Tombstone Tuesday: Evergreen Negro Cemetery

Historic Evergreen Negro Cemetery
Photo Credit: WhisperToMe

One of the most difficult cemetery visits I’ve had to make has been to the historic Evergreen Negro Cemetery that’s located south of Interstate-10 at Lockwood Drive and Market Street in Houston, TX. My difficulty is not so much due to its neglect, or the vandalism that has taken place there for years. Make no mistake about it, the condition of this cemetery is heartbreaking too. No my difficulty comes from learning that many of my ancestors who were buried there from 1890 – 1930 are probably no longer there!

According to Rice University’s news article, “Unearthing the past: Rice group plots historical Houston graveyard,” published 30 November 2006 – [1]

In Houston’s earliest days, a cotton plantation stood where modern-day Lockwood Drive and Market Street intersect. In the late 1800s, acreage from this plantation was converted into one of the city’s first Negro cemeteries. Named Evergreen Negro Cemetery, this land served as a final resting place for former slaves, Buffalo Soldiers and World War I veterans until the 1940s.

So what exactly happened to this resting place for former slaves, Buffalo Soldiers and World War I veterans? According to Lisa Gray, reporter for the Houston Press, [2]

490 graves were removed by the City of Houston for the development and expansion of Lockwood Drive in 1960!

Below is a plat map I accessed from cemetery researcher George E. Wolf, Jr.’s website, Cemeteries of Harris Co., Texas, that shows how Lockwood Drive, a major thoroughfare of the Fifth Ward community, splits this cemetery down the middle creating the eastern and western halves that exist today! [3]

Evergreen Negro Cemetery Plat Map

Where did they move all the graves?! The Rice news article goes on to say,

When the city decided to expand Lockwood Drive in 1960, hundreds of graves at Evergreen were moved to three other Houston cemeteries, but no records exist for the graves that were not moved.”

It was at FindAGrave.com, where I learned that Johnson Funeral Home which was located on Lyons Avenue at that time, was awarded the contract for the removal and re-burial of the bodies. They were to be interred at Eternity Park Cemetery, Oak Park Cemetery, and Paradise Cemetery. BUT what is so unsettling about where the bodies were supposed to be interred —

[t]here are no records . . . regarding the remains and relocation as there were no cemetery lot/plot records and many of the graves were unmarked and/or unknown individuals. At the time of the removal, very few family members were located who could connect names with burial location.” [4]

That last line above — “… very few family members were located who could connect names with burial location” — leaves me absolutely speechless!

—–

Source Citation:

1.   Wiederhoeft, H. M. (2006, November 30). Rice group plots historical Houston graveyard.Rice University News & Media. Retrieved May 27, 2013, from http://news.rice.edu/2006/11/30/rice-group-plots-historical-houston-graveyard/

2.   Gray, L. (2000, September 28). Grave Importance: Old cemeteries rarely die. They just get buried under weeds, development and indifference. Houston Press. Retrieved May 25, 2013, from http://www.houstonpress.com/2000-09-28/news/grave-importance/2/

3.   Wolf, G. E., Jr. (2008). Cemeteries of Harris Co.,Tx. Bookofdead.Webs.com. Retrieved May 27, 2013, from http://www.freewebs.com/bookofdead/evergreennegrocemetery.htm

4.   Evergreen Negro Cemetery. (n.d.). Find A Grave: Millions of Cemetery Records. Retrieved May 27, 2013, from http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=cr

Shopping Saturday: At the Heart of Texas – Foley’s

Shopping Saturday is a prompt genealogy bloggers use to share fond  memories about the various stores and vendors their families and ancestors patronized. The baby shoes I featured for Treasure Chest Thursday this week was the perfect lead in to a discussion I had with my mom about where she shopped for our clothes (particularly the baby shoes) and other dry goods in the 1950’s and 1960’s. She responded without hesitation — Foley’s!

I have not thought about Foley’s, or seen its signature blue logo above, in a very long time! If you’re a native Texan and you’re old enough to remember this store, you know very well that Foley’s was (and will always be as far as I am concerned) — At the Heart of Texas — just as its popular TV commercials and print campaigns claimed!

