Hickory Grove Cemetery, Lamar County, Texas
LOCATION: Hickory Grove Cemetery is located south of the community of Petty in the southwest quadrant of the county. It is in Block 44 of the Lamar County Road Map produced by American Drafting and Services revised December 1993.
DIRECTIONS: To get to the cemetery, take 82 West of Paris about 13 miles to FM 137. Turn south toward Petty. Continue on FM 137 about 4 miles. Cemetery will be on the right at its intersection with CR 21300. There is an old Negro burial ground on the east side of the main cemetery.
GPS COORDINATES: 33° 34' 32.42 N, 95° 43' 38.78 W.
(33.5526489 Latitude and -95.8146147 Longitude)

OLDEST KNOWN BURIAL: The oldest inscribed grave is that of Mary Isabella Alexander, wife of P. L. C. Alexander, who died in 1852.
NUMBER OF GRAVES: There are 1,341 known graves in the cemetery. (July 2017)
SIGNS/MARKERS: There is a state highway marker for the cemetery.

Historic Texas Cemetery: No    Texas Historical Commission Marker: Yes (1991)

The following is from the Historical marker outside the cemetery:
Hickory Grove Cemetery - Widespread settlement of this area of Lamar County began in the late 1840s and early 1850s. By 1852 the Hickory Grove Methodist Episcopal Church South was established and this cemetery was in use. The earliest documented grave here is that of Mary Isabella Alexander (1832-1852). Also interred that year were Franklin Day (1827-1852) and Nancy Smith (1842-1852). By the 1870s the Hickory Grove Cemetery was fully established as a community burial ground. The Methodist Church was relocated in 1881, providing more space for grave sites where the sanctuary had once stood. Additional land acquisitions, including property deeded by Sam and Dicie Swan in 1889 and F. E. and M. E. Simpson in 1907 enlarged the cemetery grounds. A building referred to as 'the shed' was built in the 1920s for funeral services, but it burned in 1949. The Hickory Grove Cemetery contains over 1,000 graves. The tombstones, diverse in style and size, serve as reminders of the area's pioneer heritage. Many mark the graves of infants and children and are a testament to the often harsh conditions of pioneer life. Others interred here include veterans of the Civil War, World War I, World War II, and Korea. A cemetery association maintains the historic graveyard. - (1991) Note - Incised on base: In memory of Mr. and Mrs. Ben Budd.

LAST ENUMERATION: The cemetery was recorded in April 1992 by Patricia Ferguson, Ruth Renfro, Cleo Weaver and Roberta Woods.
ADD'L INFORMATION: The following is the text used to acquire the Texas Historical Marker in the cemetery: Hickory Grove Cemetery 1852 - 1990 - Researched and compiled by Drs. Claude and Barbara Caffee, 209 Glenwick Place, Allen, Texas 75002.
     By 1845, the Republic of Texas' landscape was being broken into large parcels of land, similar to a giant patchwork quilt. Land was granted to early settlers of this vast wilderness. One of the earliest grants made in Lamar County was to Charles Tilton, and it comprised(FN:1,418) '16754340 Square Varas of Land, situated and described as follows:- In Lamar County in Grand Prairie, on the waters of Sulphur Fork and the ridge dividing the waters of Red River and Sulphur Fork.' This amounted to almost three thousand acres of land. In the years that followed, Tilton's land would be broken into still smaller portions and sold to settlers coming to this new frontier.
     By the 1850's more settlers were making their way to the 'Grand Prairie' of Lamar County, Texas, and they were making their presence felt; they would change forever the face of this once barren region. Most of these pioneers came seeking the fertile soils of Texas because they were farmers. With them, they brought little else than their personal, religious and political convictions to see them through the hardships. They came to live, and they came to die, if necessary, on the land.
