Islands of Eternity (Part 1): Common Ground

You might drive past them without even seeing them. Some stand right next to busy streets, some hunker hidden by a screen of brush. Some are tucked away on residential streets and dead-end roads, others on isolated hilltops off main highways, in a railroad right-of-way, even in a hotel parking lot and on a golf course. Some are well cared for and still used; some are neglected and forgotten.

They are pocket cemeteries, little islands of eternity, and with the passage of time they have become surrounded by the world of “life goes on.”

Small, old cemeteries often have gotten in the way of progress and have disappeared under a shroud of concrete, their dearly departed dug up and transferred to other cemeteries. But some pocket cemeteries have held out against a changing world, the embodiment of the old spiritual “I Shall Not Be Moved”:

Though the tempest rages, I shall not be moved.
On the rock of ages, I shall not be moved.
Just like the tree that’s planted by the water,
I shall not be moved.

This four-part post presents eighteen pocket cemeteries. (There are dozens more in the county.) Here in Part 1 we look at communal cemeteries, where members of a community or a church found common ground. The other three parts present cemeteries that were founded for family (Part 2, Part 3) and a cemetery that was founded by ex-slaves and a garden that was founded to commemorate victims of murder (Part 4).

handley hill gateOn a hilltop near the dam of Arlington Lake is Handley Hill Cemetery (also known as “Ebenezer Cemetery”), an African-American church-affiliated cemetery that once was accessible by Arkansas Lane before the road was closed.

handley hill 3 handley hill concreteSome of the tombstones are made of concrete, not stone. The earliest burial is 1902.

thompson-aerial Hidden behind a wall of brush, Thompson Community Cemetery (yellow square) hides on busy Westworth Boulevard on the West Side.

redford-family-stonethompson-unknownThe cemetery has seventy-five graves, some of them marked with only fieldstones or “Unknown.” Some graves have no marker at all. Eleven of the cemetery’s burials are Farmers, who were early settlers in the White Settlement-Castleberry area. Farmers Branch creek is seventeen hundred feet north of the cemetery.

farmer-joseph-beryl Among the cemetery’s eleven Farmers is Joseph Beryl. He and David Vaughn Farmer were brothers of George Preston Farmer (see Little House on the Prairie: The First Family of Fort Worth).

thompson-public-bomber-plant-site-farmerJoseph and David owned land where the bomber plant would be built. Other landowners there were Ed S. Terrell, William J. Bailey, and Benjamin Johnston Tillar.

ventioner-graveJames Ventioner is recognized as the first settler in the River Oaks area. In 1849 he built a log cabin five miles west of the Army’s Fort Worth. Ventioner married Millie Farmer, sister of the three Farmer brothers, became a prominent grain farmer, and amassed a large landholding eventually stretching from east of today’s Jacksboro Highway to Roaring Springs Road.

thompson-public-ventioner-down-historic-trails Two photos from Down Historic Trails of Fort Worth and Tarrant County show Ventioner and his cabin, the original log part on the left. The two men in the bottom photo may be James Sr. and James Jr.

redford-wjtrinity-academyIn 1875 William Josephus Redford donated two acres of land for Trinity Academy. The school’s building was located just east of today’s intersection of White Settlement Road and Cherry Lane. Trinity Academy operated until 1901.

thompson-panelThe family of Henry Jack Thompson (1832-1883) donated land for Thompson Community Cemetery. No one with the surname Thompson is buried there. But fifteen hundred feet northwest, on Hawks Creek Golf Club, is Thompson Family Cemetery (see Part 2). Lots of Thompsons there. And more Farmers.

You can’t miss sprawling Greenwood Cemetery on White Settlement Road and University Drive, but you might miss little Ahavath Sholom Cemetery, which was carved from six acres of the east side of Greenwood in 1909. The pebbles are “stones of remembrance,” which visitors place—instead of flowers—on graves.

levitan graveAmong those buried at Ahavath Sholom Cemetery is George Levitan.

Emanuel Hebrew Rest (1879) on South Main Street is almost surrounded by John Peter Smith Hospital. City father John Peter Smith (1831-1901) donated the land for both cemetery and hospital.

augustaugust-cartoonAmong those buried in Emanuel Hebrew Rest is Alphonse August, who owned a clothing store downtown for many years. In 1910 he built the August Building on Commerce Street, which housed not only his clothing store but also the second Majestic Theater, a Maxwell car dealership, and the offices of the Rock Island and Fort Worth & Rio Grande railroads.

Polytechnic Cemetery (late nineteenth century) is on the edge of the TWU campus.

poly cem mcrae 3-24-12 stEast Side residents buried there include county school superintendent Duncan McRae (1845-1912) and members of the pioneer Tandy and Hall families. The cemetery is maintained by a fund established by Paul Hollis, inventor of Poly Pop.

cemetery forest hill markerIn 1883 landowner J. W. Chapman deeded Forest Hill Cemetery to Forest Hill Cumberland Presbyterian Church.

farmer tombstones Among its burials are Press and Jane Farmer (see also Thompson Community Cemetery).

cemetery handleyHandley Cemetery, near Spur 303 and Handley Drive, is surrounded by the TXU power plant. The cemetery was set aside for the community in 1876 when the T&P railroad laid tracks through town, but the oldest grave dates to 1852.

handley-enclosure metal-minnie-sealyCast-zinc tombstone of Minnie Sealy, erected 1898. The inscription on the rear is based on a poem attributed to Martha Jane Welch Dunn in 1896:

We miss thee from our home, dear,
We miss thee from thy place.
As shadows o’er our life is cast,
We miss the sunshine of thy face.
We miss thy kind and willing hand,
Thy fond and earnest care.
Our home is dark without thee.
We miss thee everywhere.

handley-jacobsHand-inscribed tombstone of Lavina Ellen Jacobs reads: To The Memry of L. E. Jacobs Was Born Mar ch 2 AD 1842 Dc Aug. 11 1883.

eder-grave-handley If you are familiar with the East Side, you may be familiar with Ederville Road and Handley-Ederville Road. Here lies the man.

