Historic, more than century-old Denison cemetery restored

Published: May. 3, 2021 at 9:01 PM CDT
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DENISON, Texas (KXII) - A more than century-old cemetery in Denison is now restored after being covered up for years with overgrowth of dead and fallen trees, brush and bramble.

There are dozens of grave markers and the legible headstones date back to 1882.

“We decided we were going to take it on, clear it out, restore it while maintaining the integrity of the cemetery,” said Denison Parks and Recreation Director Justin Eastwood.

Tucked behind the area around Texoma Medical Center and FM 691 on Reba Drive, lies the Iron Ore Creek Cemetery.

It’s believed to be a Black cemetery dating back to the late 19th century, about a decade before the City of Denison was established.

The cemetery dates to the founding of the Iron Ore Baptist Church in 1871. It was located in an area then known as Honey Run, or the Ellsworth Community.

According to the city, in 1922, the church moved to West Dubois Street in Denison.

The earliest known burial was in 1882 with the last in 1940.

“So you’re looking at close to 100 years to where the majority of the burials took place,” Eastwood said.

Records show around 45 markers at the site, but most identities are unknown and only a few headstones have names.

But dozens were only marked with stones made of iron ore or sandstone.

As time went on, the cemetery became hidden and forgotten.

“Course you can’t see them now. But they were able to mark them based on all her research. They were able to put little flags where they were,” said Denison Council Member Obie Greenleaf.

Greenleaf took interest when he joined council in 2006.

Late last year, city management decided to make the restoration a priority.

It took about three months for city workers and contractors to clear trees and remove extreme overgrowth.

“That we’ve had the privilege to restore and bring up to where it deserves to be, which is a beautiful, historical site within our city,” Eastwood said.

Iron Ore Creek Cemetery was designated by the state as a historic cemetery in 2010.

“It’s a special place so for us to be able to take that on, and give it the respect it deserves and the community deserves, we’re grateful to be a part of that,” Eastwood said.

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