Although the idea of a cemetery for the city was more of an afterthought to the Allen brothers, the founders of Houston, the need for burial places became increasingly important in the late 1830's and early 1840's due to the wave of yellow fever epidemics that were the scourge of the Gulf Coast from New Orleans to Texas at that time. Thousands of individuals in the successive annual epidemics after the founding of the city required burials. The city established the city cemetery on what is now West Dallas Avenue, across from Allen Parkway Village. It is now called Founders Memorial Park. It sits next to the Beth Israel Cemetery established by the Jewish community at about the same time.
Smaller cemeteries were provided for the members of the Episcopal Church and the Masonic Lodge. These two burial grounds were located in the area of what is now Sam Houston Park and the City Hall Annex. The two cemeteries were joined together on a 2 acre plot of land that had become weed-choked and unkempt. Headstones were broken and scattered. In 1938, the graves were moved to Brookside Cemetery.
Frostown, Houston's original suburb of the 1850's, had a cemetery located on blocks A and H of the subdivision that fronted on Buffalo Bayou. The cemetery was used until the 1880's, but, according to the Harris County tax assessor's block books, the cemetery has disappeared into the bayou.
After the War Between the States, the city cemetery became full and a new City Cemetery was established on the north side of Buffalo Bayou. This cemetery was located beyond the railroad yards behindthe current main Post Office in the 1100 block of Elder Street. By the 1920's, the cemetery had become grossly neglected. After a contentious civic debate, the city-owned Jefferson Davis Hospital was built on the site of the cemetery in 1926. The hospital was named for Jefferson Davis, the president of the Confederacy, in honor of the large number of Civil War Veterans who were buried in the old, and mostly abandoned, cemetery. Jeff Davis Hospital was subsequently moved to a site on Allen Parkway in 1941.
One of the more exotic burial sites along Buffalo Bayou is the Donnellan Grave Crypt, a large brick vault with a small door that is boarded up with timbers. It is located in the south bank of the bayou under the modern Franklin Avenue bridge at Louisana Street. The crypt contained the remains of members of the family of Thuse Donnellan, a local artist who is known for his portraits of Sam Houston. The last burial was of Emily De Ende Donnellan, the wife of Timothy Donnellan and Thuse's mother, in 1867. All of the remains in the crypt were moved to Glenwood Cemetery in 1901.
Glenwood Cemetery is located adjacent to the district on the north side of Buffalo Bayou known as the Sixth Ward. A 114 acre site of a former brick yard was opened as a cemetery park in May, 1871. Many famous Houstonians are buried in Glenwood Cemetery, including billionaire Howard Hughes and Anson Jones, the last president of the Republic of Texas. It is the site of the Houston fire fighters memorial.
Adjoining Glenwood Cemetery is a 21.3 acre cemetery opened by the Deutsche Gesellschaft in 1887. Originally known as the German Society Cemetery, the name was changed to Washington Cemetery in 1918 in deferrence to the anti-German sentiment arising during World War I. Emma Seelye, the only woman to belong to the Grand Army of the Republic after the Civil War is buried in Washington Cemetery.
On a bare plot of land on the south east corner of Allen Parkway and Heiner Street, the remains of 430 burials of a 19th century 'pest' cemetery, located in the northwest corner of Allen Parkway Village, were re-interred in the Heiner Street Memorial. Two pestilence hospitals provided care to freed slaves and indigent whites from 1879 to 1908 and many of those who died were buried in unmarked graves. The bones were unearthed in 1941 when contruction of Allen Parkway Village was begun. The remains of 928 individuals were moved to Brookside Memorial Cemetery at that time.
Houston was a primary destination for freed slaves in Texas after the Civil War. Jack Yates became the pastor of Antioch Baptist Church and was instrumental in the organization and development of the black community of Houston's Fourth Ward. In 1896, Yates was influential in the opening of College Memorial Park Cemetery, in the 3500 block of West Dallas Avenue, which received its name because it was affliated with Houston Central College for Negroes, across the street. The 5.9 acre cemetery contains the graves of over 6000 persons, mostly former slaves, including the Rev. Jack Yates and his family.
Across the bayou and north along the rail line to Chaney Junction is the Olivewood Cemetery, a 4 acre tract that had been used for slave burials. In 1875, the land was purchased by Richard Brock, Houston's first black alderman, and opened as a cemetery for black Methodists.
The rail line from the Chaney Yard turned south and crossed Buffalo Bayou near the present-day Montrose Boulevard. On the southeast corner of the intersection of Montrose and Allen Parkway is Magnolia Cemetery which was established in 1884 by and for members of the First German Methodist Church of Houston. The original ten acres of land extended from West Dallas Avenue to Buffalo Bayou, however, the northern acreage of the cemetery was deeded to the City of Houston in order to pay the cemetery's share of the cost of paving Buffalo Drive (now Allen Parkway) in 1929. Among the 4,000 graves in Magnolia Cemetery is that of Gus Wortham, the founder of American General Insurance Company and benefactor of the city.
In 1887, many of the Russian and Polish members seceded from the Beth Israel Congregation to form a second Jewish community in Houston, the Orthodox Congregation of Adath Yeshurun. Their cemetery is located along the banks of Buffalo Bayou at 3500 Allen Parkway.
If you happen to paddle Buffalo Bayou on Halloween, be alert. The ghosts of Houston's past may welcome you.
1. Frostown Cemetery - 1850's
2. Donellan Grave Crypt - 1840's
3. City Cemetery On Elder St. - Jeff Davis Hospital - 1870's
4. Episcopal Cemetery - 1840's
5. Masonic Cemetery - 1840's
6. Founders Memorial Park - 1840's
7. Beth Israel Cemetery - 1840's
8. Allen Parkway Village burials - 1880's
9. Heiner Street Memorial - 2001
10. Glenwood Cemetery - 1870's
11. Washington Cemetery - 1880's
12. Olivewood Cemetery - 1870's
13. Magnolia Cemetery - 1880's
14. Adath Yeshurin Cemetery - 1880's
15. College Memorial Park Cemetery - 1890's
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Copyright by Louis F. Aulbach, 2001
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