African American Cemetery Bulldozed In Ellis County

Steve Pickett, CBS 11 News

ELLIS CO. (CBSDFW.COM) – It’s a small parcel of land sitting between the Ellis County towns of Italy and Avalon.

St. Mary cemetery sits across the road from Hughes Cemetery.  The road is a century old demarcation line, dividing cemeteries by race and ethnicity.

St. Mary is an African American cemetery, developed in the late 1800’s.  Today, the headstones are overwhelmed by tall weeds fed by recent rains.  “We come out here to cut the lawn every month”, Curtis Kirby said.

It was last Saturday, when Kirby arrived at St. Mary to cut the grass, when he saw a shocking scene.  “They were just gone”, he said.  A section of the cemetery had disappeared.  A muddy swath had been cleared for the development of a road.  The cemetery’s barbed wire fence, tall shrubbery and any sign of grave markings in the western edge of the cemetery were gone.

All that was left was the beginning of a developed road.  “Where I’m standing now is on top of graves”, Elmerine Bell outlined as she walked over the dirt road.  Bell said work crews ignored or disregarded the cemetery boundary line, and bulldozed an area where bodies have laid for generations. “They have the road constructed over graves.  They removed headstones that we know are gone”, she said.

Bell points to  Creek Land and Cattle LLC, the owner of several hundred acres of land adjacent to St. Mary Cemetery.

The owner of the firm Blair Dance has reportedly said he was unaware the development of the road encroached onto cemetery land.  The Ellis County Sheriff’s Department is investigating.

Bell produced personal photographs of the cemetery, and the section that has been plowed under.  The images show headstones, trees and a barbed wire fence that is deemed as the boundary for the cemetery.  “Where did all that go?”, she asks.  “Something needs to be done.  This isn’t right”.

(Copyright 2012 KTVT, CBSDFW.COM, CBS Local.  All Rights Reserved.)

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  • FedUpTxn

    Those who fail to honor history, are destined to repeat it’s failures. People who have no respect for cemetaries and the history there are a disgrace to our society.

  • altha

    If this was a White cemetery and Blacks bulldozed it, what you think would happen?

    • Chantel

      I have to agree with Altha. I am white and moved to Florida years ago. I’m shocked at how cavalierly and scurrilously the black cemeteries are treated compared to white cemeteries. I’m sure the land owner knew what he was doing and this wouldn’t have happened to a historic white cemetery.

  • Vicki

    C’mon Altha… seriously? Why do so many people have to bring skin color into it? How do you know the road crew wasn’t black?

  • lisa

    Lets not make this a race matter who was buried there this is desecration.

  • Robert

    I don’t care what anyone involved’s skin color is. It is desicration of a burial site and someone needs to step forward and accept responsibility for it. And as far as I am concerned ‘we only did what we were told’ is not an acceptable reason for this destruction.

  • rsixftunder

    Regardless, this is all a major shame, and the offending company needs to restore this cemetery to it’s rightful state. It doesn’t matter one damn bit what color the cemetery held, ignorance breeds in some of the comments; but thank God the one guy has pictures to restore it to. Maybe even be better this time around if these guys restore it properly. Could be a silver lining in this, if done’ properly.

    • Chantel

      How? Do you suppose he kept the headstones? Who can pay to replace them?

  • Pam

    I agree, Vicki. This was the burial place for people; human beings who lived on this earth, had families, raised children. Everyone should be concerned that this happened and work to make it right. Politics and race should not be the main factors in everything that goes on. We as human beings should care about and for each other.

  • Vickie

    There was headstones there, whoever did this knew it was a cemetary and did not care. Do not think that the people who done this would like it if it was done to their relatives that have passed on.

  • mary bellle mcguire

    The person that did this is a money hungry monster and should be prosecuted to the fullest. Have to put every head stone back on each and every grave God Bless these people that found there love ones disturbed.

  • DilloninTexas

    @ Vicki, Pam, ladies I must disagree… Because the graves are over 100 years old, people of color were buried separately, as indicated by the barb wire fence and the road used to separate whites and black markers. Unfortunately, we do not live in a perfect world and we have some people who act strictly our of ignorance and cruelty. Until changes are made, people who care must speak out.

  • DilloninTexas

    @rsixftunder.. I agree. I hope the company responsible rectifies the situation. Maybe they can show local communities that we can come together and right the wrongs made and respectful provide a burial site for those disrupted.

  • FedUpTxn

    I highly doubt the construction crew knew the history and who was buried where of what color. I once saved the oldest cemetery in north Texas that held founding fathers including the Coits and Campbells that Coit Rd. and Campbell Rd. were named after. 250 graves were going to be moved along Central Expressway to build another unnecessary office building. I then submitted it for historical preservation to the state and stopped that construction. This happens more often than we all want to think and race is not the issue, greed is!

  • Today’s Links | Nubian Stylez

    […] African American Cemetery Bulldozed In Ellis County « CBS Dallas … It was last Saturday, when Kirby arrived at St. Mary to cut the grass, when he saw a shocking scene. “They were just gone”, he said. A section of the cemetery had disappeared. […]

  • altha

    FedUpTxn It doesn’t matter if they (construction crew) didn’t know about the history and what race were buried there. The crew HEAD PERSON should have gotten information before they destoryed the cemetery. Vicki/Pam are you two ladies walking around everyday with your head in the SAND and saying it will go away just don’t say anything.

  • chad

    The claim that this was done because it was a “black cemetary” is ridiculous!! How would anyone know that when they came to bull doze the land???

    • Chantel

      I’ll bet the people in that town and around that area knew. It was recorded somewhere — all they had to do what check. And even if they didn’t, as soon as they saw headstones they should have stopped and backed off.

  • Tamara

    SHAME ON YOU, Blair Dance/ Creek Land & Cattle!!! Any descent citizen would have offered to move the graves. You didn’t want to do it the legal way to save a penny. Aren’t your pockets full enough? Instead, you’d rather lie and claim you didn’t know it was a cemetery.

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