“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Huntsville in Walker County, Texas — The American South (West South Central)

Honoring Unknown Graves

Honoring Unknown Graves Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By James Hulse, July 11, 2020
1. Honoring Unknown Graves Marker

A large number of sunken, unmarked graves were revealed in 2004 when this area was cleared of heavy underbrush by a carefully selected and supervised crew averaging ten offenders from the Huntsville "Walls" unit. These men were permitted by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice to perform community service at Oakwood Cemetery.

Some of the graves were likely those of slaves who arrived in the Huntsville area with early settlers. Others could have died during the yellow fever epidemic that claimed many Huntsville victims in the summer and fall of 1867. Ground-penetrating radar testing in 2013 indicated later graves dating perhaps to the 1950s.

Among the burials within the newly cleared area were eight graves marked with small headstones made of white marble. Remnants of a similar number of broken markers handcrafted from shells and concrete were also present. Some gravesites might have been outlined or otherwise indicated by rocks, stones, wood or other materials long ago scattered or completely disintegrated.

Since identification of the burials was not possible, the offender crew members themselves suggested
Unknown Graves image. Click for full size.
Photographed By James Hulse, July 11, 2020
2. Unknown Graves
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the use of unlettered white concrete crosses identical to those found in Huntsville TDCJ Captain Joe Byrd Cemetery to mark the graves of prisoners whose remains are unclaimed, or whose families cannot afford interment at other locations, The inmates idea received immediate approval, and the cooperation of TDCJ was obtained promptly. Material costs were shared between the City of Huntsville and TDCJ, and production of the crosses took place at the Walls Unit.

Soon afterward, the Oakwood Cemetery offender crew installed the 155 crosses that now lend dignity to the final resting places of these unknown black residents of Huntsville.
Topics. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: African AmericansCemeteries & Burial Sites. A significant historical year for this entry is 2004.
Location. 30° 43.62′ N, 95° 32.771′ W. Marker is in Huntsville, Texas, in Walker County. Marker can be reached from the intersection of 9th Street and Avenue H. The unknown graves are between the old and new sections of the cemetery, toward the northern boundary. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Huntsville TX 77320, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Joshua Houston (a few steps from this marker); The Rev. Thomas H. Ball (within shouting distance of this marker); Pleasant Williams Kittrell (within shouting distance of this marker); James Addison Baker
Unknown Graves image. Click for full size.
Photographed By James Hulse, July 11, 2020
3. Unknown Graves
This view is directly behind the marker.
(within shouting distance of this marker); General John Slater Besser (within shouting distance of this marker); The Huntsville Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1867 (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line); Charles Norton Shaver (about 300 feet away); Powell Sanctuary (about 300 feet away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Huntsville.
Also see . . .  Texas State Penitentiary at Huntsville. TSHA Texas State Historical Association (Submitted on October 22, 2020, by James Hulse of Medina, Texas.) 
Credits. This page was last revised on October 22, 2020. It was originally submitted on October 21, 2020, by James Hulse of Medina, Texas. This page has been viewed 160 times since then and 31 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3. submitted on October 22, 2020, by James Hulse of Medina, Texas. • J. Makali Bruton was the editor who published this page.

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Apr. 1, 2023