In the 1870s George Eder owned a lot of farmland a mile or so north of Handley. One day he dug a well and discovered that the water therein had a healthful mineral content. Other wells were dug. Word spread. A hotel was built at the wells to accommodate people who came to “take the waters.” The hotel had two stories, fourteen rooms, and separate mineral water baths for men and women.

Enter Joseph S. “Buckskin Joe” Works, who wore his hair long and dressed in a buckskin shirt. Works was a “professional booster,” an entrepreneur who traveled around “colonizing” settlements during the late nineteenth century as railroads spread and as Oklahoma was opened to white settlement.

Early in the 1880s, in return for helping to establish colonies along the Fort Worth & Denver railroad, Buckskin Joe was given ninety acres of land near George Eder’s land. Buckskin Joe looked at Eder’s mineral water wells and the thriving hotel and felt they deserved their own town.

So, about 1882 Works platted his ninety acres, began selling lots, and named his settlement “Ederville” to capitalize on the name recognition of the George Eder’s popular mineral water.

In turn, the hotel took the name of Buckskin Joe’s new settlement. Ederville was located about where 820 and I-30 intersect today.

In 1975 former resident Johnnie Lilla Farrell (born 1902) recalled Ederville.

“George Eder dug the [first] well about 1875. The water was drawn from the wells by hand, heated, and mudpacks made. The deepest well produced a pound of crystals for every nine gallons of water. . . . I’ve heard my mother say that people would come and stay in tents for treatment of arthritis, that she saw them get up and walk away.”

In addition to the hotel, Farrell recalled, Ederville in its prime had a nine-grade school, pavilion, skating rink, post office, blacksmith, saloon, church, and drugstore. She said her grandfather, Reverend Washington Marion Isham (see Part 2), once owned the hotel.

ederville-mineral-hotel-map

An 1895 map shows the “mineral well hotel” north of Handley. (Map from Pete Charlton’s “1000+ Lost Antique Maps of Texas & the Southwest on DVD-ROM.”)

ederville-star-route-89

In 1889 Ederville became a stop on a new Star Route. Star Routes were part of the nation’s network for mail delivery. The Post Office Department hired contractors for these routes and allowed them to use any form of transportation they chose to carry the mail. The 1895 map shows a road from Handley (lower left) north to near the Ederville Hotel and then east to Randol (as in Randol Mill).

eder-works-90In fact, in 1890 Buckskin Joe was appointed postmaster at Ederville.

ederville-04

By 1904 the Ederville Mineral Wells Company was advertising the “Ederville water cure” and the Ederville Hotel and offering to deliver water to Fort Worth. Johnnie Lilla Farrell recalled, “Ederville was a popular place in the 1890s, but it went downhill after 1913.”

ederville-15In 1915 Ederville got a “new summer resort” and a new pavilion. But the revival was short-lived. George Eder’s healthful wells dried up, and Ederville’s raison d’etre evaporated.

ederville-55This Star-Telegram report is vague, but in 1955 Fort Worth annexed Ederville as the turnpike (I-30 today) and Village Creek sewage treatment plant were being planned.

handley 4-2-8 telegram2Handley Cemetery, like the town, was named for Confederate Major James Madison Handley, who owned a plantation nearby. He died in 1908 and was buried here. Clip is from the April 2, 1908 Telegram.

handley 8-2-30 dmnBut in 1930 Major Handley was reburied at nearby Rose Hill Cemetery on land where he had once planned to build a home for his bride-to-be. Clip is from the August 2 Dallas Morning News.

handley tombstoneBoth the Morning News story and the headstone are incorrect: Handley died in 1908.

stone rose hill chapel A stone chapel now occupies the top of Rose Hill.

handley-markercemetery birdville Birdville Cemetery is squeezed between a mobile home park and Fossil Creek in Haltom City. Its oldest grave dates to 1852. Some families have four generations buried here.

leonard-daggett panelAmong the pioneers buried here are Archibald Franklin Leonard and Henry Clay Daggett.

como archSouthwest of Lake Como is Lake Como Cemetery, begun in the 1920s to serve the African-American community of Como.

como mugscomo homemadeGrief is grief, whether the inscription is done by a high-tech engraving machine on fancy marble or by a stick in wet concrete.

Islands of Eternity (Part 2): Family First (East Side)

Islands of Eternity (Part 3): Family First (West Side)

Islands of Eternity (Part 4): Mosier Valley in Memoriam

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8 Responses to Islands of Eternity (Part 1): Common Ground

  1. Keith Robinson says:

    I grew up in Ridgmar on the west side of Fort Worth. When I was a kid, it was always a “dare” to spend the night in the cemetery, this case being the “Thompson Community Cemetery”. When I first visited it (by mini-bike in 1973) it was pretty much inaccessable. There was a single trail which led to it after first scrambling past course attendants at Shady Oaks Golf course. I tried going back there again back in the late 80’s by foot but the 3-inch thorn bushes made me reconsider returning to the cemetery. As a 12 year old kid. . it was a spooky place. Currently you can pretty well see it from 183 as you pass by. Now I am missing my old mini-bike trails. Thanks for the story Mike.

    • hometown says:

      Thanks, Keith. As an East Side boy, I was not familiar with the cemeteries west of I-35. Glad I finally got out there to see them.

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