Flashback : Dallas

A Miscellany: History, Ads, Pop Culture

Category: Cemeteries

Oakland Cemetery


by Paula Bosse

A beautiful postcard showing the gates of Oakland Cemetery emblazoned with the name of one of Dallas’ most prominent funeral directors, George W. Loudermilk.

oakland_loudermilk_dmn_060102Dallas Morning News, June 1, 1902

ad-loudermilk-funeral-home_19061906 ad

loudermilk_dmn_071912DMN, July 19, 1912


Sources & Notes

More on historic Oakland Cemetery, in South Dallas:

  • Wikipedia, here
  • Dallas Genealogical Society, here
  • Oakland Cemetery website, here
  • A lovely YouTube video filled with photographs of the cemetery and its markers, here

You can explore parts of the cemetery by touring via Google Street View, here.


Copyright © 2018 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Flashback Dallas on the Radio: La Reunion

la-reunion-marker_today_bigdhistoryThe La Reunion marker today… (photo by Big D History)

by Paula Bosse

Today a short and informative radio piece on the La Reunion French colony was aired across the state on the public radio program Texas Standard. The story was produced by Stephanie Kuo of KERA News, who was nice enough to invite me to participate as one of the interviewees (along with Dallas historian and storyteller Rose-Mary Rumbley and developer John Scovell). Listen to the 5-and-a-half-minute story here on the KERA site, or here on the Texas Standard site, via Soundcloud.

I’ve written about La Reunion before, but here are a few photos I took last year when I trekked over to all that remains of the original colony, its cemetery (known as both “La Reunion Cemetery” and the less romantic “Fish Trap Cemetery”). It’s fenced off to protect the few remaining historic grave markers, which have been eroding in the elements for over 160 years. Somehow I walked away having taken photos only of grape leaves and flowers and not the cemetery. (There are several photos online of the cemetery, including this one, from the Dallas Parks department; read the Texas Historical Commission marker here. You’ll note that 20th-century headstones can be seen: the cemetery was an active cemetery well after the colonists had moved away; in fact, Bonnie Parker was originally buried there until her remains were moved to the Crown Hill Cemetery.)

There are surprisingly few monuments or plaques in Dallas recognizing the historically important colony. In April, 1924, the Jane Douglas Chapter, Daughters of the American Revolution dedicated the very first monument to the La Reunion settlement. The site of this granite marker was originally at Westmoreland and Fort Worth Avenue, but the marker (seen at top) was moved at some point to its current home, on the golf course of Stevens Park.





Sources & Notes

Photo of the 1924 marker, relocated to Stevens Park, is used with permission of Big D History.

All other photos were taken at La Reunion Cemetery/Fish Trap Cemetery in West Dallas by Paula Bosse on May 21, 2016. The location of the cemetery can be seen on Google Maps here.

An interesting tidbit about the grapevines: when the French colonists prepared to venture to Texas, several took cuttings of plants to take with them, with the intention of planting them in their new home and being able to enjoy wine made from the grape varieties of their homeland. When the colonists arrived in Texas, they planted/propagated the cuttings in Houston, unsure if the plants would survive the month-long walk (!) to Dallas after the lengthy ocean crossing. The flourishing plants were uprooted and transported to La Reunion by later arrivals. It is not inconceivable that the grape leaves seen growing today at the colony’s old cemetery might be descendants of the colonists’ imported grapevines.

The location of the La Reunion land was, more or less, 2,000 acres in West Dallas, with modern-day boundaries being Westmoreland on the west, N. Hampton on the east, the south bank of the Trinity on the north, and W. Davis Street on the south.

In a 1933 letter to The Dallas Morning News, Dallas resident George Cretien — who was born in 1856 in La Reunion (“Frenchtown to the native”) — disputed the location of the colony being near Westmoreland, where the old Delord ruins still stood at the time:

“The village of the colonists was located about a mile northeast of the Delord place on the bluff that the cement company has mostly destroyed for the making of its product.” (DMN, Sept. 17, 1933)

So there. In other words, Cement City: The Early Years.

Thanks again to Stephanie Kuo of KERA for inviting me to participate!

Click photos to see larger images.


Copyright © 2017 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.


The Historic Masonic, Odd Fellows, and City Cemeteries

Tombstone of W. C. C. Akard, 1826-1870… (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

The other day I posted a photo of the Dallas skyline and pointed out that the land occupied by Memorial Auditorium/Dallas Convention Center was once the site of a cemetery (or, rather, several cemeteries: the old City Cemetery, the Masonic and Odd Fellows Cemeteries, and the Jewish Cemetery.

