Oldest cemetery ‘coming back to life’
Rockdale’s oldest cemetery—which includes graves of Civil War veterans and a victim of the 1888 Mundine Hotel fire—is getting a “sprucing up” from a joint effort by local volunteers and the City of Rockdale.
The Old City Cemetery—just south of the railroad tracks on Main Street—which dates from the 1870s, has become clogged with limbs and has some dead trees.
Recently, Rockdale Mayor John King, City Manager Kelvin Knauf and representatives from several historical preservation groups met to plan the restoration, according to Dr. Lucile Estell, spokesperson.
Jack Brooks of Taylor and James Brymer of Thorndale, both experts in restoring historic cemeteries, will assist with the project.
ASSIST—“We’re attempting to see what we might be able to do to assist city workers in their tree-trimming project at the cemetery,” Brooks told The Reporter.
“These 60-to-70-foot cedar trees are unsafe to climb and are being felled from the ground,” he said. “They obviously take up a lot of real estate when they land.”
Brooks, Brymer and Rockdale vol- unteer Loy Edmondson are assisting in the restoration which includes temporarily relocating headstones that are in the way.
Rockdale ISD students, under the direction of Denice Doss of RISD, will assist in removing and restoring tombstones.
Dr. Estell said the Rockdale Historical Society will work with Ernest Garza to replace the cemetery’s flag pole with a metal pole.
“Improvements such as a kiosk at the entry way will be considered,” she said.
“The plan is also to extend the metal fence so that it includes burials in the portion of the cemetery known as the African American Cemetery,” she said.
Landscape improvements have been made at the front of the cemetery and further improvements are planned, Dr. Estell said.
HISTORY—Four persons were buried in the Old Cemetery in 1874, J. E. Featherstone, D. Murphy, Tennie Sims and Marie Vogel.
Earliest birth year recorded on a headstone was Jason Caron Wilson in 1804.
There are 12 Confederate veterans buried in the cemetery.
Many prominent early Rockdale residents are buried there including members of the Loewenstein family, who are interred in the area’s small Jewish Cemetery.
Also buried in the Jewish Cemetery is Isaac Crown, who died in the 1888 Mundine Hotel Fire which claimed 11 lives.
Earliest burial in the African-American Cemetery was Kate Fulcher in 1886 and the earliest birth record is Billy Sanford in 1885.