     During the early settling of this region, many of the new citizens did die. As early as 1852, Minutes from the First Quarterly Meeting for the Paris Circuit, East Texas Conference(FN:2) indicated that Hickory Grove Methodist Episcopal Church, South, had been established. Since slavery was a common practice in this farming region and many of the settlers had brought their slaves with them when coming to Texas, the church at Hickory Grove had joined the southern cause when the Methodist Church split over the issue of slavery. Even so, Walter N. Vernon(FN:3,72) in the 1967 edition of his book, METHODISM MOVES ACROSS NORTH TEXAS, indicated that Hickory Grove Methodist Episcopal Church, South, had 'twenty-five white members and seven black members in 1852.' It was a common practice at that time for the slave owner and his slaves to worship in the same church. By the summer of that same year, existing tombstones in the cemetery indicate that at least by that time, a community burial place had been established with the burial of three local citizens.
     The earlier burial was that of Mary Isabella Alexander, who was the wife of L. C. Alexander, a local merchant,(FN:4) who had come to Texas from Kentucky. The inscription on the tombstone is as follows: 'Mary Isabella Alexander, Consort of L. C. Alexander, born May 17th, 1832, died June 19th, 1852, in the 21st yr. of her age.' Nearby is the grave of Franklin Day, son of Samuel Day, who died on 'July 24, 1852, at the age of 25 yrs, 3 mos, 1 day.' According to the inscription on the flat white rock stone that covers the grave site, Franklin Day had come to 'Lamar County, Texas, from Giles County, Tennessee.' Located in close proximity to the graves of Alexander and Day, is the grave of Nancy Smith, who was born September 4, 1842, and moved to Texas in 1846. The carved inscription on her white rock grave stone, which also covers the top of her grave, indicates that she 'Departed this life Dec. 30, 1852. Aged 10 yrs, 3 mos, 26 days.'
     IA number of other marked graves dating to the 1850's exist in the cemetery: L. B. Chiles, died August 29, 1853; J. H. Horton, died March 15, 1854; and Mary G. Beard, died July 1, 1859.
     It was not uncommon in the early days of Texas' statehood for deed records which officially established a plot of land as a cemetery to be scarce. Often a cemetery would be established as an individual family burial place or next to a church as a final resting place for church members or members of the community. Deed records would then be registered at a much later date. The earliest known legal record referencing the land area of Hickory Grove Cemetery occurred during the November term of the Commissioners' Court, Lamar County, Texas, involving an appraisal of the estate of J. M. Bourland, deceased. The court report stated(FN:5,596) that the commissioners found 'the estate to consist of land in several tracks as follows, in Lamar County one tract 640 acres at the headright of Benjamin F. Sherlock and represented in this partition as Plat 'A' (and other real estate not wanted herein) which plat is herewith as a part of hereof of this report.' According to survey maps of the day, the 'real estate not wanted' probably referred to land which had all ready been set aside as a church ground and cemetery. The cemetery is located on the map where sections of land owned by Benjamin F. Sherlock, Thomas Nobles and J. M. Bourland approach juncture and are part of the outside parameter of the cemetery.
     James A. Bourland was listed in the 1850 Lamar County Census(FN:4) as having a real estate value of $12,000, which was a considerable amount in those days. It is known from the marriage records of Lamar County(FN:6) that Samuel Day, a brother of Franklin Day, married Nancy J. Bourland on September 27, 1849; it is believed that she was a daughter of James B. and Sarah A. Bourland, whose household number on the 1850 Lamar County Census was number 198, and the household number for Franklin Day was 199. Since Franklin's grave is one of the earliest found in the cemetery, it is possible that the cemetery started as a small family graveyard, and then grew to serve as a community cemetery and church grounds.
