Cemetery walks in Cherokee and Houston Counties

By Donna McCollum - bio | email

CHEROKEE COUNTY, TX (KTRE TV) - A cemetery walk is a memorial for those who went before us. Cemetery preservationists say the plots answer questions about life. "What do these people do when they were living? Where do they come from? How far did they have to travel? Where they ended up," are some questions to ask says Dr. Perky Beisel, an assistant professor of history at Stephen F. Austin State University.

A Preserve America workshop on gravestone identification showed how a cemetery visit can quickly turn into a detective game. The dates on the marker reveal a lot of cultural importance, but so does the marker itself.

"The marble, you probably all know. That's the grayish (stone). A lot of the stone in here is actually marble," pointed out Dr. George Avery, a SFA professor who shared the geologic aspects of stones.

The granite and marble headstones were brought to East Texas on oxen cart or steamboat. Native ironstone was cut by hand. Children the same age as nine year old Noah Larive, a cemetery walk participant,  would keep the stone wet for easy cutting. "They're going back and forth putting that water on it," explained Noah. "And then go and get some new water, but after your job was over you were ready to eat you be tired."

Anne Shelton could grow tired keeping thousands of old cemeteries straight in her mind. She's the coordinator of the state's Cemetery Preservation Program, operated by the Texas Historical Commission.

"Everybody winds up in the same place. It is a community connection," said Shelton about visits to cemeteries. She's helping local historical commissions preserve their local cemeteries. Projects are underway in many East Texas counties. The Preserve America Cemetery Interpretation Project is a cooperative effort between SFA and the City of Nacogdoches.

You can learn more about cemetery preservation at a cemetery walk in Houston County on Saturday, June 19th. It begins at 9 a.m. at the Wayside Bible Church on East Goliad Street.

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