Neighborhood News

Honoring and Preserving History in Wilco’s Cemeteries

Column by Commissioner Cook

  • 17 June 2021
  • Author: Doris Sanchez
  • Number of views: 2289

Mother, Kathy Effinger, and their cousin, Jessie Carson of Austin (formerly of Round Rock), regularly clean the graves of their ancestors—some who were once slaves—buried in the Hopewell Cemetery across from the Round Rock Cemetery on Sam Bass Road where Whites and Hispanics are buried. Morrison, now 74, started cleaning Black cemeteries since she was around 12 with her parents. Her grandfather bought a family plot in Hopewell when it was called the Black Cemetery.

She said that around 1971, her Mother spoke to someone in Round Rock City government and asked if city workers would mow the grass on their side of the cemetery, and they began doing so. However, cleanup around each grave is still done by these four women and others through the years.

Funds for clean-up and replacement of tombstones are “out-of-pocket,” according to Steiner, yet her small group cleans up these cemeteries because, “The majority of family, friends, and community members we have loved along the way are buried here.”

Rocky Hollow Cemetery along the Georgetown-Lampasas road and historically designated, was established on land owned by Thomas P. Chapman in the 1850s, and a Confederate veteran is buried there. By 1870, former slaves who lived nearby began utilizing the cemetery.This April 2021 photo shows Whitley Cemetery, located on SH 29 in Georgetown, after volunteers with the Cemetery Restoration Committee, under the Williamson County Historical Commission, began restoring it in 2012 and now regularly maintain it. Photo courtesy of Nancy Bell (WCHC).

To be considered historic, a cemetery must be at least 50 years old and deemed worthy of recognition for its historical associations.

Committee volunteers perform tombstone (or headstone) maintenance throughout the year, and depending on the tombstone, it can require different levels of expertise. Some are easier to work with, but if they are large, their weight and height create problems when moving or leveling them.

If the stones are broken, the volunteers mend the pieces together with epoxy made for the specific type of rock.

Funding for committee volunteers to clean and restore tombstones and cemeteries comes from various sources: the Historic Commission’s fundraising, individual contributions, the county, donations designated for repairing tombstones, and community volunteers by providing their time and some of the equipment.

Bell added, “Several of the cemeteries we have restored have been taken over by local landowners and even volunteers have taken on their own to clean and restore forgotten cemeteries – it looks like our work has woken up people’s eyes to the need.”

For more information, visit https://wilcohistory.org/.

Categories: Comm 1

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