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Group works to save cemetery

There’s a push for better access to the historic St. John’s Cemetery near Pilot Point.

Shaun Treat presented about Quakertown and the Ku Klux Klan’s involvement in Denton County, including Pilot Point, in past decades at Denton City Council Member Keely G. Briggs District 2 Conversation at 2 p.m. Sunday at North Branch Denton Library.

The history lesson came from the former UNT communications professor and audience member Willie Hudspeth, the president of the Denton County NAACP, who spoke about St. John’s Cemetery close to Pilot Point, for which a Texas State Historical Marker was approved in January.

“One of the things that he’s been very active in is helping recover the St. John’s Cemetery,” Treat said. “It says slave cemetery on it but there was an African American community there that basically vanished.”

Accessing some of the grave sites requires moving through shrubbery and getting through spiderwebs, he said.

“The almost forgotten site resembles a forest with overgrown thicket more than a cemetery,” he said. “Some of the graves are marked with sandstones and inscriptions that have long ago eroded; other grave markers have detreated to dust.”

Hudspeth has been an advocate along with the Denton County Office of History and Culture for recovering the cemetery, Treat said. It’s estimated there are 490 unmarked graves and 30 legible gravestones.

“It’s a shame that there’s no access to the cemetery,” Hudspeth said. “It is landlocked, thank God the landlock owners, the people who have built their homes and their ranches around it, are allowing us to have access, but it is limited.”

Better access to the cemetery is the effort being pushed for, he said.

“How in the world can you have a cemetery landlocked and you can’t get to it?” he asked “So, it takes a lot of effort. It takes people to come out and say something about that.”

There are 50 graves, believed to belong to children, that are covered with debris, he said.

Hudspeth and the other volunteers go out there on their own time, he said.

He feels as though the county isn’t doing enough to save the cemetery, and he wants people to ask questions, such as, “‘What about the landlock situation?’ or ‘what about what you said you were going to do about this problem; why aren’t you doing something about it?,’” he said.

The fact that so many children’s graves were marked with sandstone is enough to rile up any parent, Hudspeth said.

“Maybe you’ll say something about it,” he said. “And, you can’t get to it; you’ll have to check with me or someone with the county to get permission to go look at it.”

There are some upcoming projects in that area on the horizon, Treat said.

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