PIONEER CEMETERY, Downtown Dallas

24 April 2018 20:01 น. Cemeteries, Dallas

This interesting, historical site next to the Dallas Convention Center in Downtown Dallas has an address on Marilla. The Pioneer Cemetery is adjacent to the bronze sculptures of cattle and cowboys reminding everyone that a variety of things happened in the last 150 years to make Dallas the eighth largest city in the United States.

Pioneer Cemetery Dallas TX

Pioneer Cemetery Dallas TX

The original one half mile town of Dallas, as laid out by J.P Dumas, surveyor, in 1844 was on a small portion of the 580 acres of land that Peters Colonist John Neely Bryan received from the State of Texas by patent dated January 25, 1847. Part of the land claimed by Bryan was on the east side of the Trinity River that diagonally crosses Dallas County, meandering more or less west to east in this area. The Grigsby League of 4605 acres had been granted to John Grigsby by Sam Houston, President of the Republic of Texas January 29, 1842. These two land grants bisect the cemetery area. Bryan’s 580 acre grant and the Grigsby League run diagonally through the cemetery and cover the entire downtown section of Dallas.

Problems were caused by these conflicting boundaries, delaying warranted deeds, early sales with special warranted deeds, killings, second and third marriages, deaths without wills, various relationships, minor children, and many other lawsuits added to the legal quandary. This kept the lawyers busy and it was in the late 1870s, before the last cases involving the Grigsby League were finally settled. The original eight square mile town of Dallas that received its charter in 1856 is two blocks from the northwest corner of the
cemetery.

The earliest maps of Dallas County show Town Branch running near the cemetery. A “Bird’s Eye View” produced in 1875 shows many trees. Town Branch drains into the Trinity River which was nearer town before the levees, rerouting the channel to the west, were finally completed in the late 1930s. As far back as 1830 there is a record of a group of Texas Indian fighters (who had been badly whipped in a battle about where Decatur in Wise County is now) wading down the Trinity and climbing up to camp for several days at a spring, nineteen feet below the present ground level. They camped long enough to recover before moving on. This camp was said to be where the Santa Fe Buildings were later built across Young Street northwest of the cemetery.

Until 1871 the entire site of the burying ground, now known as Pioneer Cemetery, was rather remote from town, somewhat higher than surrounding land and was not included in the City limits The land had first been used for a burying ground for Mr. J. B. McDermett (1790-1854) and Mrs. Stone (18—1855). Other rare records show Anderson Armstrong was buried at this site in 1848. The James Armstrong family came to Dallas in 1846 and history records mention that Anderson died in 1848. There is another record of the burial of Logan Cockrell, son of Sarah Horton and Alexander Cockrell who had been born in 1848 and died in February 1850. This baby was born while the Cockrells still lived on their land by Mountain Creek, before the purchase of John Neely Bryan’s unsold lots in the town of Dallas in 1853. Sarah brought this casket to Dallas when they moved into town. Alexander Cockrell, who was killed in 1858 while trying to collect a debt from the newly elected town Marshall, was also buried in this Cemetery. Before she died in 1892, Sarah Horton Cockrell had purchased a large plot at the new perpetual care cemetery, first called Trinity and now known as Greenwood, and re-interred both Logan and her husband, Alexander. Baby Logan’s stone was left at Pioneer.

Masonic Lodge records from the Tannehill Lodge No. 52, A.F. & A.M. instituted in 1849 and Dallas Lodge No. 44, IOOF instituted in 1854 both mention the cemetery and early burials before the deed to acquire the land was recorded in 1857. At this time it was formally declared a cemetery and it is now presumed the lots were platted. In the 1870s the lodges advertised in the paper that only lodge members and their families could be buried as they were running out of space.

