You might drive past them without even seeing them. These little cemeteries, with the passage of time, have become surrounded by the world of the living.
Ahavath Sholom Cemetery on University Drive was carved from six acres of much larger Greenwood Cemetery in 1909. The pebbles are “stones of remembrance,” which visitors place—instead of flowers—on graves.
Emanuel Hebrew Rest (1879) on South Main is almost surrounded by John Peter Smith Hospital. City father John Peter Smith (1831-1901) donated the land for both cemetery and hospital.
Polytechnic Cemetery (late nineteenth century) is on the edge of the TWU campus. East 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.
Even if someone told you that little Henderson Cemetery is near the intersection of Martin Luther King Jr. Freeway and Village Creek Road, you might have a hard time finding it. It’s hidden by a screen of trees two hundred feet off the road. Forty years ago the land was the Henderson farm. The cemetery contains nine tombstones and eight graves marked by rods. The oldest marked grave is that of Fannie Evans (1817-1867).
Like Henderson Cemetery, one-acre Harrison Cemetery off Meadowbrook Drive in far east Fort Worth is hidden from street view and doesn’t get a lot of TLC. Mill owner R. A. Randol deeded the cemetery and buried his brother John there after John was killed in an accident at the mill in 1894.
Even more isolated is Mitchell Cemetery. It lies just northeast of the Stockyards in a strip of land 150 feet wide between two railroad tracks. Only one legible tombstone remains: that of Seaborne Gilmore, who in 1850 was elected Tarrant’s first county judge. Gilmore also was father-in-law of John B. York.
Near the intersection of Beach Street and Interstate 30, what remains of Ayres Cemetery fits in the shade of a live oak tree, totally surrounded by the parking lot of Hotel Trinity Inn Suites. In 1861 Benjamin Ayres (c. 1801-1862) and his wife, Emily (c. 1811-1863), bought 320 acres on a hill overlooking the Trinity River and set aside two acres as a family cemetery. Ayres, who was Tarrant County’s first county clerk and helped organize Fort Worth’s First Christian Church, died in 1863 and was the first person buried in the cemetery. An unknown number of other graves have been obliterated outside this fenced family plot. None of their headstones has survived. Among the early settlers buried here are victims of frontier disease and flooding of the Trinity River.
Handley Cemetery, near Spur 303 and Handley Drive, is totally surrounded by the TXU power plant. The oldest grave dates to 1852. The 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. But he was reburied at nearby Rose Hill Cemetery.
Birdville Cemetery is squeezed between a mobile home park and Fossil Creek in Haltom City. Like Handley Cemetery, its oldest grave dates to 1852. Some families have four generations buried here.
Half-acre Burke Cemetery, on Bryant Irvin Road, is surrounded on three sides by Lockheed Martin Recreation Center. The oldest marked grave is that of Mary Overton Burke, who came to this area in 1851 with her husband, Evan H. Burke, her children, and her mother. Mary Overton Burke died December, 30, 1867. Two days later her mother, Rachel Cameron Overton, died and also is buried here.
In addition to two Overtons, two Edwardses are buried here. Surely they are ancestors of Cass Overton Edwards (1851-1941), who expanded the ranch that his murdered father, Lemuel, began in 1848 until it included much of present-day southwest Fort Worth. The cemetery is on or very near former Edwards ranch land.