By the 1920s, the grounds were overgrown and grave markers were in various states of disrepair; there were about 500 graves, but many of the remains of those buried there had been moved (resulting in more than a few somewhat alarming gaping holes!). As the 1920s were winding down, fewer and fewer burials were taking place in these cemeteries, but people were still being interred throughout the 1920s — some of these appear to have been indigents without funds to be buried elsewhere.

The oldest grave markers dated to the 1850s. Many of those buried there were important Dallasites: mayors, politicians, pioneer businessmen, doctors, and judges — many of the markers bore names which are now part of everyday life in Dallas (names such as Harwood, Ervay, Akard, Crowdus, Browder, Marsalis, etc.). Over the years, cemetery land had been encroached upon bit by bit (by the Santa Fe railroad, for one) causing many graves to be unceremoniously destroyed. As the city grew and this land (which was once beyond the city limits) became more and more valuable for developers, many of the graves were moved and the remains relocated to other cemeteries. But many remained, and there was concern that the land was being neglected. For decades, the city of Dallas was petitioned by civic leaders to officially protect, beautify, and maintain this land. It wasn’t really until the construction of the convention center in the 1950s that these plans began to take shape. Remaining graves and markers are now part of the Pioneer Park Cemetery at Pioneer Plaza.

Below is a detail from an 1882 map, showing the original locations of the four cemeteries, just beyond the southern edge of the city limits. The Masonic Cemetery occupied the northern section, and the Odd Fellows Cemetery occupied the southern section. The City Cemetery adjoined both, immediately to the east (just west of Akard). The tiny Jewish Cemetery is seen on the southeastern edge of the City Cemetery (in later years Masonic Street cut through the City Cemetery land, and the Jewish Cemetery was just south of the street and right next to the old Columbian School). (See the changed boundaries of the cemeteries on a 1905 Sanborn map here.)

Jones & Murphy’s Map of the City of Dallas, Texas, 1882 (det.)


The photo at the top of this post shows the grave of W. C. C. Akard (1826-1870). (Incidentally, according to a 1939 Dallas Morning News article, he apparently pronounced his name “Ay-kard” rather than “ACK-erd” as we do today.) The photos below show the run-down Masonic-Odd Fellows cemetery in the 1920s.



The Masonic and Odd Fellows Cemetery, with the Magnolia Building in the background.



Cheek-by-jowl with a growing urban Dallas.



I love this photo, with train cars on the Marilla Street tracks and the Butler Brothers building in the distance, just east of where City Hall now stands.



Another interesting image, looking to the northwest, with the Santa Fe freight depot (still standing on Young Street near Griffin) at the top right. (The cemetery land was apparently fifteen feet above the surrounding street level.)


Below are a few extreme close-ups from aerial photographs by Lloyd M. Long (from the Edwin J. Foscue Map Library, Southern Methodist University — links to the original full photos can be found beneath each image). Cemetery markers are visible in these photos taken from the west.

cemeteries_1938_foscue_smu_longAbove, a detail from a 1938 photo.


cemeteries_1939_foscue_smu_longDetail from a 1939 photo.


And a detail from a 1949 photo.



And the “after” photo, with much of the old cemetery land used as the site of Memorial Auditorium.

Below, a short history of the cemeteries, which appeared in the July, 1985 issue of Historic Dallas magazine: “Pioneer Cemetery Tells Story of Struggle” by Shirley Caldwell. (Click to read.)

via UNT’s Portal to Texas History


More on this cemetery can be found on Julia D. Quinteros de Hernandez’s timeline, here.

A collection of newspaper stories about the adjacent “Old City Cemetery” (some of which describe shocking disturbances of the land and of graves) can be found on Jim Wheat’s site, here.

More on Dallas’ older cemeteries can be found in Frances James’ article “Cemeteries in Dallas County: Known and Unknown” (Legacies, Fall, 1996), here.

Information about how the city dealt with the plight of the cemeteries amidst the looming possibility of development can be found in the Dallas Morning News article “Park Board Protests Motel at Auditorium” by Francis Raffetto (DMN Dec. 18, 1958).

A bird’s-eye view of Pioneer Plaza can be seen on Bing, here (zoom in to see the historic markers in the lower right corner).

All images and clippings are larger when clicked.


Copyright © 2016 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.


“Cemetery at Twilight” by Frank Reaugh

reaugh_cemetery-at-twilight_nd_UT_ransom-ctrHarry Ransom Center/University of Texas at Austin

by Paula Bosse

In fond memory of my recently deceased computer, I give you a lovely pastel drawing of a cemetery by the legendary Dallas artist, Frank Reaugh. RIP, dear laptop — we learned a lot about Dallas history together.


“Cemetery at Twilight” by Frank Reaugh (undated); from the Frank Reaugh Art Collection at the Harry Ransom Center, The University of Texas at Austin. See the full image, framed and unframed, here.

Click for larger image.


Copyright © 2015 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

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