     A number of prominent family names appear in the Lamar County 1850 Census(FN:4): Early, Ragsdale, Merrick, Bourland, Day, Hobbs, Simmons, Baird, Alexander, Horton, Orton, Chiles, Wilburn, Thomas, to name just a few. At least two of the farms of these early pioneers have survived the ravages of time and have received recognition by the TEXAS FAMILY LAND HERITAGE REGISTRY.(FN:7) John Hobbs of Illinois, who acquired 35 1/8 acres in 1856 and later added 326 additional acres, had followed his father, Enos Hobbs, to Lamar county. His farm is located fourteen miles west of Paris, Texas. The second family farm is that of John W. Wilburn of Missouri, who bought 260 acres in 1856. This farm is located three miles southwest of what is now Petty, Texas, and it lies within a couple of miles northwest of Hickory Grove Cemetery.
     A number of residents died during the 1860's and were buried at the cemetery. Those persons included: H. H. Orton, who died February 12, 1861; Brazella Beard, who died March 2, 1861; Rosell Wilburn, who died March 23, 1861; J. M. Martin, died August 12, 1861; Toby McGill, died May 16, 1862; Robert M. Wilburn, died January 27, 1863; Elizabeth Jones, died October 10, 1863; J. C. Jackson, died October 16, 1867; Samuel M. Wilburn, died February 25, 1868; Nancy Derrick, died May 27, 1869; and Mary F. Jackson, died December 4, 1869.
      The second reference to the cemetery property is when H. C. Rumbley and his wife, M. E. Rumbley, sold acreage to W. H. Moss in January in 1881. Again, there is a reference to 'One other tract not wanted herein' which one can assume denoted the existing church and cemetery grounds. The second tract of land described in this record(FN:8,251) refers to '...a stake in the N. E. corner of church ground...' In October of 1883, W. H. Moss and Mary E. Moss sold this same property to J. C. Cunningham. The property description is as follows:(FN:9,143) 'Besides one tract not wanted herein. 2nd tract being a part of the B. F. Sherlock Head Right Survey of 640 acres. Begins at the N. W. corner of Hickory Grove Church and Grave Yard grounds. Thence East 25 6/10 poles a stake the N. E. corner of church grounds. Thence South 12 7/10 poles a stake. Thence East 16 poles a stake in N. B. line of said Noble Survey. Thence North 75 poles to a stake in the middle of Hickory Grove Creek with the meanders of said creek. Thence West 47 1/4 poles a stake. Thence South 63 poles to the beginnings; containing 18 3/4 acres.'
     By the 1870's many of the earliest pioneers who had been responsible for the settling of this 'Grand Prairie' region of Lamar County, had either died or moved on to new locations. Those that were left behind were recipients of a rich legacy and heritage, and generations yet to come would be the beneficiaries of this determination. By this time, Hickory Grove Cemetery had been clearly established as a final resting place for the community. Burials in the 1870's included the following: Lucy Nannie McGill, died October 17, 1870; G. W. Jackson, died May 12, 1872; Sarah T. Hogue, died December 15, 1873; S. B. Orton, died December 19, 1873; A. A. Horton, died October 12, 1875; Garrie Hogue, died November, 18876; D. T. Cook, died May 23, 1877; M. R. Horton, died September, 1877; Josiah Cheatham, died January 29, 1878; and Nancy Cook, February 9, 1873. It was also during this decade that John W. Wilburn and John Hobbs died, and both were buried in the cemetery at Hickory Grove. Wilburn died on August 7, 1872, while Hobbs died February 9, 1873; both of these men have tombstones that mark their passing.
     IAt this point, mention should be made of the fact that S. B. Orton, who died December 10, 1874, at the age of seventy-four, was a very active participant in the Hickory Grove Methodist Episcopal Church, South. During the 1850's, the church at Hickory Grove was served by a circuit rider. According to records of the time,(FN:3) the preacher stayed at the home of S. B. Orton when he came to preach at the church.
