The Sowers Cemetery in Irving is located on Pioneer Road near the intersection with Grauwyler. The land for the cemetery is a portion of the Peters Colony 320 acre G.W. Parson Survey. When Illinois native Edmund (1826-1909) and Freelove Thompson Sowers (1833-1901) came to Texas in 1856 they found that this land on the west side of Dallas County was available. It was transferred to the Sowers on the 19th day of December in 1856.
Since Edmund’s father, Henry Sowers, had died in Pulaski County, Illinois in 1855, his mother Mary Walker Sowers (1801-1871) came to Texas with them and lived with Freelove and Edmund. In 1871 Sowers donated one acre of land for a community cemetery possibly when his mother died. She is buried here. The first burial in this cemetery is said to have been an unknown mother and child in 1868. One of the more elaborate markers in this cemetery is that of Edmund and Freelove Sowers. It is said that this expensive marker was purchased with the money from the sale of sixty-five acres of land.
Edmund was a blacksmith and practiced that trade while clearing his land and fencing it with rails to keep cattle and other animals from destroying his crops. He built a two story house that took three years to complete as he had to haul in the lumber and other supplies. He farmed his land. In 1877 he built a store near the road and this was where the other four or five families who lived nearby came to get supplies. In 1883 the mail route was established between Dallas and Grapevine and the Post Office was in his store where he served as Postmaster until 1890. Every Fourth of July, the Sowers sponsored a picnic and a dance at the park on his property. Fliers were distributed inviting every one in the village.
Mr. Sowers provided for a one room community school in the 1880s. By 1903 this was enlarged into a two story building with the lower floor being used as a school and a church and the upper floor being used as a hall for the Woodmen of the World. When Mr. Sowers decided to sell his store, William Haley one of the nearby settlers acquired it and ran it for the next
Ellen (Elinora) Bryant (1848-18??), the daughter of Freelove and her first husband, came to Texas with Edmund and her mother. Ellen married Martin H. Wilson (1840-1894) and they had three babies who all died very young. The three infants and Martin are buried in this cemetery. The Sowers never did have children of their own, but raised six orphans. One was Ella Sowers (1866-1894) the daughter of Edmund’s younger brother, Levi and Elizabeth Sowers who was five when she came to live with them. Ella married William A.J. Mitchell in 1882. William and Ella are both buried here.
For many years there was no organization or assignment of lots, and the original site was running out of space. In 1900 Edmund donated another acre of adjoining land and in 1926 Otis Brown, one of the original founders of the town of Irving in 1903, gave an adjacent site divided into blocks for the balance of the two and one half acre cemetery.
There are members of several of the families who came to Dallas County, Texas with the La Reunion Colony in 1855 and when the Colony disbanded in 1858 settled in this area of Texas and chose the Sowers Cemetery as their final resting place. After the Colony west of the small town of Dallas disbanded many of the original members went back to France. These French speaking families that came to America from Europe in the 1850s were talented and eager to start a new life free from political uprisings and wars. They enriched the community.
Charles Voirin (1837-1902) stayed in Texas, married Lucy Santerre (1845-1925) and they raised their four children on a fifty acre farm in the Union Bower area of Irving. Charles helped construct the Dallas County Courthouse built prior to Old Red. Five members of this family are known to be buried here.
Another member of the La Reunion Colony who decided to stay in Texas was Nicholas and Jan Mills Farine. When the Colony dissolved, the Farines moved to a farm near what is now Irving. Their son, Albert Farine was among the first owners of a lot in the new town of Irving when the lots were first offered for sale in 1903. There is a school in Irving named for Albert Farine. There are more than eleven members of this family buried in the Sowers Cemetery.
