FirstStreetCemetery.org
INFORMATION RELATING TO FIRST STREET CEMETERY, WACO, TEXAS

Cemetery Timeline

A TIMELINE OF FIRST STREET CEMETERY OF WACO, TEXAS

Compiled by John Griggs, Ph.D. and T. Bradford Willis, D.D.S., M.S.D.

  • April 16, 1852:
    • George W. Edwards conveys five acres to Town of Waco for City Cemetery (Vol. B, Pg. 275; Curry 1968: 65).
    • George W. Edwards conveys two acres to Bosque Lodge No. 92, A.F. & A.M., for Masonic Cemetery (Vol. B, Pg. 277; Curry 1968: 65).
  • February 24, 1868: Edward J. Gurley conveys 2 acres and 23,537 square feet to J. Thomason et al., Trustees for Waco Lodge No. 70, I.O.O.F. (Vol. L, Pg. 603; Curry 1968: 66).  [Curry (1968: 66) gives date of February 2, 1868.]  Property subsequently conveyed from M. D. Herring, Trustee for Waco Lodge No. 70, I.O.O.F. to Lodge 70, I.O.O.F. and Lodge No. 241 I.O.O.F. on June 20, 1892 (Vol. 87, Pg. 486).
  • January 12, 1869: J. Thomason, et al., Trustees for Waco Lodge No. 70, I.O.O.F. convey to C. B. Way, as Mayor of Waco, and his successors in office 38,240 sf, except 22 sf (Vol. M, Pg. 371; Curry 1968: 68).
  • 1869: W. A. Taylor & D. Beall publish “Map of Waco City and Vicinity.” Map shows boundaries of Odd Fellows, Masonic and City cemeteries (subsequently known collectively as First Street Cemetery).
  • 1878: Oakwood Cemetery established.
  • 1878-1912: Rueben Kaufman, Jr. helps father move some graves from First Street Cemetery to Oakwood Cemetery (Curry 1968:69).  [Rueben Kaufman, Sr. died July 17, 1912, aged 76, and was buried in First Street Cemetery (Central Texas Genealogical Society 1965:94).]
  • December 10, 1881: Waco Examiner publishes article critical of City of Waco for failure to maintain City Cemetery, particularly following opening of Oakwood Cemetery : 

The old cemetery, in which some seven thousand people now rest, since the opening of Oakwood cemetery, has been gradually showing the marks of neglect…[T]he head and footboards marking many of the graves have rotted away, and there is no means of accurately locating them.  There are not regularly laid out lots or plots, the graves being made at random, and it is suggested that some attempt be made to have them in regular positions, even if some of the coffins have to be taken up and reinterred.  Mr. McLaren [alderman and chairman of the cemetery committee] is positive that unless immediate action, looking to the reclamation of these unkempt sepulchers, is taken it will become impossible to distinguish them in a twelvemonth.  Mr. William Anderson is by odds the best-posted man in the city on necrological matters, and he says he can identify and locate twenty-five hundred graves and can lend valuable assistance in locating many others, by reason of his long experience as an undertaker [emphasis added].

  • February 27, 1882: W. R. Simpson conveys old Gurley property adjacent to City Cemetery to City of Waco for cemetery expansion (Vol. 40, Pg. 384; Curry 1968: 67).
  • January 21, 1890: Article in Waco Daily News notes that capacity of First Street Cemetery has been exceeded:

    In the First cemetery, coffins are planted in tiers, one upon top of another and our solons proclaim this sacrilege to the world as an economic measure… If the dead have no rights which the living are compelled to respect, surely the living have a voice which shall protest against the affluvia which arises from a grave in which the top coffin is only two feet deep in the soil.