     The next major reference in Lamar County Deeds(FN:10,508) to Hickory Grove Cemetery was when Sam Swan and his wife Dicie Swan sold a tract of land for the sum of $25.00 to M. E. Church, South, in trust that 'said premises shall be used, kept and maintained and disposed of as a place of burial for the community of White Rock subject to the discipline and usage of said church as from time to time authorized and declared by the General Conference of said church and the annual conference within whose bounds the said premises are situated.
     IThis addition to the existing grave yard was described as:(FN:10,508) 'A part of the Thos. Noble Hd. Rt. Beginning at a stake 16 ft. East of the S. W. corner a lot deeded to M. E. Church South by John A. Hogue. Thence South 14 poles & 19 links a stake. Thence South 42' East 6 poles a stake. Thence East 7 poles and 21 links a stake the S. W. Corner of old grave yard. Thence North 20 poles & 4 links to S. B. line of said lot deed to M. E. Church by John Hogue. Thence with S. B. Line of same West 10 poles and 15 links to place of beginning containing --- acres more or less.'
     This transaction took place on May 31, 1889. Neither Sam nor Dicie Swan could sign their names. The record indicated that both signed with an 'X'. The 1870 Census(FN:11) reported that Sam Swan was white and that Dicie Swan was black, and that the children in the household were black. The 1880 Census(FN:12) recorded Sam and Dicie Swan and the children living in the household as being mulatto, while the 1900 census(FN:13) taker listed the children and Sam and Dicie Swan as black. Tradition has it that Sam and Dicie agreed to the addition to the cemetery if they would be allowed to be buried there. A tombstone for Sam and Dicie Swan can be found in Hickory Grove Cemetery. Sam Swan died April 7, 1909 and was buried at Hickory Grove; Dicie Swan died February 1, 1922.(FN:14) One can only assume that she was actually buried at the cemetery, since no inscriptions was added to the stone at the time of her death; she did die at Roxton, Texas.
     IIt is important to note that on the 6th day of August, 1881, land was purchased (FN:15,66) by the Trustees of the Honey Grove and Paris District M. E. Church South North Texas Conference for the purpose of establishing the church on a new site. It was moved to a '...certain tract or parcel of land bounded and described as follows to wit: situated in Lamar County, Texas, on the waters of Sandberry's Creek about 17 miles S. W. from Paris being three parts of a survey of 1 league and Labone (sic) acres of land surveyed in the name of Wm Blundeel Beginning at the S. W. corner of W. A. Ragsdale tract 65 acres thence north a post thence west a post thence South a post thence East to the place of Beginning containing three acres...' The new location for the church left the vacated land on which the earlier structure had stood to be used as burial places. The new church was called White Rock Methodist Church (FN:16,1) and was built on the new site in 1881.
      The 1880's saw more deaths of residents and more burials at Hickory Grove. Tombstones for the following persons can be found in the cemetery: Annie E. Allen, died October 28, 1881; Fletcher Collett, died March 12, 1883; Mohala Lovell, died February 17, 1884; Addie Harrall, died August 27, 1884; Elizabeth Swafford, born and died April 9, 1886; and Nora May Maness, died August 3, 1889.
     As demands for burial space at the cemetery grew, so did the need for expansion. In October of 1907, F. E. Simpson and his wife, M. E. Simpson sold to H. G. Maness for the sum of sixty dollars part of the Tilton survey(FN:17,305) described as follows: 'Beginning at a stake the S. W. corner of B. J. Sherlock 1280 acre survey on Thomas Nobles North boundary line. Thence West 12 2/3 poles a stake. Thence East 12 2/3 poles a stake. Thence South 12 2/3 poles to the place of beginning containing one acre out of the Chas. Tilton survey.'
     This same piece of property was added to the cemetery grounds in 1927 when the heirs of H. G. Maness sold the one acre plot of land for five dollars to the Hickory Grove Cemetery Association. In this same transaction, a second parcel of land described included part of the Thomas Noble Survey. This parcel also served to enlarge the cemetery grounds and was described(FN:18,614) as follows: 'Beginning at a stake on the N. B. line of said Noble Survey 12 1/3 poles West of Grave Yard fence. Thence East 12 1/8 poles. Thence South 18 poles, a stake on bank of branch. Thence Northwest to the place of beginning, containing 109 square poles.'
