In the early 1850s two brothers and their brother-in-law—Arch and W. D. Hall and Roger Tandy—packed up their families in Kentucky and pointed their covered wagons west. They settled on the Texas prairie about four miles southeast of the frontier town of Fort Worth. Soon a community—homes and shops, schools, even a mill and a post office—grew up around the farms of the three men.
In 1876 the Texas & Pacific railroad laid its tracks through the little community on the T&P’s way to Cowtown and points west.
Fast-forward to 1891, when the Southern Methodist Conference voted to build a college in Texas. The Hall brothers and Roger Tandy’s son George, by then leaders of their little community, gave the conference twenty-five acres on which to lay out the campus at the present intersection of Rosedale and Vaughn streets. They also gave the community three acres on which to establish a cemetery nearby at the present intersection of Bishop Street and Avenue C.
The community and the cemetery soon became known by the name of the new college: Polytechnic.
Polytechnic College became Texas Wesleyan College in 1914. The Polytechnic community became part of Fort Worth in 1922. And little Polytechnic Cemetery in the heart of the original community of the Tandys and the Halls, well, it became mostly forgotten.
Until 1997. That’s when Texas Wesleyan University history teachers and students, at the urging of author/historian Quentin McGown, began researching the little cemetery next door. Mae Bruce (a Poly High graduate) organized Friends of the Poly Cemetery Association. With the help of husband-and-wife historians John and Brenda Matthews, TWU students mapped the cemetery in 2002. Students sold ads for a calendar to pay for a state historical marker.
Finally the campaign of these people and others paid off, and on March 25, 2008 the Texas Historical Commission designated Polytechnic Cemetery as its one thousandth historic Texas cemetery.
Among those early Poly residents buried in the cemetery:
•The cemetery’s oldest marked grave is that of Mrs. T. A. Ballard. Clip is from the October 17 Gazette.
•Royal Columbus Hall (probably no relation to Arch and W. D.) farmed near the Masonic Home located on Wichita Street. He had been a Confederate soldier and prisoner of war. Hall survived war only to fall victim to the bite of a small dog that had been given to him as a pet. Clip is from the January 12 Telegram.
•Jenette Tandy, age eleven, was the daughter of George Tandy. His home was located just northeast of the cemetery on his father Roger’s homestead near the Tandy Lake stop on the interurban. George Tandy was the grandfather of Bert Tandy, another Poly High graduate. Tandy Lake was located just west of the intersection of Lancaster and Ayers avenues. Clip is from the October 2 Telegram.
•Duncan McRae was born in Tennessee. In 1860 he was living on a farm in Maury County. He fought with Confederate General Joe Johnston at the Battle of Atlanta. By 1880 he was a teacher in Tarrant County. By the 1890s he had become county superintendent of schools. Duncan McRae died on March 22, 1912 and was buried in the cemetery on March 23. Clip is from the March 24 Star-Telegram.
The East Side elementary school (original building built in 1917, addition in 1937; inset shows front of original building) was named for Duncan McRae. According to B. B. Paddock’s 1906 History and Biographical Record of North and West Texas, McRae “takes a most earnest interest in educational affairs in Tarrant County, assisting in county institutes and in other ways lending his influence to maintain a high standard of the schools and promote the intellectual development of the locality.” Mae Bruce is Duncan McRae’s great-granddaughter. (Photo from FWISD Billy W. Sills Center for Archives.)
Polytechnic Cemetery is also known as the “Masonic Home Cemetery” because the fraternal order reserved part of the cemetery to bury women and children who lived or worked at the Masonic Home. Clip is from the November 8, 1907 Telegram.
•Ida and Marlin Hollis were the parents of Paul Hollis, who lived on Avenue D in 1922 when he brewed up Poly Pop, the world’s first powdered soft drink mix.
For many years the little cemetery received only sporadic maintenance, and time and vandalism took their toll. Chester and Paul Hollis were brothers. Clip is from the May 14, 1916 Star-Telegram.
But the Tarrant County Historical Commission has provided a new fence and a new sign over the entrance. These days volunteers, with donations from descendants of those buried there and a trust fund created by Paul Hollis, maintain the cemetery. And the state historic designation brought new attention to the cemetery.
“These graves tell a story,” Mae Bruce said. “This designation will ensure that the souls of my ancestors will truly rest in peace.”