Williamson County
Historical Commission

 

 
Round Rock Old Slave Cemetery
Williamson County, Round Rock, Texas
 
 
John Christeson
9/01/2006


John Christeson
9/01/2006

click on image for an enlarged view

  Marker Text:
Near the gravesite of outlaw Sam Bass, one-half acre of Old Round Rock Cemetery was set aside for slave burials. Enclosed by cedar posts and barbed wire, sites are marked head and foot with large limestone rocks. Some rocks are hand-grooved with names and dates. White graves here are dated as early as 1851. The first marked grave of a freed slave is dated 1880. Although there are 40 to 50 known burial sites of freedmen and the burial ground is still in use, no interments of former slaves occurred after the turn of the century.
Round Rock Old Slave Cemetery  
 


 
 
click on image for an enlarged view

Satellite maps



road map

GPS Coordinates:
Latitude: 30.51768, Longitude: -97.69768

  This cemetery in located in the Northeast corner of the Round Rock Cemetery in a grove of trees, but the brush has been cut and you can easily walk through it. There are more field stones for grave markers than marked gravestones. A number of gravestones have been broken to pieces and at least one can't be read. There is a pile of discarded broken gravestones and footstones, none of which had enough parts to determine if there were identifiable gravestones in the pile.



Round Rock Old Slave Cemetery
By CHRIS PETRISON - American Statesman Staff

 

Few facts are known about the slave cemetery in Round Rock.

How many people are buried there, who they are or how old the cemetery is are all questions that still need to be answered, says Lerlene Ward. Stories told by older blacks in the community and deeds dating back to the 1800s pretty well confirm that at least some Williamson County slaves were buried there.

 

Ward is a director of the Round Rock Cemetery Association, one of several organizations seeking information on the slave section of the community cemetery and trying to clean it up.

Located in the northwest corner of the Round Rock Cemetery in Old Town near the outlaw Sam Bass' grave, the one-half acre slave section was buried for years by brush. There was a time when only a few people in the community knew it existed.

 

One was Joe Lee Johnson, who died last year at the age of 94. In a taped conversation with two Round Rock Optimist Club members he recalled that his grandfather and grandmother, both former slaves, were buried there.

Interest in the cemetery was developed about a year and a half ago by the Round Rock Optimist Club which decided to take it on as a club project.

"The cemetery was so overgrown that we agreed to clean it up. We even had to get a court order so we could go into it and restore it," said Sheldon Shevelland, who was president of the organization at the time.

He noted that it was the organization’s intent to identify grave markers, clean up the cemetery and obtain a historical marker from the Texas Historical Commission.

 

Soon other clubs and organizations began to take an interest in the old cemetery. There was a local Boy Scout troop, the Cemetery Association, Williamson County Historical Commission, the Round Rock Cemetery Association and Round Rock Parks and Recreation Department.

The parks department sent members of the Young Adult Work Corps out there which put a trail through the area and erected a sign designating it as a slave cemetery.

 

Workers who came out to the burial ground found much to do. Markers were piled and broken in a corner of the cemetery. Some had legible names and numbers on them, others did not. It is believed that most came from the slave section, however.

 

Adding to the confusion was the fact that all but a few markets remained at their original spots with only a few legible. Rain and wind of the Central Texas countryside wore away much of the hand carved lettering that once told who was buried at the spot. A few of the larger and better made markers are in good condition.

 

Also, vandals struck the cemetery about five years ago breaking markers in both the slave cemetery and regular Round Rock cemetery.

 

The Optimist Club has platted on a map 13 confirmed graves and determined who was buried there. Club members believe, however, that there are many other slave graves there because of the large number of markers scattered in the area and the number of graves that have caved in.

 

Among names found on tombstones in the slave section were Blair, Casey, Caldwell, Williams, Wilson, Danger Oatts, Harris, Gault, Bowner and Kinckeloe.

 

Chairman of the Optimist committee which is working on the slave project is Murry Ham. He hopes that the organization will have enough information gathered about the old cemetery by February to submit a formal application for a historical marker. It should be confirmed in a "couple of months," he speculates. When this is done the Round Rock slave cemetery will be one of only a few in Texas so designated with a historical marker.





