houstonpress.com/2000-09-28/news/grave-importance/2/

3.   Wolf, G. E., Jr. (2008). Cemeteries of Harris Co.,Tx. Bookofdead.Webs.com. Retrieved May 27, 2013, from http://www.freewebs.com/bookofdead/evergreennegrocemetery.htm

4.   Evergreen Negro Cemetery. (n.d.). Find A Grave: Millions of Cemetery Records. Retrieved May 27, 2013, from http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=cr

Claiming Kin Virtual Cemetery at FindAGrave.com

This Memorial Day I honor my maternal and paternal ancestors (veterans and non-veterans) virtually with the launch of the – Claiming Kin Virtual Cemetery– at FindAGrave.com! [1]

Click to visit virtual cemetery online now!

I actually established this “on-going” virtual cemetery New Year’s Day of this year, but did not want to release it online until –

1) I had 20 or more ancestors listed
2) I had a chance to verify each ancestors’ connection to me and my family

The purpose of this new virtual cemetery is to link the interments of all my maternal and paternal ancestors together despite the geographical location of their graves. Those of you who have been following me for a while know FindAGrave.com  is one of my favorite online resources to use with my family research. I started creating virtual cemeteries last year with the launch of my “on-going” Chapple Family Virtual Cemetery and when I see the number of visits that post has received via my blog’s Google Analytics dashboard widget and Feedjit live traffic feed, I hope that this post about this new virtual cemetery will do just as well too!

According to the Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs, on May 5, 1865, Decoration Day was established for our nation to decorate the graves of veterans with flowers. The first observance of this federal holiday took place at the Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia. But by the end of the 19th century, Memorial Day ceremonies were being held on May 30 across the United States. By 1971, the US Congress declared Memorial Day a national holiday and it was at that time that it would be observed on the last Monday in May.

With so many Americans honoring the deaths of love ones who were not veterans on Memorial Day, in December 2000 Congress passed and the president signed in to law — “The National Moment of Remembrance Act” — so that veterans are particularly not forgotten on this national day!  [2]

The National Moment of Remembrance encourages all Americans to pause wherever they are at 3 p.m. local time on Memorial Day for a minute of silence to remember and honor those who have died in service to the nation.”

To my family and friends, have a wonderful Memorial Day and if time allows, visit a local cemetery today! If you cannot make it to an actual cemetery, then I invite you to take a virtual stroll through the Claiming Kin Virtual Cemetery by clicking the link or the graphic above; feel free to leave virtual flowers if you like!

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Source Citation:

1.   Taylor-Harris, L. (2013, May 25). Claiming Kin Virtual Cemetery. Find A Grave – Millions of Cemetery Records and Online Memorials. Retrieved May 25, 2013, from http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=vcsr

2.   U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs. (2012, November 30). Memorial Day History. Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs. Retrieved May 25, 2013, from http://www.va.gov/opa/speceven/memday/history.asp

Follow Friday: FindAGrave, BillionGraves, and Interment.net

It’s Follow Friday and today I recommend three online databases (FindAGrave, BillionGraves, and Interment) of cemetery records that should be very helpful with your family research; enjoy!

FindAGrave.com, developed in 1995, founded in 1998, and incorporated in 2000, is a website that contains a massive list of cemeteries and graves from all over the world. As of July 27, 2012, it has been reported that this website has over 84 million records — all provided by individuals or genealogical societies. As of today, I’ve been an active Find A Grave Member for 1 year, 2 months, and 10 days! One of the features I enjoy most about this database/website is the ability to create Virtual Cemeteries grouping collateral & lineal family members together regardless of where they’re actually buried in the world (A VIRTUAL CEMETERY HAS NO RELATION TO A REAL CEMETERY!). I released my first virtual cemetery Memorial Day Weekend 2012.  I will launch an official Claiming Kin Virtual Cemetery next year!

