Further Interest in Conroe Community Cemetery

After further research on Luther James Dorsey who is buried in the Conroe Community Cemetery I discovered that he was what was called a “Buffalo Soldier” during his service in the 10th Cavalry from 1873 to 1878. The Buffalo Soldiers were an all black regiment commissioned by Congress in 1866 to help keep peace in the Indian territories.

Mr. Dorsey joined Company E, 10th US Cavalry on November 14, 1873 in Washington DC, and was discharged on November 14, 1878, in San Felipe, Texas. During his time in the Buffalo Soldiers he fought Indians and bandits all along West Texas and even crossed into Mexico several times chasing after Indians and cattle thieves.

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After being discharged he decided to stay in Texas and met his wife, Emma, in Chappell Hill, Texas, and eventually settling in Conroe, Texas, somewhere around 1890. His family have remained there since.

On Saturday (11 Oct 2014) I met Mr. Foerster, the chairman of the Montgomery County Historical Commission over breakfast to discuss the Conroe Community Cemetery. He was very interested in what I had discovered and believes there will be much more support for the restoration and care of the cemetery once folks know that not only is there a Buffalo Soldier buried there, but as far as he knows it is the only Buffalo soldier buried in Montgomery County.

The discussion eventually led to the fact that getting folks to volunteer to clean the cemetery was not the problem; the problem lies in the maintenance of it. People have no problem volunteering for the big project, but when it comes to simple maintenance once it has been cleaned out and restored, people are not so ready to help out.

Conroe Community Cemetery on 11 Oct 2014
Conroe Community Cemetery on 11 Oct 2014

Following breakfast we went to the cemetery. Now granted, it has been a while since I was out there, but in that time it has become even more overgrown than could be imagined. The woods had become so overgrown I was not able to make my way to some of the tombstones I know of. Luckily I was able to get to Luther Dorsey’s and show Mr. Foerster the stone.

A lot of work is required to even clean the cemetery out and then even more work to locate the graves. Luckily, some help may be there in the location department.

On Friday evening I spoke with a nice young lady from K-9 Search and Rescue Texas who said her organization would be very happy to utilize their cadaver/search dogs to help in locating graves. She did state that because of the area being a graveyard that it may be difficult to locate the graves exactly, but the dogs will do a good job of indicating where they may be. I expressed a desire to find someone who would volunteer using ground penetrating radar to assist locating graves and she said she may actually know someone who can help with that.

So, as things keep moving forward at a break-neck speed, I am excited to find that this cemetery and those buried there will finally get at least some respect and recognition they deserve. When we forget those who have passed on before us, we chance being forgotten ourselves.

If you are interested in helping out in any way with the restoration of the Conroe Community Cemetery, please contact me at huntingforbears at gmail.com.

Things are moving now

After about three years of research, brick walls, talking with folks, more brick walls, site surveys, more brick walls, et cetera, it seems I am finally going to get something done with Conroe Community Cemetery.

I spoke with Tom McNutt of McNutt Funeral Home about the Conroe Memorial Cemetery (across the street from the McNutt Funeral Home), conversation moved to Conroe Community Cemetery. He stated he is aware of the cemetery and that he had cleaned it up many years prior. I discussed the historical significance of the cemetery and he agreed that something should be done. He said if I was able to get folks to help clean it up to restore it, he would help out as well with some of his equipment.

Well, that got the flame under my arse a bit warmer. I did some further research and decided to speak with the City of Conroe Administrator’s Office to see if the city would take possession of the cemetery in accordance with the Texas Health and Safety Code 713.009. I spoke with a lovely woman who admitted she had no idea how I would even get started on petitioning the city to do such, however she did give me the name and phone number for Larry Foerster, the chairman for the Montgomery County Historical Commission whom I did contact.

I contacted Mr. Foerster and he appeared excited about the prospects of getting the cemetery restored. He admitted he did not know much of the history of the cemetery so I filled him in on a little of it. Again, he appeared excited, even saying they may have some funds available to have a fence put up around the cemetery.

Shortly after I ended my call with him I received an email from him in which I was CC’d along with many of the church leaders in the area and other folks. In his email he said:

“I am approaching  various black and white church leaders in Conroe with the hope that this winter a collective group of black and white church members can join together in clearing the underbrush and restoring the tombstones.  I believe that funds can be found to actually place a chain link fence around the property to further protect these monuments.”

I guess sometimes connections do matter, especially in this case.

I am meeting Mr. Foerster at the Conroe Community Cemetery to discuss its history and possible future this Saturday. I am hopeful that things will continue moving forward as quickly as the past two weeks.

New Addition (and not the band)

In May of this year My Lovely Bride gifted me with a beautiful son. He was named Owen Thomas after his great, great grandfather. Now I have someone to educate in history, family history, and just plain bother.

Conroe Community Cemetery

There is a cemetery in the middle of Conroe, Texas, that nobody seems to care about or even know about. The plat map at the appraisal district just shows a black space where this cemetery is. Hundreds of people drive by it on a daily basis and have no idea it is there. The dead lie there in their sleep completely forgotten.

I hope to change that.

Conroe Community Cemetery is also known locally as the Unknown Name Cemetery. It is located on 10th Street in Conroe and butts up to the north side of Oakwood Cemetery, located at Highway 105 and 10th street. Conroe Community Cemetery is reportedly one of the oldest burial grounds for blacks in Montgomery County, Texas. (1)

Mr. Clarence Lewis of Clarence Lewis & Sons Mortuary is the direct descendant of Luther Dorsey (1878-1939) who purchased and donated the land for a cemetery. I spoke with Mr. Lewis in person on 5 September 2011. He said his aunt was still alive and he believed her to be the trustee for the cemetery. I brought up my desire to restore and reclaim the cemetery and while he said he was all for it, there would be problems with him or Clarence Lewis & Sons Mortuary being a part of it. He said if they tried to get it cleaned up and to make it a community project the other black funeral homes in Conroe would become upset thinking they are doing it in order to have more land to bury folks on. He also said nobody would donate the heavy equipment or the time to do the work.

I told him I was willing to take the lead and get it done, but he was very hesitant, saying he needed to talk to his aunt and would get back with me on it.

He has never called me back or returned my messages.

I have a need to have this cemetery cleaned up, restored, reclaimed, and to receive a Texas Historic Cemetery designation due to its history. Unfortunately part of this may include declaring the cemetery abandoned and lay claim to the land through a non-profit organization.

Things to do:

  • Encourage them to set up a non-profit cemetery association
  • Get location listed as a Texas Historical Cemetery
  • Get it listed as a Texas Historical Site
  • Apply for grants
  • Work on donations
  • Arrange cleanup through local churches and other organizations
  • Approach City of Conroe and Montgomery County about supporting and assisting in cleanup

If you are interested in helping out or if you have any ideas, please let me know.

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Sources:

(1) Jane Keppler. (15, July 2013). Conroe Community Cemetery, Montgomery County Texas, aka Unknown Name Cemetery. Retrieved from http://www.countygenweb.com/txmontgomery/oakwoodblack.htm