I finally have started my winter vacation to use up the vacation time I cannot carry over into the new year. It is very rainy in Dallas today, so I headed off to the library to do a bit of unusual research regarding a little known cemetery in my community that I recently became aware of.
I’ve been visiting cemeteries since I was a young boy and was always fascinated by them. My mind spins with wonder about the people and their lives, death’s, hopes and dreams. Having lived in this area for virtually all my life, I thought I knew every cemetery around. So, I was surprised to find a new one to visit. This quiet little plot of land is hidden from almost every angle by warehouses and businesses.
As a Genealogist, I make frequent use of http://www.findagrave.com to obtain pictures of graves of my ancestors that I am not able to visit in person. I use it so often that I decided to give back to the community by becoming a photo volunteer myself. I received a photo request for a marker in the Dallas City Cemetery, also known as the Pauper’s Cemetery.
I took a friend (Chad) with me, not knowing what I would find. We arrived at the street address to find a small metal sign marking the entrance to a long gravel path. At the end of the path was an unlocked chain link gate. Entering the cemetery we saw no markers and surmised that there were none. We walked around a bit and I noticed a small line of white rocks that appeared to have a rhythm in how they were spaced.
Using our hands we pulled some soil back to find a small 4×5″ concrete marker with a 2×3″ metal plate attached to it with screws. From there we started to find grave after grave that was either submerged or too low to be seen at a distance.
Realizing that our hands were no match for the thick Soil (nicknamed Gumbo) we went back for supplies, a bottle of Windex, paper towels and a small garden spade. What we found was both exciting and horrifying.
State of the Cemetery
Many graves were missing name plates and we found others just floating randomly in the cemetery just waiting for next week’s lawn maintenance to move to a new resting place. Crumbing concrete markers, damage from lawn mowers and at least 40 years of neglect were the name of the game. Section and Row markers were not present, so there was no way to find someone if you wanted. 9 relatives of the people in this cemetery were waiting on pictures of headstones of their loved ones, but with the state of the cemetery it was impossible to fulfill their requests.
Over the next few days I did some research online and found that the property still belongs to the City of Dallas. A fellow researcher had done an inventory in 2007, but it lacked the essential information on how to find a specific grave.
So, off to the Dallas Public Library I went. They are in possession of the Master Book of records for the cemetery and actually have a few of the Name Plates of burials for the cemetery in them. With their permission I have photographed the records to digitize them. I will be providing them here in the coming days as I get them in order. No one should ever wonder how to find their loved ones. This list is an integral part of the restoration effort. Without it the graves would have been completely lost already and identifying the remains would be virtually impossible.
That day in the cemetery Chad and I vowed to find a way to improve the situation of this cemetery. From our inspection of a small section of the cemetery we believe there may be as many as 600 graves that are actively being lost with every passing week.
We need to act swiftly and decisively to unearth and clean the remaining stones, collect the loose plates, discover ones hidden just beneath the surface and restore them to their proper location with a new marker that will stand the test of time.
So, today we found the Gone But Not Forgotten Dallas whose mission is to rescue this cemetery from complete ruin. There are certainly other cemeteries in this town that are more historic and in more desirable neighborhoods, but how we treat the poorest of our society speaks volumes. The urgent need for action on this cemetery makes it top our list of endangered places. The project will operate under the 501(c)3 owned by the Babb Family Association (Yes there is a John T. Babb somewhere in the Cemetery).
Need a Small Army
Right now, we are looking to recruit a small army of people who are interested in seeing us do the right things. There are somewhere around 2000 graves in this cemetery that need varying levels of care. Many will only need a little cleaning and soil removal, others will need to be replaced or repaired.
Phase 1 of our plan is to clean and assess the graves in need of further repair. This is a big task, which is why we need that small army. Many hands make for light work. If you are capable of kneeling and using a paper towel you can help.
Phase 2 will consist of raising funds needed to purchase new markers. In this case the Army will be online pushing to expand the group of people interested in assisting with this project by donating goods/funds towards the effort.
Phase 3 will bring the army back together for the placement of the new stones. The work will be a little harder this time due to the quantity & weight of the stones, so strong backs are encouraged. If you can’t assist yourself, get your kids or grandkids to come and assist with you.
Please Join our Facebook Group and become part of the solution. It doesn’t matter where in the world you are or what your capabilities are. Just join and we will find a way for you to contribute.
Join the Army here: