Pocket Cemeteries: Little Islands of Eternity

You might drive right past them without seeing them. They are tucked away on residential streets and cul-de-sacs, on isolated hilltops off main highways, in railroad rights-of-way, even in a hotel parking lot. Some are well cared for; some are neglected.

They are pocket cemeteries, 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.”

Here are some pocket cemeteries seen around town. There are dozens more in the county.

isham signNorth of John T. White Road is Isham Cemetery.

isham markerisham the revIsham Cemetery, still active, is a narrow strip of land stretching from John T. White Road north to Kuban Boulevard.

handley hill gateOn a hilltop near the dam of Arlington Lake is Handley Hill Cemetery, an old African-American 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.

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.

arwine gatesArwine Cemetery, dating to 1879, is located in Hurst.

arwine markerDonor Daniel Arwine was a deputy U.S. marshal.

arwine shelterArwine Cemetery remains active.

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.

cemetery forest hill markerIn little Forest Hill Cemetery are buried Press and Jane Farmer, who were here before there was a here here. The Farmers were the first family of Fort Worth.

Just northeast of the Stockyards, Mitchell Cemetery lies between two active railroad tracks in a strip of railroad right-of-way 150 feet wide.

gilmore graveOnly 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 Tarrant County Sheriff John B. York, who in 1861 was killed in a confrontation with Archibald Young Fowler.

cemetery ayersNear 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 Motel6. In 1861 Benjamin Patton 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 1862 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. Ayers Avenue on the East Side probably is named for a member of the Ayres family.

cemetery handleyHandley Cemetery, near Spur 303 and Handley Drive, is totally surrounded by the TXU power plant. The oldest grave dates to 1852.

handley 4-2-8 telegram2The 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.

cemetery birdvilleBirdville 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. Among the pioneers buried here are Henry Clay Daggett and Archibald Franklin Leonard.

cemetery burkeHalf-acre Burke Cemetery, on Bryant Irvin Road, is now a niche in the Waterside “lifestyle/mix-use development.” 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, had begun in 1848 until it included much of present-day southwest Fort Worth. The cemetery is on or very near former Edwards ranch land.

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.

parker wideJust north of Highway 10 in Hurst is Parker Cemetery.

parker markersThe cemetery consists of a Parker family section and a public section. The donor was Isaac Duke Parker, son of Isaac Parker, a remarkable Texas pioneer whose cabin is on display at Log Cabin Village. The homestead had passed from father to son. The elder Parker is buried in the county named for him.

parker sandstoneSome of the Parker tombstones are sandstone, which is prone to erode and break.

parker anchor fenceTexas Anchor and Fence Company was founded in 1901. Fort Worth Register ad is from 1902.

parker to my left“Isaac” and “Duke” were common names for Parker men. This is the elder Isaac Parker’s grandson.

parker brothersparker isaac dukeparker obit 10-29-02 dmnClip is from the October 29, 1902 Dallas Morning News. I believe that “it is said” about Cynthia Ann Parker is in error. She lived at the Parker farm after her “repatriation,” but she died and was buried in Anderson County and later reburied with son Quanah Parker at Fort Sill.

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6 Responses to Pocket Cemeteries: Little Islands of Eternity

  1. Wiley Whitten says:

    Many years ago while attending UTA one day I stopped alongside Spur 303. I could see tombstones at the top of the hill. Handley Hill. I snapped a photo of a hand-made tombstone. I did not know it at the time, but the site of Amanda Davis grave, who was credited with being the African-American founder of Stop-Six

    • hometown says:

      Wiley, I remember visiting it when you could still drive nearby on Arkansas Lane but knew nothing of the history. Very few readable tombstones now, but the cemetery is maintained by a church.

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