The land next to these two cemeteries where the City Cemetery was later located had originally been owned by William and Nancy Turbeville (Teuberville) who were in Dallas by 1858. The deed records show they paid twelve hundred and sixty seven dollars for a twenty-four acre tract from John W. Smith at this time. This deed was not filed until 1868. The Grantors were J.W. Smith, W.L. Murphy, James W. Martin, and Elizabeth Martin. Murphy was a land agent for the State of Texas and the first treasurer for the City of Dallas when it was chartered in 1856. J.W. Smith came to Dallas in 1846 and along with James Patterson opened the first mercantile business in the area. The census for 1860 reveals that Virginia native Turbeville was listed as a grocer.

William Turbeville sold 22.5 acres to W.C.C. Akard (1826-1870) in 1865. Akard was a merchant and on this acreage is where the Akard’s built their house. Since the railroads did not reach Dallas until 1872, Mr. Akard had gone to Calvert, Texas where the Houston and Texas Central Railroad had stopped before the Civil War for a load of merchandise and died while enroute back to Dallas in 1870. An item in the minutes of the Masonic Lodge notes that Mrs. Akard had been approached about a sale of her land, but that she had refused to sell. The Federal Reserve Bank Building (opened in 1914) is on the site of the Akard’s home place. Sarah Bowen Akard later married for a second time to A. C. Daniel.

By 1871 the boundaries of the city limits of Dallas had changed and at this time included the cemetery. Mrs. Nancy Turberville (1828-18??) widow of William Turbeville (18131869), deeded three acres of land to the then Mayor, Henry Ervay, for $500.00 in 1871 to be used as the City Cemetery. She reserved one-eighth acre as a family burying ground to include the grave of her deceased husband. It appears the city later used the land for other purposes.

In 1872 the Hebrew Benevolent Association acquired a plot of land on Akard Street from the city (Mayor Henry Ervay) for its cemetery. This was hastily acquired when a young Jewish man named Adolph Deutchner suddenly died. The site was adjacent to the Masonic, Odd Fellows, and City cemeteries already in use. A few days after Adolph died, the Association notified Adolph’s parents that a fence had been fixed to protect the gravesite. A second parcel, seventy-five by ninety feet, augmenting this plot was deeded in 1874 to Emanuel Tillman as a trustee for the Association by Captain George M. Swink. Swink had been elected alderman for the city in 1872 and he also started the mule drawn line that took passengers from the train depot to the courthouse.

The mayor of Dallas had been approached by the people who lived near the cemetery in downtown Dallas to move the City section, the land purchased from Mrs. Turbeville and mistakenly thought to be a “paupers” section, somewhere else. Mayor Ervay and W.H. Gaston devised a trade of land as worded on the deed (Volume 42 page 385) signed in 1878. Research through the years has never found any other explanation or any other deed.

Gaston, as the president of Trinity Cemetery, deeded five acres off the southwest side of Trinity Cemetery to the City of Dallas for a burial place for paupers and indigent poor only. In return, the City of Dallas traded the old City Cemetery, East of Masonic/Odd Fellows Cemetery to W.H. Gaston and W.H. Thomas.

In 1925 a list and a numbered plat of persons buried in the Odd Fellows section was compiled by John M. Young, Assistant City Engineer. Mr. Young was the son of Rev. Wm. C. Young the last person known to have been buried in the cemetery in 1921. John Young noted he was following up on a listing that had been made in 1921.

In the 1930s the city had started talking about building a downtown auditorium. The location under discussion was next to the Masonic and Odd Fellows Pioneer Cemetery and would include a park. In 1936 the study area for this project was described as being composed of warehouses, shacks, and dilapidated rooming houses a few blocks south of the downtown district. Some of these rooming houses were noted as “female boarding” houses. The neglected run down condition of this area probably caused the City to consider this site.

By the 1940s the City started assembling parcels of this land for the Convention Center. Well known names of former landowners were Dr. W.W. Samuells, Lawrence Kahn, B. Schoellkopf and S. Topletz, whose family still owns many sites in Dallas.