Jules Lanotte was born near Brussels, Belgium and worked in his father’s business as a clerk and a bookkeeper there. When he married, the newlyweds decided to leave Belgium and come to Texas in 1856. Jules operated the store at La Reunion. He was requested to stay and help dispose of the assets left by the colonists who had returned to Europe. This he did until 1861. This is when he moved to the land near what is now Irving. Nicholas Lanotte (1819-1896) was around the day the lots were being offered in the new town, to be called Irving, designed by Otis Brown and J.O. Schultz. Nicholas purchased nineteen acres. August Lanotte (1854-1927) participated in the establishment of the first Catholic Church in Irving. Frank Lanotte (1860-1934) had a 165 acre farm west of Irving. All of these early settlers are buried in the Sowers Cemetery.
Many of the houses were built by the settlers themselves, but Fred Joffre had studied to be an architect in France before coming to America. He started out as a merchant running a general store but soon started building houses. He built his own home adjacent to the Charles Schultz home on O’Conner. When his heirs sold the house designed as an airplane bungalow, it was sold to Dr. F.M. Gilbert and since that time has always been owned by members of Dr. Gilbert’s family. There are eight known members of the Joffre family buried in the Sowers Cemetery.
Mississippi native Dr. D.W. Gilbert (1854-1930) graduate of the Washington School of Medicine in St. Louis was one of the very first doctors in the community. When he came to Sowers in 1884 he purchased land and built a large home for his growing family. Through the years he acquired several farms and many in the area worked for him. He was a druggist and helped others learn that trade. Dr. Gilbert and his brothers were sons of a doctor and three of his sons became doctors also. He built a small office near the road and practiced there until the town of Irving was started. At that time he moved to town and occupied the office space over the first bank in Irving. He and his wife lost twins in 1899. These babies were the first in his family to be buried in the Sowers Cemetery. Many members of the Gilbert family are buried in this cemetery now.
More than one family that came to Texas was named Lively. There was a Lively family that lived north of Dallas and another large family that lived in the Irving area. Recent inventories of the cemetery reveal there are eleven members of the Lively family buried at the Sowers Cemetery in Irving. Mark Callister (1839-1905) and his wife Florence Clark Lively (1848-1908) had nine children. Mark Lively had served in the Civil War, spent
some time in Mexico before coming to Texas. In 1890 he was involved in starting a school near Union Bower and Britain Road in a one story building that he moved from the Eagle Ford area. The lot for the school was donated by Lee Britain. Mark taught eight grades in a room that measured 20 by 30. He was Justice of Peace in District 4 for a time. There is a school in Irving named for Mark Callister Lively. He was also a cattleman and two of his sons were active in various business endeavors in Irving.
Edward Cash Lively (1875-1910) was elected Justice of Peace in 1902 and served four years. Edward was in office and notarized the town plat for the city of Irving in 1903. Edward was elected state representative and served two terms in Austin. Because of his efforts, a bill creating the Irving School District was passed in 1909.
Charles Phillip Lively (1869-1920) was a farmer, then a merchant and was a mailman before becoming postmaster for the new town of Irving where he served until his death. Nannie Eugene and Charles Phillip Lively’s son, Mark Lively received a Bronze Star for heroism in 1945 during WWII.
Of the more than 1 182 graves in the Sowers Cemetery forty four can be identified as members of the Story family. Illinois native Jonathon Story (1825-1912) and his wife Sophronia arrived in this area with five of their children in 1855. The Story’s were able to purchase 320 acres by trading a pony worth about $40.00. This land was about where Nursery and Irving Boulevard are now. This is where they raised their family. Jonathon Story was one of fifteen children in his family. His great granddaughter is quoted as saying “he was a true conscientious objector” in the Civil War era as he said he could not shoot Yanks, as some of them might be his brothers. He served his time caring for the horses. The day he arrived back home his family was returning from the funeral for his five year old son who had fallen off a seesaw and struck his head.
The Sowers Cemetery still has burials each year and is maintained by an active association.
Courtesy, Dallas County History From the Ground Up, Volume III by Dallas County Historian Frances James. Only a few of these books remain. If interested, PM Jim Foster. Additional information on Irving TX history can be found here.