LONGVIEW, TX (KLTV) - Until the April 13 tornadoes in Cherokee County, many people had never heard of the Weeping Mary community.
“The quote was, ‘this is where we live, this is all we have,’" local photographer O. Rufus Lovett said.
Lovett, who lives in Longview, says those are the words that came to mind when he heard that a tornado had touched down near the small unincorporated community.
“I became very concerned, of course,” Lovett said.
Concerned because Weeping Mary holds a special place in Lovett’s heart. What started out as project in the 1990s for a newspaper, ended up being a published photo essay of a rural African American community that tells a universal story of the human condition.
“This was on the porch right outside the church,” Lovett said pointing to a photograph of a little girl’s shoes. “I just captured the daily life and routine of these people living in the country.”
And on the Easter Sunday after the tornado, Lovett returned to Weeping Mary. He pointed out that the community was spared, with most damage near the Caddo Indian Mounds Historic Site.
“It didn’t touch down in the flat,” Lovett said.
As for the name of the community, there is some debate. Lovett says the most well-known story behind the name is what he calls the ‘porch lore.’
“There was an African American woman who was a property owner in this then Freedom Colony,” Lovett said. “And she was tricked out of selling her land to someone she would have rather not sold to. She became distraught and she wept and wept. The community kinda took on the name after her."
Over the years, things have changed in Weeping Mary. Many of the little ones in Lovett’s photographs are not so little anymore.
“Her granddaughters have children of their own playing on the same porch,” he said pointing to one of his original photos.
But one thing remains constant: that special thing Lovett captured all those years ago.
“It’s a beautiful, simple life," Lovett said.
Something that could only be captured in a photograph.
“The people are wonderful there.”