     It is important to point out that the long and proud history of Hickory Grove Cemetery has not been without its problems. While there appeared to have been a cemetery association during the early 1900's, few records exist regarding the persons involved. It is known that Hickory Grove continued to grow in terms of its census. It is know that during the 1920's a building referred to as the 'shed'(FN:19,1) was built. The 'shed' was used to hold funeral services at the cemetery until it burned to the ground in December, 1949. The last funeral service held in the building was that of John Thomas, which was conducted during Christmas week prior to its burning.
     In an article published in the ROXTON PROGRESS,(FN:20,1) the status of the cemetery was best described: 'For many years the cemetery in general was not worked except for a few plots cared for by family members, and it grew up like a weed patch...'
     It is to the credit of the Noble Women's Home Demonstration Club membership's dedication and interest that after several years of neglect that the grounds of Hickory Grove Cemetery were once again beautified. The ROXTON PROGRESS(FN:20,1) reported that 'In 1959 the Noble Woman's Club with Mrs. Jewel Matthew as president and Miss Edythe Mullican as Sec.-Treas. began as sponsors of the up-keep of the cemetery. The club kept this project going for over ten years.'
     In 1971(FN:21) a meeting was conducted at Petty, Texas for the purpose of establishing a Perpetual Care Fund for the cemetery. Again, to its credit, the Noble Women's Home Demonstration donated eighteen hundred dollars to the perpetual care fund. In 1971, also, a cemetery association committee was formally formed. Since that time, the Hickory Grove Cemetery Association has worked to see that the grounds of the cemetery are maintained.
     The last expansion to the cemetery grounds occurred in March of 1988 when Joel and Ruby L. Crofford May gave to the Hickory Grove Cemetery Association part of the 18.75 acre tract of land described earlier in this document. This property also included part of a thirty acre plot. The land is described(FN:22,173) in the Warranty Deed as follows: 'Beginning at a stake for corner at the most eastern Southwest corner of the above mentioned 18.75 acre tract and also being in the East Boundary Line of Hickory Grove Cemetery tract; Thence S. 88 Deg. 36 Min. E. along the South Boundary Line of the 18.75 acre tract and the above mentioned 30 acre tract, a distance of 60 feet; Thence North a distance of 166.6 ft., more or less, to a point in the South Boundary Line of F. M. 137; Thence along the South Boundary Line of said Highway with the following bearings and distances; North 75 Deg. 21 Min. W a distance of 16.2 ft., and North 70 Deg. 17 Min. W. a distance of 47.1 ft., to a stake for corner; Thence South along the East Boundary Line of the Cemetery tract a distance of 185.1 ft. to the place of beginning.'
     The minutes of the Hickory Grove Cemetery Association(FN:23) indicated that this most recent acquisition to the cemetery boundaries was made as a gesture by Joel and Ruby Lee Crofford May in honor of their son, Major Joel May, who died in the service to his country. Additionally, the Crofford family built a memorial building 20X30 feet to be used for Memorial Day Services at the cemetery. The building was dedicated to the memory of Mr. and Mrs. J. W. Crofford, grandparents of the Croffords.
     Today, approximately one thousand known graves exist within the boundaries of the cemetery. Among those buried there are Civil War veterans, World War I veterans, World War II veterans, and veterans from the Korean Conflict.(FN:24,1) An inscription on the grave of a twenty-three year old man who died in World War I, 1918(FN:25,1) reads: 'He died for the flag under which he lived.' Each year, a service is held at the cemetery on Memorial Day to remember those who died for their flag, helping preserve freedom and the pursuit of happiness known as the 'Grand Prairie' of Lamar County, Texas. With its simple iron gates and fence and the rocked road which meanders through the grounds of the graveyard, Hickory Grove Cemetery is, today, a fitting tribute to those early pioneers who settled this land seeking the right to govern, to pray, to live, and to die, if necessary.