SLAVE CEMETERY

In The Old Round Rock Cemetery

Narrative by Mrs. John W.Ledbetter

 

The Slave Cemetery in Round Rock, Texas has for a long time been of special interest to many. It is located about One half mile off I.H. 35, west on Sam Bass Road in the northwest corner of the Round Rock Cemetery in Old Round Rock. It is near the grave of Sam Bass, the outlaw.      [1] (enclosed map)

 

This Slave Cemetery has always been a part of the Round Rock Cemetery. These grave sites were in the early days called the Round Rock Graveyard. Prior to the 1880's the land used as the Round Rock Graveyard was apparently donated for use as a graveyard, but beginning in 1888, with the election of directors for a graveyard, land was pur­chased and designated for use as grave sites. The following directors were elected in 1888. [2]  Dr. J. W. Royston, Mr. R.D. Harris, Mr. T. W. Graham and Mr. L.M. Mays. [2] The land for the graveyard was purchased by the directors in three parcels as follows; [3] Purchase from O. C. foe Waver and wife, Meary, and R.H. Kincheloe, and J. B. Asher and wife, E.A. for $81.00 on August 22,. 18881(3) second purchase from L.M. Mays and J.M. Black, November 1889 for '2,18.00. Third purchase from Thomas and Bettie Smith, November, 1889 for $15.00.. These parcels amounted to about six acres. Included in this land was the 1/2 acre designated for the Slave Graveyard. This land has been intact through the years, and the Round Rock Cemetery is still used by some of the descendants of old families as grave sites. The organization has continued through the years and on January 22, 1963 was registered with the Secretary of State as the Round Rock Cemetery Association, a non-profit organization. [4]

 

As far as is known, there were no burials in the Slave Cemetery after the turn of the 'century.

The Slave Cemetery was for many years covered by shrubs, brush, trees and briars and so was almost forgotten. It was enclosed by a cedar post and barbed wire fence. This wire was identified as the kind of wire used in the late 1800's. [5] A beautiful ground cover of periwinkle and flags still grows over the entire cemetery. The graves were marked head and foot with large limestone rocks turned edgewise and very few were entirely visible. The names and dates were hand-grooved.

 

In the early 1970's interest began to increase in restoring the cemetery, but it was not until 1977 that the Optimist Club, under the leadership of Mr. Murry Ham, took decided interest and action in re­storing the old cemetery. The Club took this restoration and research as a project, securing a court order from Williamson County Judge C.L. Chance to proceed with the restoration. [6] The organization declared their intent to; "clean up the Slave portion, identify the markers, research the history and hope to get a marker from the State Histori­cal Commission."

 

Soon other organizations began to take interest in the restoration. There was a local Boy Scout Group, the Round Rock Cemetery Association, the local Historical Chairmen, Williamson County Historical Commission, City of Round Rock Parks and Recreation Department and the Junior His­torians, under the direction of Jeff Townsend. The Parks and Recreation Department, under the leadership of Mr. Mario Seminara, sent members of the Young Adult Work Corps out to help. The members built a rock walk­way through the Cemetery, and put up a sign designating the area as the Slave Cemetery.

 

The Optimist Club (original sponsors) plotted a map of thirteen confirmed graves and determined who was buried there with dates where possible.  [8]Many other grave markers have been found scattered in the area. These have been carefully assembled and organized with names and dates, as far as possible. It is estimated that between forty and fifty are buried there.

 

Stories told by older members of the black community and deeds dating back to the 1800's confirm that some Williamson County slaves are buried there. One old life member of Round Rock, Joe Lee Johnson, who died in 1977 at the age of 95, in taped conversations with Mr. Murry Ham, definitely stated that slaves were buried in the cemetery. These included Grandfather, Father (slaves), and friends. [7]

 

Among names found on the tombstones were Blair, Casey, Caldwell, Kniceheloe. Williams, Wilson, Oats, Harris, Gault, Bowner and KniceIetcre. The fact that these same names appear on some of the white graves in the Round Rock Cemetery would indicate that some of the slaves took their owner's names.

