"Here Lies Dallas History"
A well known speaker once said that if he wanted to know the class of people he would be addressing, he only had to look at the amount of care they extended to their cemeteries. The land on which Dallas Pioneer Park Cemetery stands on was not originally within the City of Dallas proper itself, but outside it. Dallas County was created by legislation on March 30, 1846. On April 6, 1857, John W. Smith, James N. Smith, W. L. Murphy, W. P. Martin & Alexander Cockrell deeded the land to the Odd Fellows organization for cemetery purposes. The city's growth through the years has threatened this hallowed ground almost from its very inception.
Dallas traditionally has not had a good record of caring for the cemetery in the past & the ensuing years brought many challenges to this historic cemetery. The cemetery originally covered 7.5 acres with an estimated 800 interments. The cemetery fell into disrepair over the years. Of 500 remaining burials, 366 documented graves spread out over 7 acres today. With no room to expand, the final burials were recorded in the mid to late 1920's.
An 1876 Dallas Daily Herald editorial decried the overgrown conditions of the cemetery which was at the mercy of hogs & cattle wandering in it, again pleading as it had in the past that the Dallas City Council have a fence installed to keep the animals out. History does not record whether the fence ever got built, but it does note that in 1891, vandals smashed 35 headstones.
During the 1880's John Henry Brown, then City Alderman & later a noted Texas historian proposed the naming of city streets after city pioneers to honor them for their sacrifices & contributions to Dallas. In 1907, the Santa Fe Railroad excavated the western edge of the cemetery to clear a path for passengers & freight to its terminal in downtown Dallas. The Dallas Morning News documented that workers "hauled away dirt strewn with bones by the wagon load." Public outrage was long & loud.
1945 newspaper photo
A plan to move the bodies & erect a million dollar warehouse on the cemetery site in 1922 was called off after loud public protest. A 1945 newspaper article brought attention again to an overgrown Pioneer Park cemetery, overrun once more by grazing cattle. Civic leaders, led by cemetery historian, Willie Flowers Carlisle, urged the Odd Fellows & Masons organizations to surrender the property so that the City of Dallas could become its caretaker.
Flynn Lot in 1956 & 2002
Eakins & Laws Lots in 1958 & 2002
The City of Dallas purchased the Masonic & Odd Fellows sections in 1951 & later secured the City section in 1969. By 1956, the property to the east of the cemetery was used by the city to construct the $8 million Dallas Memorial Auditorium. The graves in the Jewish section purchased by the Hebrew Benevolent Association were moved to another cemetery that year. The addition of the 60-foot marble & granite Confederate Memorial from Old City Park to the cemetery grounds in 1961 made way for the Dallas Mixmaster. Huge portions of the Dallas Convention Center complex, which first opened in 1973, now cover parts of the original city cemetery. The city completely disregarded that people still held deeds to the land. When the city renovated the Convention Center driveway in 1999, archeologists were called in to recover the remains of 15 citizens of Dallas who were reburied in another part of the cemetery.
Due to the tireless work of volunteers like Frances James, Dallas Pioneer Park Cemetery is secure today & was named the city's newest landmark in May 2002. Below is a timeline of the major happenings in the cemetery's history.
Chronicles of The Old Cemetery
Some evidence of burials
Oldest recorded grave
Earliest grave in city area
Warren Stone's wife buried
J. W. Smith, J. N. Smith, W. L. Murphy, W. P. Martin & Alexander Cockrell give 3acres to the Masons & IOOF for a cemetery
City purchases city section for $175 for cemetery from Nancy Turberville with the stipulation that its use will be for a cemetery in which her husband will be buried
December 1872 & 1874
Hebrew Benevolent Association buys small plot for graveyard
Alderman John Henry Brown offers motion which passes to name city streets for pioneers.