Railroad tracks were on Marilla very close to the cemetery, and at one time an attempt was made to build warehouses on adjacent property, but when it was found that burials were on the land this idea was abandoned. Numerous lawsuits were filed in protest at this time.

The land acquired from Mrs. Nancy Turbeville by the city in 1871 was once thought by many to be the City’s pauper’s burial ground. Research reveals many of the persons buried in the city section had deeds to their lots and were citizens of Dallas who owned businesses and were not paupers. The record for these burial plots was poorly kept. Through the entire 20th century the site of these cemeteries has been under constant assault. Various associations tried to get the responsible parties to care for this hallowed ground.

In 1948 Willie Flowers Carlisle and her daughter, both members of the Butler Bonham Chapter of the Daughters of the Republic of Texas, along with her husband spent over twelve years inventorying many of the pioneer cemeteries in Dallas County. Mrs. Carlisle had an opportunity to write several columns in the Dallas Morning News on Dallas history around this time and the conditions of its cemeteries were usually mentioned. At that time she noted the visitors to Dallas would see this neglected civic asset that was infested with matted grass and undergrowth that was hiding the stones, and that many were broken and lying on the ground.

In 1948, the City Council approved a recommendation by the City Manager that the city not take over and maintain the Old Cemetery as requested by the Butler Bonham Chapter of the Daughters of the Republic of Texas as this was private property belonging to the estate of E.W. Morton and Rhodes S. Baker. They had inherited the title to this property after the exchange between Gaston and Ervay took place in 1878.
The Daughters of the Confederacy wrote a letter to the Mayor of Dallas in the 1940’s deploring the desecration and neglect of the cemetery. They stated “its care should be considered a holy trust”.

This same group asked the City to enforce the law and keep automobiles from parking on the cemetery in 1948. Later they were plaintiffs in a suit filed in Judge Sarah T. Hughes Court asking her to order members of IOOF Lodge No. 44 to stop a parking lot operation and put things back where they found them. The Masonic Lodge claimed this was the part owned by the Odd Fellows.

In 1951 the Dallas County Pioneer Association at its seventy-sixth annual reunion joined the Daughters in their efforts to maintain the Old Cemetery. In October 1951 the title for the Masonic and Odd Fellows Cemeteries was transferred to the city by the Lodges. This title along with other adjacent individually owned small lots was to be included in a planned Memorial Park.

The two small parcels once owned by the Hebrew Benevolent Association were sold to the city in 1956 when they were acquiring property for the Convention Center. Temple Emanu El accepted the city’s offer to move each grave in its entirety, with existing headstones or markers and replace each one in a special section at Temple Emanuel Cemetery on Howell Street. A marker was placed at this site which reads:

On November 15, 1956, the graves of early Jewish settlers of the Dallas Community were transferred with care and reverence to this designated area. These graves were located originally on South Akard Street in Dallas’ first Jewish cemetery (1873-1886).

In 1961, due to plans to construct R.L. Thornton Freeway, the large, impressive Confederate Monument was moved from the area of Old City Park where it had been for sixty-five years to its present location in Pioneer Park. This sculptor chosen for this monument was Frank Teich from San Antonio. The efforts to raise the sum of $4500.00 were expanded by the Daughters of the Confederacy. The Dallas UDC Chapter gave concerts, served dinners, and all sorts of events to raise the necessary funds. The monument was dedicated in 1896 with a daylong celebration and parade. The daughter of Jefferson Davis was present for the occasion. Over a century later in 1997 the Dallas Chapter 6 of the UDC rededicated the monument that had been restored after so many years of erosion and neglect.

Winfield Morton, part owner of the City Cemetery land and Park Board President Ray Hubbard were reopening purchase talks in 1969. The city council authorized payment of $748,472 to be paid to the then owners of the City Cemetery. The City Manager explained that “the Masonic and Odd Fellows section would remain, but that there were only a few scattered graves in the city site and is not maintained.” Mayor Earle Cabe11 said they would be moved to a central location. In Mrs. Carlisle’s 1940’s list of the City Cemetery there were thirty-one graves. In 1970 when construction began on the initial plans for the Convention Center on this site, the city placed twenty-two identical markers along the sidewalk of persons once buried in the City Cemetery. No record of where the graves were moved to or what happened to the other graves.