  1. Lamar County Clerk's Office. Patent: Republic of Texas to Charles Tilton. Deed Book 'F', p. 418, 1845. Paris, Texas.
  2. Minutes First Quarterly Conference for Paris Circuit East Texas Conference, January 17, 1852 (Houses at Southern Methodist University Archives, Dallas, Texas).
  3. Vernon, Walter N. METHODISM MOVES ACROSS NORTH TEXAS. Dallas, Texas: The Historical Society North Texas Conference-The Methodist Church, 1967.
  4. Steely, Skipper (Prepared by). 1850 COMBINED CENSUS--LAMAR AND RED RIVER COUNTIES, TEXAS. Paris, Texas: The Wright Press, 1985.
  5. Commissioners' Report. Lamar County Clerk's Office. G. W. Wright, et. al. vs. Est. J. M. Bourland, decd. Probate Minutes F, p. 296, 1894. Paris, Texas.
  6. Swenson, Helen Smothers (Indexed by Frances Terry Ingmire). 8800 TEXAS MARRIAGES, VOL. 1 A-L, 1824-1850. Round Rock, Texas. 1981.
  7. FAMILY LAND HERITAGE REGISTRY, VOL. 2. Texas Department of Agriculture, Austin, Texas. 1975.
  8. Lamar County Clerk's Office. Warranty Deed H. C. Rumbley and wife, M. E. Rumbley to W. H. Moss. Deed Book L2, p. 251, 1881. Paris, Texas.
  9. Lamar County Clerk's Office. Warranty Deed W. H. Moss and wife, Mary E. Moss to J. C. Cunningham. Deed Book S2, p. 143, 1883. Paris, Texas.
  10. Lamar County Clerk's Office. Deed Record Sam Swan and Dicie Swan to Methodist Episcopal Church, South. Deed Book 94, p. 508, 1889. Paris, Texas.
  11. U.S. Census Lamar County, Texas, 1870, Roll # 1594.
  12. U.S. Census Lamar County, Texas, 1880, Roll # 1315.
  13. U.S. Census Lamar County, Texas, 1900, Roll # S500.
  14. Lamar County Clerk's Office. Dicie Swan's Will. Will Book 41, p. 362, 1922. Paris, Texas.
  15. Lamar County Clerk's Office. Deed Robert Ragsdale to Honey Grove and Paris District Methodist Episcopal Church, South. 1882. Paris, Texas.
  16. 'A Review of Whiterock Methodist Church.' ROXTON PROGRESS. February 5, 1981, p. 1.
  17. Lamar County Clerk's Office. Deed F. E. Simpson and wife, M. E. Simpson to H. G. Maness. Deed Book 127, p. 305, 1907. Paris, Texas.
  18. Lamar County Clerk's Office. Deed Heirs of H. G. Maness to Hickory Grove Cemetery Association. Deed Book 218, pp. 614, 615, 617, 1927. Paris, Texas.
  19. 'Progress In Retrospect.' ROXTON PROGRESS. 1985. p. 1.
  20. ROXTON PROGRESS, May 31, 1982, p. 1.
  21. Minutes of Hickory Grove Cemetery Interested Persons. August 21, 1971. Petty, Texas.
  22. Lamar County Clerk's Office. Warranty Deed 1527, Joel May, Sr. and wife, Ruby L. May to Hickory Grove Cemetery Association, p. 173. Paris, Texas.
  23. Minutes of Hickory Grove Cemetery Association, p. 173. Paris, Texas.
  24. ROXTON PROGRESS, May 31, 1982, p. 1.
  25. ROXTON PROGRESS, May 28, 1984, p. 1.


Hickory Grove Cemetery

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