Focus on the Backroads » Photo Journeys

FOCUS ON THE BACKROADS: HISTORIC TEXAS CEMETERY ART

Cemeteries are a link to our past – they are full of history and stories of real people. There are approximately 50,000+ cemeteries in Texas. These range from a single unmarked grave marker to very large cemeteries with hundreds of marker. Many are forgotten and difficult to find but each are reminders of early settlements and a a window to a lot of Texas history.

The HTC (Historic Texas Cemetery) Designation was established in 1998 with the purpose to preserve these historical sites. To be eligible for a HTC designation a cemetery must be at least 50 years old and deemed worthy because of historical value – which is every cemetery.

In early times when cemeteries did not exist people were buried in plots near their family homes. To keep the dead from rising stones, rocks, and wood were used to mark the bury plot. Eventually church cemeteries began to appear with simple markers with the deceased’s name, age, and year of birth. In the 19th century public cemeteries appeared along with more elaborate headstone and monuments that memorized the dead.

Scattered throughout the backroads of Texas are familiar green signs that designate to turn left or right to visit a cemetery. When I see these these sign I turn without even giving it a second thought……why…..because I know that this path, that I am about to wander down, is going to possible lead to a ghost town, many photo opportunities, and most of all a hidden TEXAS TREASURE: Cemetery Art.

Over the years I have visited hundreds of tucked away cemeteries. Each is unique and reveals it’s own story. Wondering many times who were these people that once lived near the ground that I was standing on…..what was the story of the man whose marker read “a man that wondered into town and was shot”. What happened to the infant whose marker said simply “baby”. Why a Dad, Mom, and several children passed on the same day. Even one time being shocked to see a stone that said David Norris, kind of creepy.

Another reason to visit these sites to spend time capturing the beautiful art that these historic cemeteries provide. The many angels with such expressive faces that creative so many emotions. The inscriptions sharing feelings from so many years ago.

Often I will share my “habit” of wandering through historic cemeteries with my camera only to be met with “eyes rolling” and faces that say “what the heck is wrong with you”. I assure you that I will be turning down the dirt road pointed out by one of those green sign, with abundant anticipation, and of course with my camera in hand!

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