In 1994, the Downtown Improvement District contracted with a cemetery restoration company to repair the broken markers, level the ones in danger of toppling over, and other damaged items to completely improve the image of the Cemeteries. As visitors come to Dallas for large conventions nearby, many stroll through the area and are able to read the Historical Grave Markers as well as the headstones commemorating the pioneers of our city. Just as Mrs. Carlisle and the other members of the DRT noted. many years ago, this is a civic asset.

In 1993 the installation of the first of the bronze longhorn steers denoting Dallas ties to the cattle industry and Texas cowboys was contemplated. The land used for the sculptures had at one time been reserved for a hotel. When this did not materialize Trammel Crow was able to secure the land and visualized it as the site for the steers. Now this display is one of the busiest corners of the downtown area as both local people and visitors come to view the bronze steers. Some people did not want steers in downtown Dallas, but history tells us that Dallas was noted for leather works, from boots to saddles and you have to have cattle to do that! Many visitors now discover the Pioneer Cemetery after looking at these sculptures.

In 1999 it was necessary for the cemetery to be involved again due to the expansion of the Convention Center. Recent plans by the City to change the driveway and entrance to the Convention necessitated an archaeology study to be made in the Odd Fellows section and fifteen graves were discovered in the area that was to be impacted by the expansion. These bodies were re-interred in a site very near their original resting place and a marker has been placed in this regard. The Dallas Park and Recreation Department now maintain both the Masonic and Odd Fellow sections of the Cemetery.

There are four Mayors of Dallas buried in this Cemetery. There are six of the early doctors who not only took care of families but also served as elected officials in some instances. There are twenty-five elected officials from alderman to John Crockett, Lieutenant Governor of Texas, buried in this sacred spot. Pierre Dusseau came from France to live in the La Reunion Colony. He moved to Dallas when the Colony closed down and is buried in this cemetery. Mrs. Eleanor Heady Russell, a Real Daughter of the Republic of Texas is buried here. Eleanor, the mother of twelve children, helped treat Sam Houston when he was wounded after the Battle of San Jacinto. She molded bullets that were used when Travis and other colonists were held in prison at Anahuac.

Trezevant C. Hawpe, Confederate veteran, organized the 3 Texas Regiment and served as Colonel until killed in 1863 on the steps of the Dallas County Courthouse. He was twice elected Dallas Sheriff and is buried here as is his wife Electra.

Jefferson Peak and his wife and a few members of their family, Julliette Fowler, Sarah and Alexander Harwood are buried here. Some Dallas streets are named for his sons, Junius, Worth, Victor. Jefferson Peak owned many acres of land in East Dallas. John Lane was the State Representative when the legislature passed the amendment he offered in 1871, changing the route of the Texas and Pacific Railroad from the 32’d parallel to within one mile of Browder Springs! The Houston and Texas Central Railroad arrived in 1872 and when the T&P came the next year Dallas became a crossroads town and it has not stopped growing yet! The Pioneer Cemetery in Downtown Dallas recalls the history of settlers who came from around the world and choose Dallas for their home.

John Lane was the State Representative when the legislature passed the amendment he offered in 1871, changing the route of the Texas and Pacific Railroad from the 32nd parallel to within one mile of Browder Springs! The Houston and Texas Central Railroad arrived in 1872 and when the T&P came the next year Dallas became a crossroads town and it has not stopped growing yet!

The Pioneer Cemetery in Downtown Dallas recalls the history of settlers who came from around the world and choose Dallas for their home.

