Corsicana Daily Sun, Corsicana, Texas

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December 30, 2012

Former slave graves get markers

Corsicana — About a century after being buried at Montgomery Hill underneath what is now Richland Chambers Reservoir, the graves of the 25 people buried there have new markers and will soon have their own historical markers.

“Tarrant Regional is providing a large stone marker with a nice narrative on it, then the Navarro County Historical Commission is providing one of the metal historical markers,” explained Bruce McManus, president of the commission. “It will have a stone marker, and a metal upright one.”

The 25 headstones that were placed last week at Woodland Cemetery are simple gray granite with “Unknown adult” and “Unknown Infant,” carved on them because the actual names of each of the people buried there are likely lost to history.

In January, archeologists removed 25 bodies — four adults and 21 children — from the Montgomery Hill area that is now underwater. Tarrant Regional Water District paid for their removal, and for their new resting place in Woodland Cemetery in Corsicana. The graves had been discovered in 2009 when drought conditions caused the lake shores to recede, revealing the graves.

The metal marker is being paid for by the Navarro County group, and will be the first official county historical marker, McManus said.

“It will look like the state ones, but it will have the Navarro County seal on top instead of the state seal,” he explained.

The decision to go with a county marker instead of a state marker was motivated by a series of things — higher costs for state markers, a two-year waiting period for state markers, and less control over the wording on the marker.

“We voted to go this route,” McManus said. “We thought it was appropriate since it was almost a whole county effort to get them recovered.”

The City of Corsicana agreed to make the cemetery perpetual care to allow for the burials in Woodland, and the cemetery association has been involved in trying to find out about the people who might have been living in Montgomery Hill community.

Both of the markers will tell the story of how the graves came to be found and when they were moved.

“The site is going to continue to be improved,” McManus said. “It will eventually have a sidewalk, some plantings and maybe a small fence. It’s really like a cemetery within a cemetery. The (historical) commission would like to provide more funds later to help with the beautification.”

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Janet Jacobs may be reached via email at jjacobs@corsicanadailysun.com. Want to “soundoff” to this article? Email: Soundoff@corsicanadailysun.com

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