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 maintained and still in service; 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. An example is White Settlement Cemetery, whose graves had to be moved when a runway at adjacent Carswell Air Force Base was extended in 1953. 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 twenty 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. Part 2 and Part 3 present cemeteries that were founded for family, and Part 4 presents a cemetery that was founded by ex-slaves and a garden that was founded to commemorate victims of murder.
Today this little cemetery on Chapin Road next to Leonard Middle School is known as “Jackson Cemetery.” But originally the cemetery was known as “Mary’s Creek Cemetery” or “Chapin Cemetery” because it served the Mary’s Creek (Chapin) community, which was located where Mary’s Creek, Chapin Road, and Chapin School Road are today in southwest Fort Worth. Mary’s Creek is a tributary of the Clear Fork of the Trinity River. The cemetery has about forty grave markers. Some graves are unmarked, and more graves are believed to be under the parking lot of the adjacent church. The cemetery originally covered one acre.
This detail from an 1895 county map shows the “grave yard” (upper center) about a mile north of Benbrook. The cemetery was located on land owned by Mary’s Creek settler Ivory Hawkins Chapin. Chapin owned land in the Zachary and Creswell surveys.
The Mary’s Creek community had a school (see 1895 map), which opened in the late 1870s in a log cabin on land donated by Ivory Hawkins Chapin. In 1884 the school was moved to a two-room frame building on land donated by J. Fielding Dunlap (see 1895 map). In 1936 the school was moved again to a rock building on Chapin Road. In 1961 the Fort Worth school district annexed the Chapin school district, although the school continued in operation until 1968. This marker is on Spur 580 just east of the bridge over Mary’s Creek.
The Chapin school served as a polling place for Mary’s Creek in the early twentieth century.
The earliest marked grave in the cemetery is that of Isabella S. Dunlap (1817-1867), wife of James Dunlap (1818-1884).
“Sleep, Willie Dear, and take thy rest.
God called thee home, he thought it best.”
W. M. Bouvet (1861-1906) lived west of the cemetery (see 1895 map).
Henry Eddie Childers, son of J. A. and P. L. Childers, lived less than a year. The Childerses lived south of the cemetery near Benbrook (see 1895 map).
Sylvester Moore lived just east of the cemetery (see 1895 map).
Mary’s Creek benefactor Ivory Hawkins Chapin died in 1897.
The community of Mary’s Creek was a pretty quiet place . . .
except when the stage coach was being robbed. The stage coach from Fort Worth to Yuma, Arizona traveled the road to Weatherford (Bankhead Highway, U.S. 80), which crossed Mary’s Creek. The hatched line on the 1895 map is the road to Weatherford.
The stage was robbed on October 22, 1878 . . .
and again just a few days later at a place called “Robbers’ Hollow,” which was about a mile northwest of Train Robber’s Bridge (see 1895 map), where Texas & Pacific trains were robbed twice in 1887 and again in 1894 as they were crossing Mary’s Creek.
The cemetery is called “Jackson Cemetery” today because John L. Jackson, banker and rancher, bought the land from the heirs of Ivory Hawkins Chapin and wife Lizzie Greenwell Chapin in 1899.
John L. is one of four Jacksons buried in the cemetery. His tombstone is the most prominent.
Handley Hill Cemetery
On 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.
Some of the tombstones are made of concrete, not stone. The earliest burial is 1902.
Thompson Community Cemetery
On the West Side, hidden behind a wall of brush, Thompson Community Cemetery (yellow square) hides on busy Westworth Boulevard.
The 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.
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).
Joseph 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.
James 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.
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.
In 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.
The 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 3). Lots of Thompsons there. And more Farmers.
Ahavath Sholom Cemetery
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.
Holocaust memorial at the cemetery.
Among those buried at Ahavath Sholom Cemetery is George Levitan.
