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 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.)
The original building was built in 1917, an addition in 1937. The inset in the photo above shows the front of the original building. The school was demolished in 1989.
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.”
My Husband Walk our dog there keeps fence tie with rope..Mrs Ballard is not the Oldest Grave..He said maybe she the First on the 3 Acres The History is Awesome…He loves spending time There…Big Question WHO SINGLE GRAVE On Ave C & Collard… This a Mystery has not been Solved..
I just recently found a death certificate for an infant who died on May 17, 1917 and was buried in Polytechnic Cemetery on May 18, 1917. Name of infant was Horace W. Harris. He was an older brother to my husband’s Grandfather. Is there a list of the ones buried there online? Thank you.
Debbie, as far as I know, there is no list online. He apparently was the infant son of J. M. and Eula (Rodgers) Harris.
I just found out my 4th or 5th great grandfather is buried there, Royal Hall
yes i am, its sad how recently people have been using the cemetery to perform witchcraft activities. couple of years back my husband and I called the cops and reported a woman doing her rituals, sadly she took off before the authorities arrived. 2-3 months ago a suspicious bag was found on one of the graves, police and crime scene officers were there but we never knew what was the content in the bag. I really wish that people would realize the jewel that we have next door.
The Bag Had a Baby in it was a human sacrifice sad to say our Neighbor told us about what u talking about.
Great work, Mike. The poor fellow died from rabies. Where was the Poly Pop factory located? The current folks living in Poly have no idea of the history. Lots of people living in historical locations. The old graveyard scared me when I was a kid. At Halloween vandals always tore the place up, the little dirtbags. Keep up the good work.
Thanks, Earl. It takes nerve to vandalize a cemetery so small that nowhere you are in it you are visible from the street and surrounding houses. The Poly Pop factory was just east of Poly High on Avenue D.
Its 2015 and I live next door of the cemetery its amazing reading this article and to know that there’s a big history rite next door.
Yep. You are living next door to an acre of Poly history.
Mae McRae Bruce, a Poly graduate of 1948, worked hard with others cleaning up the cemetery and getting the historical marker placed. I was there for the celebration of this event.
Yeah, Don, Mae is mentioned and quoted in the post.
Love reading about everything you have on Fort Worth. Where do you find everything. I would love to find old pictures of the houses on Samuels Avenue from the Nash school to the cemetery. My Grandmother lived on Samuels Avenue.
Thanks, Sue. The Central Business District edition of the Tarrant County Historic Resources Survey has the biggest collection of (small, black and white) photos of Samuels Avenue houses I have seen. But most of the houses included were north of the cemetery.
Mike, as you know, I am a Poly boy from the 50s and 60s. I did not know that cemetery was there. Thanks.
Welcome to my world: I’ve spent the last three years seeing what I didn’t see the first sixty-two. I musta been in a trance.