Old Shady Grove Cemetery and the Texas Historical Commission
By Lynda Jones
Descendants of persons buried in the Old Shady Grove Cemetery (OSGC) in Houston County are reaping the fruit of their labor. The Texas Historical Commission (THC) recently designated the cemetery as a Historic Texas Cemetery.
The distinction means the cemetery has been legally recorded through the THC's Cemetery Preservation Program, a vital step in ensuring its preservation.
The cemetery originated in February 1840 with the burial of John Hallmark. Approximately three years earlier, in 1837, Hallmark signed the petition to create Houston County, the first county in Texas.
It is located 11 miles east of Crockett off of FM 232 on private land.
Last spring, when many Houston County residents had reunions or homecomings at their family cemeteries, family members visited the Old Shady Grove Cemetery. While they were there during the Memorial Day weekend, they saw it was overgrown with small trees, shrubs and brush.
"The cemetery had become so overgrown that some tombstones were completely covered, and most of the fencing is down. It had deteriorated to a very poor condition," Ethel Hill Gallant of Kennard stated in a written account.
While visiting the cemetery it was noted that one of the graves was 172 years old, and Gallant believed the cemetery was very deserving of a historical marker and started researching its history.
"Older Hallmark and Satterwhite family members have passed information down through the generations indicating that the cemetery was full at one time.
"Over the past 172 years, many markers have been broken, destroyed, are missing, have fallen over and are buried underneath dirt, or have been stolen," Gallant explained.
In early August 2012 the families began a major clean-up of the property.
The clean-up event involved not only family members, but also volunteers from the Houston County Historical Commission, Donnita and Don Patrick and Albert Kreger. Other workers included friends and neighbors in the community, Butch Arnold and Donnie Hill.
Dr. Perky Beisel, an associate professor of history at Stephen F. Austin State University, and a group of her students, also participated. Beisel and Misty Hurley, a graduate student at SFASU, provided training and assistance in the proper cleaning and care of the tombstones.
Participants reported they especially enjoyed the training and the hands-on experience. "Even the children enjoyed cleaning the tombstones and seeing the end results," Gallant said.
"A lot was accomplished for such a big job with no supervision in place. People just fell in and started doing all the different jobs, with chain saws, weed eaters, rakes and wash buckets.
"During the cleanup process there were several grave sites that were uncovered, some known and some unknown in the various family plots."
Gallant continued, "This created motivation among the family members to press forward in the future maintenance of the cemetery. There just seemed to be an excitement in the air as this project took wings.
"This is going to be a lengthy project to restore the cemetery back to its original state, but the cemetery association plans to keep working at it until the project is completed."
Also in August, Gallant submitted an application to have the cemetery designated by the Texas Historical Commission as a Historic Texas Cemetery. The request was approved in October.
"The history of the cemetery that was gathered for the application was obtained from interviews with Carl 'Butch' Hallmark, Neva Stinson and Marshall Satterwhite, as well as considerable research of historical data, Gallant said.
Concerned about future maintenance of the Old Shady Grove Cemetery, family members met in September and voted to start a cemetery association.
The goals of Old Shady Grove Cemetery Association (OSGCA) are to restore the cemetery back as closely to its original state as possible, and to mark every known grave with some kind of metal marker.
The association additionally is attempting to obtain a Texas Historical maker for the cemetery.
If interested in joining the cemetery association or for more information, contact Ethel Hill Gallant, 970 FSR 514, Kennard, Tx 75847, email@example.com or 936-655-2761.
Designation as a Historic Texas Cemetery is a tool that increases public awareness of these resources that need preservation, according to Mark Wolfe, THC executive director.
"This designation is a tool that will increase public awareness of these important cultural resources," said Mark Wolfe, executive director of the THC. "Knowledge and education are among the best ways to guarantee the preservation of a historic cemetery."
Cemeteries hold valuable historic information and they often are the last reminders of early settlements' historical events, religious beliefs, lifestyles and genealogy.
For additional information regarding Historic Texas Cemetery designation, or to receive an application, contact the THS's History Programs Division at 512/463-5853 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
To find out more about historic cemetery preservation visit the THC's web site at http://www.thc.state.tx.us/.