orangeleader.com (Orange, Texas)

January 6, 2013

Orange County Cemeteries, Repositories of History

Mike Louviere
The Orange Leader

ORANGE — From the Newton County boundary line on the north, to Sabine Lake on the south and between the Sabine and Neches Rivers on the east and west, Orange County contains 54 cemeteries. Each is historic in its own way. The majority were created to be family cemeteries. Some only contain a few graves, some several thousand.

Robert Jackson bought 35 acres of land in 1853. There was one grave on the land, so Jackson allowed that portion of his land to be used as a public cemetery. Burials on that land may have taken place as early as 1840, but there are no records of the earliest burials.

The oldest marked grave in the cemetery is that of Margaret Ann Ochiltree. She was the first wife of Hugh Ochiltree. Her date of death is marked as 1855. There is an erroneous transcription that gives her death date as 1875. That is probably because her tombstone is white marble, badly eroded and covered with a black fungal material. It was easy to misread the date. One has to look closely to decipher the numbers correctly.

After years of being referred to as “The City Cemetery”, the name Evergreen came into use in about 1899. The majority of those who died in the city of Orange between 1850 and 1953 were buried in Evergreen. Privately owned cemeteries came into use in the mid 1950s and many burials began to be conducted in them.

Evergreen contains the graves of most of the founders and early historical settlers of Orange. It contains graves of veterans from the Texas Revolution to the current wars. There are simple grave markers and also elaborate family mausoleums. A lot of the history of Orange can be read by taking a walk through the cemetery and reading the inscriptions on grave markers, and the historical markers throughout the cemetery.

Of the public cemeteries, Hillcrest near Bridge City is the largest with over 6,000 graves, Evergreen contains nearly 5,000, Restlawn in Vidor has 2900, plus, Forest Lawn in West Orange is the resting place of just under 2900, and Autumn Oaks, west of Orange contains about 1600 graves.

One of the smaller cemeteries in the County is the Adcock Cemetery located off of Hwy 105 South. There are only four marked graves. The dates range from 1903 to 1915. The cemetery is no longer used.

A unique cemetery is the Pine Island Cemetery located five miles south of Vidor off of Mansfield Ferry Road. The cemetery is located on old Indian burial grounds. There are 36 marked graves with either granite or marble markers. The earliest grave is marked 1862 and the newest 1936. In 1977 then County Judge Charles Grooms declared it to be a County Historical Site. There have been efforts to have the site designated as a national or state historical site, but to date they have not been successful. The cemetery is located on private land and accessibility is limited.

Also south of Vidor in the same area is the Floyd Cemetery. There are reportedly 30 graves there, including some of slaves. However there are only two marked graves. Mary Coleman Floyd died at age 12 years, 6months in July, 1854. W.G. Anderson is the other marked grave. His date of death is November, 1865.

The Garrison Cemetery off of Oilla Road in Orangefield was established in 1970 by James Garrison to be used as a family cemetery.

On Old Hwy 90, west of the Brown Center is the Jett Cemetery. The grave of early Orange settler and veteran of the Texas Revolution, Absolom Jett is located there. Jett died in 1878. The cemetery is still in use.

The Wilkinson and Peveto cemeteries are located next to each other on Wilkinson Road, off of Hwy 1130. They are two family cemeteries that ended expanding and nearly touching each other.

There are two acres of land located on Old Timers Road that were dedicated and used as a pauper cemetery for Orange County for about 80 years. The recording of burials only began in 1954. At one time the graves were marked with small metal markers. Careless mowing of the property destroyed the markers, so no one is sure of the location of the graves. Changes in the burial policy for paupers in Orange County have led to the cemetery no longer being used as originally intended.

On North Eight Street about a block north of Cordrey Street is the Hebrew Rest Cemetery, Orange’s only Jewish cemetery. The earliest burial there is recorded as 1904. It is about a two acre plot. Burials there have to conform to Jewish burial customs. The cemetery can be seen from the street, but the gate is kept locked and access is only by contacting the caretaker of the cemetery.

St. Mary Cemetery located on Meeks Drive is the Catholic Cemetery. It appears to have been established in the mid 1930s. There are approximately 1200 graves located there.

The Doughtry Cemetery is a family cemetery that began with six burials of family members exhumed from other cemeteries.

Another small cemetery is the Brown Cemetery in Mauriceville. There were only eight graves there dated between 1998 and 1999 when the last transcription was conducted.

Information on Orange County cemeteries is available online as part of the Cemeteries of Texas project. Gloria B. Mayfield is the Project Manager. Mayfield coordinates information from volunteer transcribers. The work on Orange County cemeteries was reported in 1999. The locations of the cemeteries are accurate. In cemeteries still in use there have been burials since that time that may or may not have been added to the database.

Some of the cemeteries are private; others may allow burials from the general public as long as the cemeteries requirements are met.

Another source of cemetery information is FindaGrave.com. It contains a searchable database by either the person’s name or the name of the cemetery. FindaGrave is constantly upgraded by volunteer members.

Local resident Chet Cuccia had undertaken a project to record burial information and photograph graves and list them on FindaGrave. Cuccia has gone to several of the smaller and some remote cemeteries, like the Granger Cemetery in Orangefield and the Turner Cemetery in Bridge City. To date Cuccia had made over 900 entries.

A gravestone can be a simple inscription of only a name and the date of birth and the date of death, or it can chronicle the history of the person. The record of a veteran may be read off of a grave marked furnished by the Veteran’s Administration.

For example: TX PVT 141ST INF 36 DIV WWI would tell you that the person was a Texas resident who had served as a Private in the 141st Infantry Regiment of the 36th Division in World War I. The abbreviations are easy to decipher and give you a thumbnail of the veteran’s service.

H/O would tell you the man was the “Husband Of”, W/O, the “Wife Of”, etc for other family members. There may be a date of marriage for the couple. There could also be the crest of a fraternal, religious, or civic organization that the person belonged to.

The headstone of the late Grover Halliburton contains the scales of justice and the head of a Texas Longhorn. Halliburton was an attorney, former county judge and a proud graduate of the University of Texas. If you did not know him, you learn a bit about him with one glance at the gray granite stone.

Humorous things also can happen in burials. In the Anderson Cemetery located near Woodville, Texas there are a husband and wife buried in opposite sides of the cemetery. The family said they could not get along while alive, why place them side by side for eternity?

Cemeteries are more than just “Gardens of Stone”, they tell stories and they record history in a unique way.