The Foley Brothers Dry Good Company officially opened it doors in Houston, Texas on February 12, 1900. According to Wikipedia, by 1916, Foley’s ranked third in retail volume in Houston — making it the most popular department store in the city. [1] Once Foley’s became a part of the Federated Department Stores in 1945, a new six-story flagship store opened on October 20, 1947 at 1110 Main Street, Houston, TX. According to the Houston Chronicle, this new 1947 store drew ” . . . a crowd of 200,000 and rave reviews. Newsweek call[ed] it ‘the most radical and practical store in America.’ [2]

Foley’s, 1947. Photo Credit: The Department Store Museum

By 1957, four more floors were added to the 1110 Main Street location giving shoppers ten floors of the best shopping experience they could ever have in a department store! [3]

Foley’s, 1957. Photo Credit: The Department Store Museum

The Foley’s downtown store was a HUGE success because of its “Budget Store” concept. The “Budget Store,”  often just called, “Foley’s Basement,” in the downtown store was about two city blocks long and filled with top quality goods and products that were very affordable for everyone regardless of their budgets. By the 1960’s, branch stores were being built in many of the suburbs of Houston and there were “Budget Stores” in every one of them. [4]  The Foley’s branch nearest my home was the Northwest Mall location built in 1967 (featured below).

Foley’s – Northwest Mall, 1967. Photo Credit: The Department Store Museum

The May Department Stores Company acquired Foley’s in 1988 and that is when I noticed the Foley’s that I grew up with changing. By February 1, 2006, the Foley’s organization in Houston dissolved and its operations were picked up by the Macy’s South Company out of Atlanta. By the close of 2006, all of our Foley’s stores were no more; they were all changed to Macy’s.

Macy’s Downtown Houston, 2006. Photo Credit: Nancy Sarnoff, Houston Chronicle

Foley’s has been a part of me most of my life! I say that because all of my visits to see Santa occurred in, or near, a Foley’s Department store. My first job right out of high school was working as a sales associate in their Misses’ Dept of the Northwest Mall store. Whenever I came home from college for Spring Break, summer vacation, or the holidays, a job at Foley’s was always waiting for me. Everything I learned about beauty, clothes/fashion, electronics, housewares, home furnishings, and personal style in general — I learned from my Foley’s experience. And now the downtown store which has has been a part of our lives in Houston for 65 years is officially closing its doors for good today, March 9, 2013! [5]

So what will happen to this historic building? Are there plans to save it? Sure, there are talks about preserving it, but I doubt very seriously that will happen. Am I sad about its closure? I have to be honest and say no simply because the Foley’s that I knew and loved all these years ceased to exist for me once it was acquired by the May Department Stores Company in 1988. Also whenever I hear about historic buildings like this one closing or scheduled for demolition simply reminds me of what my Bible teaches about there being “A Time for Everything” in Ecclesiastes 3: 1 — “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.” [6]

Have a favorite department store that you and your family once patronized that no longer exist today? Check out The Department Store Museum, a blog that pays homage to classic North American department stores that no longer exist today, for a walk down memory lane! Feel free to share your experience with me!

—–

Source Citation:

1.Wikipedia. (2013, January 08). Foley’s. Wikipedia. Retrieved March 09, 2013, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Foley’s

2. Houston Chronicle. (2013, January 3). Foley’s and Macy’s: A downtown Houston timeline. Houston Chronicle. Retrieved March 9, 2013, from http://www.chron.com/business/article/Foley-s-and-Macy-s-A-downtown-Houston-timeline-4166213.php

3. BAK. (2010, May). The Department Store Museum: Foley Brothers Dry Goods Co., Houston, Texas [Web log post]. Retrieved March 9, 2013, from http://departmentstoremuseum.blogspot.com/2010/05/foley-brothers-dry-goods-co-houston.html