 

The local chairmen, Round Rock Historical Commission of William­son County believe that this cemetery represents an important era in our history, and will not only create new interest in that history for the younger generation, but will also encourage family members of those buried in the cemetery to be interested in their heritage.

 

Mrs. Lurlene Ward is the present Director-Secretary-Treasurer of Old Round Rock Cemetery, which includes The Slave Cemetery.

Compiled and Written by:

Mrs. D.B. Gregg

Mrs. John W. Ledbetter, Sr.

 


 

Slave Cemetery (Summary)  3-1-79

THE OLD ROUND ROCK CEMETERY

And SLAVE CEMETERY

Supplement and summary by Myreta Matthews

 

The "OLD ROUND ROCK GRAVE YARD" was established more than 125 years ago. The earliest marked grave is that of Angeline Scott, who was born Dec.12,1840 and died July 31,1951. There are several more stones recording burial dates before 1860. [1]

 

Since,it is known that Round Rock was a thriving, frontier settlement in the early days of Texas,there may have been earlier burials here - possibly unmarked. The first white settlers came and established Kenny's Fort in 1838 [2]. John Harris built his State Coach Inn and Station in 1848-1853 on the Chisholm Trail [3]. Jacob M. Harrell's house near Brushy Creek was finished in 1853 [4] There were other homes established in the 1840s.

 

This cemetery in Old Round Rock is described in the Deed Records of Williamson County thus: "This tract or parcel of land being part of the J.M. HARRELL HEADRIGHT LEAGUE in Williamson County, on the north side of Brushy Creek and west of Old Round Rock". It was sold to the Cemetery Trustees in three plots.(See Mrs. Ledbetter's narrative).The first plot was bought for $ 81.005, the second for $ 18.00 [6] and the third for $ 15.00 [7].

 

This League of land was SURVEYED March 16,1841 and is recorded as PATENT No.106 in the Republic of Texas Survey Register,VOL. 1. [8]

 

Slave Cemetery Matthews (Summary)

The Round Rock Cemetery has been known by several names, according to one source [9]. Among those are - Presbyterian -Sam Bass - and Old Town.

 

Among names listed in a recent survey, are those of two brothers, who were noted Civil War Chaplains, Rev. Edward Hudson and Rev. John Hudson. [10] These men were Presbyterian Ministers and remained active here after the war ended, and are buried here. This could have been a reason for the cemetery being called by that name. The other two names are rather obvious.

 

The sponsors of the SLAVE CEMETERY and the authors of the story seem to have provided rather definite proof that the north west corner of the Old Round Rock Cemetery was indeed a SLAVE CEMETERY. Since, no burial records were kept for any part of the "Grave Yard", legend and tradition had to be accepted as reliable evidence. After the Civil War almost everybody was poor and slaves and ex-slaves had neither the means or the education

to mark their graves. The earliest date noted in the slave portion of the cemetery is 1880 or about 15 years after the war ended, yet, this final resting place for the loved ones of the "Black Community" persisted and through word of mouth kept its identity.

 

It is unique in this part of Texas - A SLAVE CEMETERY -There are many negro cemeteries but not any known to be just for slaves. The other reasons for marking this significant plot are valid and worthwhile but this uniqueness cannot be overlooked.

Old_Slave_Cemetery_footnotes

 


 

Slave Cemetery by JuliAnne Herrera

 

One-half acre of the Round Rock Cemetery is made up of a Slave Cemetery. It is near the gravesite of the outlaw Sam Bass. There are about forty to fifty known burial sites of freedmen. The slave burial ground is enclosed by cedar posts and barbed wire. It is very interesting to observe this area of the cemetery because it doesn't look like what we commonly think of a burial ground as looking. The reason one knows the gravesites exist is because of the big wooden sign which reads "Slave Cemetery" that has been placed directly in front of the area. There has also been a rock walk-way installed within the one-half acre that leads to the gravesites (see appendix VI).

