East Texas cemetery seeking help in restoration - KTRE.com | Lufkin and Nacogdoches, Texas

East Texas cemetery seeking help in restoration

GLADEWATER, TX (KLTV) -

A rural East Texas cemetery has become the focus of a rescue effort to identify possibly hundreds of graves that have been forgotten through time.

The Red Rock cemetery is located in Upshur County near the intersection of Mesquite and Sweet Gum road, west of Gladewater.

Benny Johnson has been taking care of Red Rock cemetery most of his adult life. Many of his family members are buried here, and over the years has made some amazing discoveries.

"We found an untold number of graves I didn't even know they existed. I found them just by accident," Johnson says.

This entire field has unmarked graves and a discovery on the back side was startling.

"We found 3 military graves on the upper part of the hill that are very old graves. One grave might have been a World War I veteran. I was very surprised. I don't remember those graves from childhood," says Margaret Wilhite, who is researching the cemetery.

"I see that grave site and no marker, I thought, 'man that could be anybody's family.' And here that person has served the country. Thank goodness Benny Johnson came to the city council this Thursday night with the citizen's comment," says Gladewater Mayor Harold R. Wells.

It's unclear how old the cemetery is. Graves go back to the 1870's, but unmarked ones predate emancipation.

"It's just disrespectful I think, not to have a tombstone," Wells says.

In a kind of time capsule, whites are buried in the cemetery, but with a noticeable fence separating them from all others.

"We need to reclaim that part of the cemetery, it's been lost for a number of years and it's kind of a travesty that something like this has to happen," Johnson says.

Johnson's mission now is that all the graves are identified and respected.

"I intend to get cooperation from every phase of Gladewater, the surrounding area, the state, the county and just whoever it takes to get this thing back into shape," he says.

The effort is seeking manpower help and donations to help restore the graves and research history.

If you want to help, you can contact the Gladewater city offices.

Copyright 2014 KLTV. All rights reserved.

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