Early Dallas Citizens Buried at Pioneer Cemetery
MAYORS of DALLAS
John Crockett (1816-1878) Mayor Dallas in 1857, again in 1859 and acting Mayor from 1861-1865)
John William Crowdus (1828-1895) Mayor of Dallas in 1881.
John J. Good (1827-1882) Mayor ofDa11as in 1880.
John W. Lane (1835-1881) Mayor of Dallas in 1866, resigned to be Private Secretary for Texas Governor James W. Throckmorton, Texas State Representative A.D. Rice (1818-1869) Mayor ofDa11as in 1858.

DOCTORS in DALLAS
Dr. John Stephens (1824-1881) Medical Director of Confederate States Army in Virginia. (body moved)
Dr. Samuel Field (1839-1912) City Health Department, Physician for Gould Railroad, State Health Inspector at Beaumont during yellow fever Epidemic.
Dr. Anderson D. Rice (1818-1869) Practicing in Dallas by 1848, County Treasurer 1852-
1854 and second Mayor of Dallas.
Dr. Roy B. Scott (1822-1884)
Dr. Wm. Hora Armstrong (1849-1884)
Dr. F.L. Willemet (1820-1884) was a City Alderman and had a restaurant.

ELECTED OFFICIALS
Hickerson Barksdale (1839-1884) City Alderman 1873, District Judge 1873-1876). Julius Bogel (1842-1903) City Assessor and Collector of Taxes from 1878-1886 Edward Browder (1825-1873) District Clerk from 1850-1854.
Jerry Brown (1828-1879) Sheriff from 1866-1870.
Thomas J.A. Brown (1855-1896) first City Judge, first City Recorder, and City Alderman in 1886.
Robert M. Cooke Justice of the Peace in 1858 and County Surveyor from 1873-1878. John M. Crockett (1816-1878) Lt. Governor 1861-1863, State Representative from 18531859.
John William Crowdus (1828-1895) City Alderman from 1875-1878, Mayor in 1881 Nicholas Darnell (1807-1885) served in State Legislature for several terms, Speaker of the House in 1842 member of the Constitutional Convention in 1845 and again in 1875 he represented Dallas, Ellis and Tarrant Counties.
Thomas Flynn (1833-1874) City Marshall from 1872-1874
Alexander Harwood (1820-1885) County Clerk 1850-1882
John J. Good (1827-1882) Judge of the 16th District Court in1866 – Mayor of Dallas in 1880
Trezevant Calhoun Hawpe (1820-1863) Sheriff of Dallas County in 1850 and 1852, Colonel of 31 st Texas Regiment, killed on the Courthouse steps by a friend.
John W. Lane (1835-1881) Mayor, State Legislator
John M. Laws (1831-1896) District and County Clerk from 1869-1873.
J.W. Latimer (1825-1859) published first newspaper in Dallas, Chief Justice of the County in 1850, City Alderman in 1856
Marion Moon (1830-1895) City Marshall in 1858, City Alderman in 1859, Sheriff from 1878-1880
James M. Patterson (1812-1906) first general store in Dallas, Chief Justice of Dallas County from 1854 to 1866
William Wallace Peak (1801-1885) County Clerk from 1854-1856, City Alderman 18581861, Justice of the Peace in Precinct No. 1 in 1876
James J. Polk Record (1834-1876) City Alderman in 1858, State Senator from Dallas County in 1866, delegate to Constitutional Convention in 1866
A.D. Rice (1818-1869) County Treasurer from 1851-1854, second Mayor of Dallas
William H. Scales (1825-1877) City Alderman in 1873 to fill out a term
James N. Smith (1802-1862) Justice of Peace from 1856-1860, City Alderman from 1858-1862
John W. Smith (1805-1890) County Clerk in 1848
F.L. Willemet (1820-1884) born in France, doctor for Reunion Colony, City Alderman1870-1876
Reverend Wm. C. Young (1827-1921) District Clerk from 1866-1868

Courtesy Dallas County History-From The Ground Up, Vol. I by Frances James.  Other historic cemetery information can be found here.