Excavations on west boundary of south side of cemetery removes many bones by cemetery
Option taken on site of cemetery for construction of a large warehouse-so many protested that plans to do this were dropped
Last burials in the cemetery
Mrs. Sam P. Stahr (niece of James K. Polk Record) heads committee to ask Park Board to make the cemetery site into a city park like Old Trinity Churchyard in New York . 500 graves here. Thirty graves were removed within last five years from south side in the Odd Fellows & City sections
(big article on this in the Dallas Morning News on 5/20/1928 by Vivian Richardson)
Article in “The Journal” (have not seen this particular one) by Richardson again promoting park for cemetery. Masonic order deeds their half of the cemetery to the City. Some individuals in the Odd Fellows section do also, but the OF Lodge retains their deed. Talk of a downtown auditorium nearby.
James Butler Bonham Chapter of the Daughters of the Republic of Texas at Dallas , led by Willie Flowers Carlisle, make restoration of the Old Cemet-ery a major project
“History of the Old Cemetery : City-Masonic-Odd Fellows” Booklet by Willie Flowers Carlisle is published by Williamson Printing in Dallas , TX
The Dallas City Council, following a recommendation by City Manager Roderic B. Thomas refuses a request by JB Bonham Chapter of DRT to take over and maintain Old Cemetery . Reason given was the cemetery was the property of E. W. Morton & Rhodes S. Baker
The City of Dallas assumes responsibility for the care & maintenance of Dallas Pioneer Park Cemetery
White granite marker placed in “ Pioneer Memorial Cemetery ” in memory of John Neely Bryan “First Citizen of Dallas” which was sponsored by JB Bonham Chapter of DRT & Mrs. Carlisle. The cemetery is now cared for by the City Parks Dept. & contains an estimated 800 graves
New tombstone dedication by Mrs. Carlisle, Tom Plath Green & Rev. Harry Sarles at the cemetery on grave of Chaplain Dempsey W. Broughton
Harry S. Miller, Sr. appointed by Judge Sarah Hughes as trustee of the old Jewish Akard St. Cemetery because “City of Dallas might try to abate it as a nuisance”. Miller's petition says the cemetery was established in 1874 after George Swink gave 4500 square feet to Old Hebrew Benevolent Assn for burial grounds. 52 persons were buried there. Emil Tillman (d. 1915) was last trustee
New tombstone dedication for Rev. George Rottenstein (Episcopalian minister) and John Long
(veteran of 3 wars) held at cemetery
$8.5 million Dallas Memorial Auditorium opens
City plans Park for Auditorium. City owns Odd Fellows & Masonic cemeteries & wants to acquire Old City Cemetery
City moves Confederate Monument of Robt E. Lee, Jefferson Davis, Stonewall Jackson & Albert Sidney Johnston with 60 foot obelisk with confederate soldier from its 1896 location in then City park, which was formerly Sullivan park, to Pioneer Park near Dallas Memorial Auditorium because of installation of RL Thornton Frwy. The 1896 dedication of the monument, which was an all day event, was attended by 400 Confederate & 65 Union veterans. No plans to rededicate the monument in its new location.
Parks Dept officials negotiate with donor to purchase Old City Cemetery to create “an attractive city park near the Auditorium” per article in the Dallas Morning News. Mayor Earle Cabell suggests “any existing graves could be moved to a central location with an appropriate marker. Winfield Morton is part owner of a 1.4 acre tract.
John Ormshee Simonds of Pittsburgh , President of American Society of Landscape Architects, gives first place to fulfillment of the City's plans for Pioneer Park (7 acre open tract adjacent to the Memorial Auditorium on S. Akard) in his listings of three opportunities to create a “green park-like heart”in Downtown Dallas, quotes Sam Acheson article on this date
City acquires Old City Cemetery and City Manager Scott McDonald says “cemetery contains just a few scattered graves” and is not maintained. The rest of the cemetery area will be utilized as downtown “open space”. The city agrees to go to court to remove the dedication of the land for cemetery purposes and pay for
re-interment of bodies at a different location.