BillionGraves.com, consist of a website and a smart phone app developed by App Time, LLC. Their goal is ” . . . to provide an expansive family history database for records and images from the world’s cemeteries, all tagged with GPS locations.” So how does this site work? “Volunteers use smartphones to take GPS-tagged pictures of headstones in local cemeteries, which are then uploaded to the Internet and transcribed for easy searching. The phone’s GPS helps to organize cemeteries correctly which makes it easy for researchers to accurately locate their ancestors’ burial locations. I’ve been a registered member of the site since the fall of 2011. But I’m sad to say that I’m not an active member — just yet! One of the reasons for that is that their smart phone app is only available for iPhones and select Androids. I have a Windows phone — ARGH! Still, I plan to help out by transcribing many of the photos that have been uploaded to the website very soon!

Interment.net, is a free archive of grave transcriptions from thousands of cemeteries around the world. This site began as a personal website called Cemetery Interment List on the Internet in 1997 that only provided links to other websites with cemetery records. But in just one year (1998)  it was transformed into Interment.net as it began to host cemetery transcriptions too. So what makes Internment.net different from FindAGrave and BillionGraves? Well for starters, there’s no biographical information and photos on the website. They purposely limit their information to what is actually inscribed on the headstone. And lastly, many of the inscriptions are from cemeteries that no longer exist . . . which according to their website is “providing a place where cemeteries can be preserved in documentation for generations to come!”

Tombstone Tuesday: Joseph & Ethel Chapple

It’s Tombstone Tuesday and today’s feature is the burial site of Joseph and Ethel (Abram) Chapple in Golden Gate Cemetery in Houston, Texas.

Joseph & Ethel Chapple Gravesite

My maternal grandfather, Joseph Chapple, was born 2 Jun 1902 and died 23 Aug 1966. After the death of his wife, Estella Smith Chapple on 30 Jul 1930, he married Ethel Abrams Thompson nine years later on 19 Jan 1939. Ethel was born 28 Mar 1902 and died 28 Apr 1983.

Golden Gate Cemetery. Photo by Julie Karen Hancock (Cooper) Jackson, 8/24/2005

The Chapple grave site is located in the privately-owned Golden Gate Cemetery, located east of Highway 59 North between Laura Koppe and Weaver in the Oak Park area. The older section of this cemetery was formerly known as Oak Park Cemetery. Today, it is a part of the Paradise Cemetery Group.

Bordersville Serivce Learning Project

As I walked through one of the buildings on the way back to my office today, I stopped to see the Bordersville Service Learning Project playing on a monitor mounted on the wall in the hallway. Dean Wolfe, Professor of History at Lone Star College-Kingwood, was explaining what the historical cemetery clean-up service project was all about. Through this service project, students not only earn extra credit for their volunteer work in keeping the cemetery clean, but they also learn about their past while preserving it for the future.

What really caused me to notice this video was hearing the name Bordersville. Bordersville, an unincorporated section of Harris County, Texas, was established in 1927 when the white citizens of Humble, Texas held a town meeting and unanimously decided to ask the Black citizens of the town to relocate to an undeveloped location on the outskirts of town. Jim Crow living was alive and well and a “request” like that (I’m sure it was more of a demand with consequences than a request) was nothing out of the ordinary for Black people to endure. Today, about 80% of this area was annexed by the city of Houston, while a small 20% of the area remains unincorporated.

So what does Bordersville have to do with me?

In August 2007, I became a member of St. Luke Missionary Baptist Church which was started by the Black citizens of Humble, September 1, 1900. This church was moved by mule-team from the city of Humble to an undeveloped community nearby that became — Bordersville. According to church historians, right after the move, “St. Luke quickly became a physical and spiritual  reservoir to the developing community.” 111 years later, St. Luke still is and continues to be a spiritual reservoir for the Humble community. To hear what Professor Wolfe and the students at LSC-Kingwood College are doing to preserve the Humble Negro Cemetery and the history of Bordersville in the video below is — so special!

More about this old Humble Negro Cemetery, visit Texas Artist, Patrick Feller’s excellent Flickr – “eclectic photo-stream” – as well as his Historic Cemeteries, Crypts, Vaults, and Burials collection!