Hemphill cemetery has graves of slaves, veterans - KTRE.com | Lufkin and Nacogdoches, Texas

Hemphill cemetery has graves of slaves, veterans

Source: KTRE Staff Source: KTRE Staff
Source: KTRE Staff Source: KTRE Staff
Source: KTRE Staff Source: KTRE Staff

A historic church in East Texas houses the graves of many history-making citizens. They include World War I and II veterans, along with hundreds of African-Americans who were born enslaved.

“It’s one of the oldest black American cemetery that’s in Sabine County,” said Felix Holmes, the former cemetery president.

Directly behind Macedonia Baptist Church resides a historical cemetery. The Macedonia Cemetery has been around since 1885.

Now the site holds more than 500 graves, which is hard for volunteers to keep up with.

“My husband and I worked on trying to keep it up and getting more people interested in the cemetery to help us with it,” said Alice Grace, a member of the cemetery committee.

“We volunteer to do this, so it’s time consuming,” Holmes said. “SFA is one of the colleges that is helping and working with us.”

Holmes is deeply rooted into this cemetery, he’s been working on it since a child and even has relatives buried here.

“My dad Felix Holmes was a world war one veteran and I have a cousin out there,” Holmes said.

There is a sea of unmarked graves at the cemetery, and that’s one mystery organizers said they’re working on solving.

“We have a lot of unknown graves out there that, through the years, we’ve been trying to find out the history,” Holmes said. “We hope one day to resume what’s left and have the memorial service.”

If you look close enough you can see which graves are unmarked. In fact there are at least 193 graves without tombstones,and  researchers believe there is a reason for this.

“They can be graves that where marked initially where there was a stone or something and the stone got knocked down or grown over,” said George Avery, the director of archeology at Stephen F. Austin State University.

Organizers plan on getting back to cleaning up this cemetery and hope to educate the youth at the same time.

“I’m trying to keep our young people involved,” Grace said. “I want to let them know that they can come out and help because this is a part of you, and this is your history also.”

Community members said the cemetery is a chronicle of African-American heritage.

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