  • 1962: Mrs. J. L. Staton, Sr. and Mrs. Thos. R. Meredith complete comprehensive inventory of existing markers in “ Old First Street Cemetery” (comprising the City, I.O.O.F and Masonic cemeteries).  Survey identifies hundreds of markers (Central Texas Genealogical Society 1965).
  • 1963: Waco Chamber of Commerce proposes construction of replica of Fort Fisher.  (Initially, fort was to be constructed at southeast corner of I-35 and First Street.  Location was eventually moved to First Street Cemetery).
  • October 21, 1965: Waco Lodge No. 92 (formerly Bosque Lodge No. 92), A.F. & A.M. conveys the two acre Masonic Cemetery to City of Waco (Vol. 997, Pg. 667).  Lodge cites unauthorized burials in Masonic Cemetery as one reason for conveyance.  City, in turn, provides additional burial space in Oakwood Cemetery.
  • 1967 or 1968: City of Waco inventories and maps burials at First Street Cemetery.  Approximately 400 burials were reportedly recorded (Waco News-Tribune, March 27, 1968, p. 2).
  • September 22, 1967: City of Waco receives $226,351.50 federal matching grant from the Land and Water Conservation Fund to develop Lake Brazos Recreation Park.  The planned park includes a large portion of First Street Cemetery.
  • 1968: Last known burial in cemetery (cement grave marker of Bonnie B. Hall, 1888-1968).
  • March 27, 1968: Waco News-Tribune reports on progress of “renovation” of Cemetery under direction of Waco Parks and Recreation Department (project began within a week prior to article).  Article states that damaged headstones were being repaired with epoxy cement and that headstones (but not burials) in area of planned Fort Fisher Park were being “…reset on concrete bases in orderly rows [within the limits of the City Cemetery].”  Graves were reportedly not moved “[b]ecause of the span of years, there would be virually no trace of remains underground.”  Plans were announced to relocate “…a sample box of dirt” with each headstone.
  • April 9, 1968: City of Waco sues heirs and legal representatives of decedents in First Street Cemetery (Cause 31885), filing “Application to Disinter, Remove and Relocate Markers and/or Graves within the Same Cemetery” in McLennan County Court.  Application requests order to provide proper notice to the “unknown next of kin or unknown heirs of the decedents interred in the First Street Cemetery and Masonic Cemetery” with the objective of obtaining authorization to “…disinter, remove and relocate markers and/or graves or any contents therein within said cemetery.”
  • April 10, 1968: Earl Bracken, Jr., City Attorney and attorney for Plaintiff (City of Waco), files sworn affidavit stating that:

    the identity of those buried in the First Street Cemetery and Masonic Cemetery…is unknown because the grave markers during the years have been moved, broken and rendered illegible [emphasis added]; and the heirs and legal representatives of those buried in said cemeteries are unknown and that after due diligence the attorney for Plaintiff has been unable to locate the whereabouts of the heirs and legal representatives of those buried in said cemeteries and that after due diligence the attorney for Plaintiff has been unable to determine the address of the heirs and legal representatives of those buried in said cemeteries.”

    Affidavit requests “…that citation be issued for service by publication.” 

  • August 1, 1968: Carl C. Anderson, McLennan County Judge, issues judgment in Cause 31885.  Anderson finds that the cemeteries are:

    …neglected, rundown and offensive to the inhabitants of the surrounding areas as well as to the general public. Said cemeteries are presently detrimental to the public health, safety and welfare of the citizens of the City of Waco…Said cemeteries are not platted or laid out in an orderly manner and graves in said cemeteries are not marked [emphasis added].  There are no records identifying the bodies interred in said cemeteries [emphasis added].  The City of Waco has prepared an extensive plan for the development of said cemeteries and the property adjacent thereto for public purposes and said plan has been funded.  Said plan provides that said cemeteries will be specifically platted for their orderly development and the disinterment and relocation of the interred bodies and/or grave markers will be carried out under the direction and supervision of a licensed undertaker [emphasis added].  That disinterment of the bodies interred in said cemeteries and interment according to said plan is necessary for the orderly development of said cemeteries and in correcting the offensive condition which now prevails in said cemeteries.

    Based on the foregoing, Judge Carl C. Anderson rules:

    It is, therefore, ORDERED, ADJUDGED and DECREED that the City of Waco, applicant herein, shall proceed to disinter and re-inter said graves or the contents therein and remove and relocate markers within said cemeteries… [emphasis added].  (Note: order issued four months after “renovation” project was implemented.)

     

     

     

     

    References Cited

    Curry, William
                1868    A History of Early Waco with Allusions to Six Shooter Junction.  Texian Press, Waco.

    Central Texas Genealogical Society
                1965    McLennan County, Texas Cemetery Records, Vol. I.  Central Texas Genealogical Society.


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