Emanuel Hebrew Rest
Emanuel Hebrew Rest (1879) on South Main Street is almost surrounded by the campus of John Peter Smith Hospital. City father John Peter Smith (1831-1901) donated the land for both cemetery and hospital.
Among 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.
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.
Forest Hill Cemetery
In 1883 landowner J. W. Chapman deeded Forest Hill Cemetery to Forest Hill Cumberland Presbyterian Church.
Among its burials are Press and Jane Farmer (see also Thompson Community Cemetery).
Handley 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.
Cast-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.
Hand-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.”
If you are familiar with the East Side, you probably are familiar with Ederville Road and Handley Ederville Road. Here lies the man himself.
In the 1870s George Eder owned a farm 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” at “Eder’s Wells.” The hotel had two stories, fourteen rooms, and separate mineral water baths for men and women.
The town of Ederville grew up around the wells and the hotel.
Handley 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.
Newspaper clipping from Tarrant County College NE, Heritage Room.
But 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.
Both the Morning News story and the headstone are incorrect: Handley died in 1908.
A stone chapel now occupies the top of Rose Hill.
Birdville Cemetery 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.
Among the pioneers buried here are Archibald Franklin Leonard and Henry Clay Daggett.
Lake Como Cemetery
Southwest of Lake Como is Lake Como Cemetery, begun in the 1920s to serve the African-American community of Como.
Grief is grief, whether the inscription is done by a high-tech laser-engraving machine on fancy marble or by a stick in wet concrete.
Located in Doug Russell Park in Arlington, Berachah Cemetery contains mostly the graves of infants who died at the Berachah Industrial Home for the Redemption of Erring Girls.
Islands of Eternity (Part 2): Family First (East Side)
Posts About Cemeteries
Fort Worth’s Street Gang
I find cemeteries so interesting and have noticed a few tombstones on the west side of 183, behind L.A. Fitness and directly in line with Hawks Creek Clubhouse. Were these graves part of Thompson Community Cemetery across 183?
Thanks, Jane. Looking at a few years of Google street view I see what appear to be a few large, low, whitish stones behind L.A. Fitness and along White Settlement Road but no formal, square-cut tombstones like at the two Thompson cemeteries. I may be looking in the wrong place. If there are tombstones there, I suspect they are a separate graveyard because family/community cemeteries back then were not big enough to encompass that area AND one or both of the Thompson cemeteries. Next time I am out that way I will take a closer look.
Joseph Works is my Great Great Grandfather. I’m trying to find more information on him, there seems to be a lot of similarity between him and Buckskin Joe Hoyt. Any help would be greatly appreciated!
That is about all I know about him from searching the internet and newspaper archives. He is mentioned in this book.
Hello! I live on Old Weatherford Rd in a farm house that was built around 1895. There is not much history on it beside it was next to the stage couch stop and backs up to mary’s creek and you look like you know your stuff about the area! I was wondering if you could be of any help to me!
Most of what little I know about that area comes from researching names on old maps. Very few people lived out there in 1895. Areas that were beyond the city limits back then are not well documented on maps, in newspapers, or in city directories. I have e-mailed you a couple of maps and other information.
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.
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.
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
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.
Next time you look for a new pocket cemetery you might check out the one on Chapin Rd. East of Leonard Middle School. I spent a little time there when I taught at Leonard!
Thanks, Kay. There’s always one more cemetery over the horizon.
I know it’s not actually in Fort Worth, but the Parker Cemetery in Hurst is interesting for local history.
Funny you mention that one, Paul. I was thinking that the cemetery where I first saw so many children’s graves years ago was in Hurst, but now I can’t picture where it is. My first newspaper job was for Mid-Cities Daily News in Hurst, and that may be how I came across that cemetery. . . . Ah! Thanks for the link. Now I see that the land was donated by the son of Isaac Parker. I have a post on Isaac Parker coming up. In fact, I had located that cemetery on the map while researching. Of course, the area looks very different than it did in 1968.