Nacogdoches couple works to restore Afro-American cemetery
NACOGDOCHES, Texas (KTRE) - The Old North Church Cemetery in Nacogdoches started back in 1836, well before the church itself was established in 1838. More than a century later, Wyatt and Carole Ordway felt the need to restore the cemetery to better display its history.
“The cemetery was in disarray. It hadn’t been taken care of; a lot of broken stones, animals had knocked them over, a lot of stuff. So the Lord led us here to see what we could do,” said Wyatt.
According to Wyatt, the cemetery consists of all African-American people who were once enslaved.
“The books in the church tell us that their slaves were buried here in this field, and then from that point on, slaves from throughout the community were also buried here,” said Wyatt.
After using sites like ancestry.com and researching the names of those buried, the Ordways were able to discover families that had been buried together.
“There’s a group here, there’s a group behind you, another group over here, these were all different families,” said Wyatt.
Somiria Hill and James Crawford are just a few people who’ve been given new nameplates here at the cemetery, but Ordway says many of the graves remain unmarked.
“Those unmarked graves brought us to a point that somebody needed to know these people were here,” said Wyatt.
With the help of volunteers, the cemetery has received a new gate, message center, and veterans’ plaque, and after a year of restoration, the Ordways aren’t done yet.
“We want to make a plot map; there’s no map for this cemetery. We want to make it easier and have a map so people can find if they’re looking for a family, a specific person, they’ll be able to find them,” said Wyatt.
The Ordways hope to finish restoring the cemetery in the next year or so, and they welcome volunteers. Click here to view the Facebook group for the Old North Afro-American Cemetery Restoration Project.
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