4. Anonymous 11 November, 2010 15:26 [Web log comment]. (2010, November 11). Retrieved March 09, 2013, from http://departmentstoremuseum.blogspot.com/2010/05/foley-brothers-dry-goods-co-houston.html?showComment=1289507215997#c145409835822657691

5. Days dwindle down for downtown Houston Macy’s [Web log post]. (2013, March 6). Retrieved March 9, 2013, from http://abclocal.go.com/ktrk/story?section=news/local&id=9017344

6. Ecclesiastes. (1999). In Ecclesiastes 3. The Holy Bible: King James Version. Retrieved March 09, 2013, from http://www.bartleby.com/108/21/3.html

Those Places Thursday: Record Snowfall in Houston, February 1960

Today is “Those Places Thursday” and this blogging prompt gives me a chance to reminiscence about how and where my family lived and to write about “those places” via stories and/or photos. Ask anyone what is the first word that comes to mind when they hear the words Houston, Texas and I guarantee the word “snow” isn’t one of them. Well believe it or not, it does snow in Houston, Texas (record snowfall in fact) from time to time and I have proof — LOL!

According to the Examiner.com’s December 4, 2009 article by Marie Brannon, “Some historic snowfalls in Houston, Texas,” on Valentine’s Day in 1895, “a whopping twenty-inches of snow” covered the city of Houston making it the “all time” highest amount of snow to fall upon the Bayou city. [1]

The next heaviest snowfall recorded for Houston came 65 years later when 4.5 inches of snow fell on February 12, 1960! I was just 5 months old and missed out on all the fun when this special winter-wonderland blanketed the city. But some of my favorite photos of my brothers are of them enjoying this rare winter treat!

Snowfall, February 1960

Jon (left) and Elgin (right) are seeing snow for the very first time outside of our home at 4314 Stonewall Street, Greater 5th Ward, Houston, TX.

Playing in the Snow, February 1960

Elgin (left) and Jon (right) trying to keep warm as they figure out what they’ll do next in the snow!

Snowman, February 1960

So what did they do next? They did what all kids do when they have that much snow all around — build a snowman and placed a snazzy chapeau upon his head!

Snowball Fight, February 1960

A snowball fight with neighborhood friends (Carrie Ann Flakes and her friend) was a perfect ending to a wonderful day in the snow!

Winter Wonderland, February 1960

Mr. Snowman is left to stand watch as the evening sun goes down on a wonderful day of fun in Houston’s rare snow!

—–

Source Citation:

1. Brannon, M. (2009, December 09). Some historic snowfall in Houston, Texas. Examiner.com. Retrieved February 14, 2013, from http://www.examiner.com/article/some-historic-snowfalls-houston-texas

Yeah … We’re Family – Deal With It!

My brothers and I are rounding up the Chapple ~ Smith descendants for a Family Dinner Saturday afternoon, 1 December 2012, that we hope will parlay into many family gatherings and reunions for years to come. I sent the invitation below to relatives and 30+ have RSVP that they’re coming. So I’m very EXCITED about seeing my family!

Chapple ~ Smith Family Dinner

 

Those Places Thursday: Pelham, Texas

It’s Thanksgiving Day 2012, as well as, “Those Places Thursday!” This blogging prompt gives me a chance to reminiscence about how and where my ancestors lived and to write about “those places” via stories and/or photos.

This past Sunday I came upon this wonderful news story on DallasNews.com about Pelham, Texas, a small Freedman community that’s fighting hard to preserve its legacy for future generations. As far as I know, I don’t have any ancestors who lived in Pelham. But I have had ancestors who lived in similar communities like the historic Houston’s Fourth Ward, the site of Freedmen’s Town, which was a post-U.S. Civil War community of African-Americans, that no longer exist today due to gentrification.

So I’m very thankful that this community’s story is being told and I share it with you on this national day of thanksgiving. Enjoy!

Pelham, Texas
Darlene Holloway arrives for a church service in Pelham, one of the state’s dwindling number of freedmen’s communities. The residents of the town just outside Corsicana have collected artifacts and memories so the town won’t fade away.(Louis DeLuca – Staff Photographer)