 

The oldest grave in the slave cemetery is dated 1880, or about fifteen years after the Civil War had ended. The name on this grave is not definite, however; there are only thirteen graves that have actually been confirmed in this one-half acre burial site. These graves are marked head and foot by large limestone rocks; some of the rocks are hand-grooved with names and dates. Other graves are just marked by the existence of rocks or maybe an initial or two on the stone. It has been said that most information acquired about this mysterious one-half acre has been done mainly through legend, word-of-mouth and tradition. It seems as though after the Civil War was over, the ex-slaves in the community still did not have the education, "know-how" or means to think about marking their graves in a more sophisticated fashion.

 

Upon investigating this slave cemetery, we came across an interview done by Murray and Reggie Richardson. The person interviewed was Joe Lee Johnson (1883-1977), a black man whose father had been a slave. The interview was done the same year Mr. Johnson passed away and is as follows:

 

Mr. Johnson's father was born a slave. His grandfather and father Simon Johnson were owned by the pioneer Fulkes family.

 

Unlike most of the other black people, the Biel family were buried on their own 15 or 20 acre farm on Brushy Creek.

 

Some of the Biel family are buried in the "Slave Cemetery." "Julie Dell" told Mr. Johnson stories about slave days. Among the names of the people from the old slave days, which Mr. Johnson recalled having heard about, (both black and white) other than Charlie Fulkes were: the Pruitts, Grahams, Biels, twin brothers Peter Clark and Simon Johnson, Frank Hall, Henna Taylor, Moe Dell, Joe Baker, Jerry Caldwell, Cramon, Jim Mercer, John Mays and Lem Mays. "Miss Rodie" Fulkes seems to have been guardian and helper with mutual concern for

Charlie Fulkes and Simon Johnson.       

 

A Pettus family was identified as Methodist rather than Baptist and social lines seem to

have been drawn among religious affiliations. As Mr. Johnson recalled...she was associating with Baptist people...I was associated with Methodist.

 

During "slave time" as Mr. Johnson related "They had what they called "Paddle Rolls"...they talked about run nigger run...the paddle roll'll get you..."

 

This interview revealed several interesting things. For example, it noted the fact that dimes took the last name of their owners. Thus, their cultural identity by name was taken away. We see this with the twin brothers Peter Clark and Simon Johnson. We also see the handing down or passing on of information by family members, friends, etc. We see the idea of social lines being drawn by affiliation with certain religions as well. The idea that blacks were of a certain religion and the whites were of another was interesting. Fourthly, for a black individual

today, this interview serves as a "telescope" back into time and shows him or her just how far the black rape has come. A fifth and most important factor that this interview reveals is the names of slaves. The fact that some of these names overlap with the names of whites buried in the other part of the cemetery gives insight as to who slave owners had been.

 

The Optimist Club (original sponsors) plotted a map of thirteen confirmed graves and determined who was buried there with [2] dates where possible. The names confirmed on some of the tombstones were Blair, Casey, Caldwell, Williams, Wilson, Oats, Harris, Gault, [3] Bowner, and Kincheloe. As we saw in the interview, the names mentioned by Mr. Johnson were as follows: Fulkes, Pruitt, Graham, Biel, Clark, Johnson, Hall, Taylor, Dell, Baker, Caldwell, Cramon, Mercer and Mays.

 

An interesting discovery we happened upon were tombstones bearing the names Mercer and Hall, both previously unconfirmed gravesites although they had been mentioned by Mr. Johnson. If you will notice there are no confirmed tombstones for anyone with the last name Mercer or Hall. However, Ted and I did find an obscure limestone rock with the last name Mercer on it (see Appendix VI). We also found a tombstone with the inscription, "Hall's Baby," which is possibly associated with the Hall's in Mr. Joe Lee Johnson's interview (Appendix VIas well).

 

The slave cemetery can best be described as a unique burial site of significant historical importance. There exists no partic­ular use of space, and there are no signs of kinship ties. The burials just took place as deaths mandated. It is also good to note that during the work and cleaning of the cemetery in recent years, the area hasn't been tampered with or altered in any way (with the exception of vandalism). The work has been responsibly done.

Endnotes

 



 

view more Historical Cemeteries in Round Rock

view more Historical Cemeteries in Williamson County