Archiver > TX-CEMETERY-PRESERVATION > 2003-06 > 1056983853

From: "Larry E Gosnell" <>
Subject: [TX-CEMETERY-PRESERVATION] Humble Negro Cemetery update
Date: Mon, 30 Jun 2003 09:37:33 -0500

Old cemetary in Humble is not well known, and not taken care of

By: Pam Gibbens June 19, 2003

It's been said that noisy freight trains rattling down the track could wake the dead.

Some wonder if the people buried mere feet away from the track in Humble are actually resting in peace.

Most people who shop at Home Depot or work at the Humble ISD Administrative Building probably are unaware that a forgotten cemetery, overgrown with weeds and thorns, lies in their backyard.

This cemetery, unlike others, has no flowers on the grave sites, no benches for reflection and no road leading to it.

Access to the trash-strewn cemetery is denied by fences, barbed wire, heavy brush and a steep ditch.

Grey concrete headstones, crumbling and weathered, make reading the inscriptions almost impossible.

Several grave sites have collapsed, leaving only pieces of concrete sunken under ground.

Charles Cunningham, a local school volunteer and employed by CenterPoint Energy, recently overcame the obstacles to reach the graveyard where veterans of World War I and II are unceremoniously entombed.

"I am trying to help out members of a church group who have relatives buried there," said Cunningham. "The problem is... you can't get to it."

Cunningham approached the city of Humble about the property, at one time thought to be owned by the Eloise Bender Estate.

Cunningham wants to draw attention to the little-known cemetery with the hope that the city or the owners could help provide access to the area.

According to James Baker, Humble city manager, the property is not deeded to anyone.

"We called Harris County Appraisal District," said Baker. "They attempted to research this years ago. The only word that comes up is "cemetery." They closed the files in 1993."

The parcel, said Baker, is landlocked by the railroad track and businesses.

"A Bender estate representative tried to determine the history of this and gave up," he added.

But Humble resident Thomas Phillips knows the history and is eager to share his memories.

Phillips, a 66-year-old native of Humble, vividly recalls attending services for his relatives buried in what was called the "Pipe yard" or the "Negro Cemetery."

"I was so young when they were buried," Phillips began. "I was 10 or 11. One of my uncles is there and two of my aunts. One we called 'Aunt Baby Doll.' There are folks in their 80s who know a whole lot more than me."

Phillips recounted conversations he had with his grandfather, John Lee and his uncle, Arthur Reed, who lived in the Humble area all of their lives.

"The old Bender sawmill was there, from what I was told," said Phillips. "Black folks migrated from Gladysville, Cleveland, Splendora and Fastoria to work there. Bender gave them the burying ground. In the late 1800's, churches were built."

Though not confirmed in Humble history books, Phillips explained that in 1932, his grandfather was told by a member of the city council that a pivotal vote had taken place during their last meeting.

"Mr. Harvey, who owned Harvey's Hardware, told my grandfather, who worked for him, that they had voted to make Humble lily white," Phillips recalled. "Starting in 1932, blacks had to move out of Humble. By 1935, almost everyone had moved."

Everyone except two families, said Phillips.

"Dennis Thomas and his family stayed and the Reeds too, until they moved to California," he added.

In addition to entire families moving out of the town, Phillips explained that even loved ones who were buried in all-white Humble cemeteries had to be exhumed and relocated. Some were moved to the site near the old sawmill.

Phillips, whose memory is unperturbed by his age, described the location of the graves of people his family knew.

"Whitaker and Daniel were on the left side. Then you curve on around and there is Homer Shafer's grave."

Next to "Aunt Baby Doll" and others, lies Jeff D. McKnight, PPC1346 Base Unit AAP. The World War II veteran was born in 1908 and died May 11, 1958.

Remnants of the Holland family plot still exist. Fate and Carl Holland are buried in close proximity to each other.

Will McCall, Pvt. 105 (or 165) Depot Brigade, was laid to rest there. McCall died on Aug. 23, 1937.

Charlie Logan's family must have thought the old cemetery, in the middle of a dense thicket of shade trees, was a beautiful location. Logan, a 1st Sgt in World War I, was born in April of 1889. He died on Aug. 22, 1956.

A tombstone with the word "Brother" inscribed at the top, is the marker where R.B. Johnson was buried in August of 1921.

Little Willie Simms died on September 11, 1921 at the tender age of 11. The years have taken a toll on his marker, now faded and almost illegible.

Larry Gosnell and his brother stumbled on the railroad cemetery 30 years ago.

"We were doing something we shouldn't have been doing," said Gosnell. "We were jumping on the railroad train and just happened to land smack dab in the middle of the old forgotten cemetery in the woods."

Gosnell, a resident of Humble, said the police and fire department are well aware of the location as it is a haven for transients.

"The cemetery covers about two acres and is nearly invisible. There are remnants of an old kerosene refinery on its south side. It is located north of the new Farm Road 1960 and east of the railroad tracks. The graves do not appear to have ever been in rows."

Gosnell said he was pleased that someone was finally showing some interest in the old cemetery.

"In my opinion, it is a very, very sad situation and definitely not right that a community like Humble/Kingwood/Atascocita, with all of its resources and wealth, would allow something like this to go on for so many years," he said. "There are at least three veterans of World War I and World War II there. It seems like the city could purchase the land from whoever owns it and do the right thing for our ancestors, veterans and loved ones."

Observer Interns Laura Mayfield and David Jerger contributed to this article.

©Humble Observer 2003

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