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First Black Cemetery
Gets Marker in the County

MONTGOMERY – A 12-acre cemetery tucked away in Montgomery, which is home to about 800 African-Americans whose history dates back to slavery days, was made the county’s first historical graveyard Saturday morning in a ceremony at China Chapel United Methodist Church.

The Montgomery Memorial Cemetery was given the designation of being an historic Texas Cemetery by the Texas Historical Commission. A sign now sits at its gate displaying its status.

“This is the first black cemetery to get a marker in our county,” said Gertie Spencer, chairperson of the county chapter of the Texas Historical Society. “The marker represents that it is a historically significant place and it is important to the county and the state recognizes it.”

Being recognized as having historical significance gives the cemetery a certainty that it will never be “dozed down,” Spencer said.

“It will protect the cemetery forever,” she said.

T.J. Wilkerson and Spencer spent nearly three years attempting to get accreditation for the site while facing many hurdles with the lack of documentation needed by the state, but the pair eventually overcame their obstacles.

“I’m so proud of you (T.J.) and what you’ve done ... particularly this month being Black History Month,” Spencer said.

Wilkerson initially took an interest in the graveyard as a hobby, taking down names of those buried for families and where the tombs were located, he said.

“It was just something interesting,” Wilkerson said. “It was a hobby and people started calling me asking me about it.”

Although families continue to bury their loved ones in the cemetery, many of the first graves remain unmarked and their exact locations unknown, Wilkerson said.

“Cleaners with heavy equipment came in and knocked down a lot of the old markers in the back of the cemetery and a lot are just unmarked,” Wilkerson said. “That spurred me on to make it an historical site.”

Wilkerson is planning on creating a website for families to look up their relatives’ gravesites in the near future, he said.

“This was a long journey ... but I think it was worth it,” Wilkerson said.



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Page Modified: 18 October 2016