Wilson Cemetery earns historical distinction
By Tatiana Ambrosio
Down a gravel road in Aubrey lies Wilson Cemetery.
Wilson Cemetery is a family cemetery opened in the 1860s.
In early March of 2021, Wilson Cemetery was granted a Historic Texas Cemetery Designation. At that time, the Aubrey Historical Society began work on the application for a Historical Marker to be placed at the cemetery.
Carolyn Wilson began the work on her own. She married Kenneth Wilson in 1963 and became familiar with the family cemetery through him.
The Wilson family moved to Aubrey from Weston when the family sold their land in Collin County, Kenneth said. They had received the land as part of a land grant when they had moved from Missouri to Texas as colonists when Texas was still its own republic. A year later it became a state.
When the family moved to Aubrey, it was not yet called Aubrey. It got that name 16 years after they settled here. The Wilson family began the cemetery as a necessity.
“There were a lot of family cemeteries back in those days; but most have turned into public cemeteries. We’ve just maintained ours as a family-type cemetery,” Kenneth said.
The earliest graves were marked with sandstones. There are a few sandstone grave markers that are still in use today.
Much of the Wilson family has been buried there through the 19th, 20th and 21st century. However, Kenneth said, the family has allowed some neighbors and friends to be buried in the cemetery as well. The majority of the gravesites are all relatives of the Wilsons.
Throughout that time, the cemetery has been kept up by its own family members, even though most of the family land has been sold including all of the land surrounding the cemetery itself.
Kenneth’s uncle R.W. Wilson and his wife Billie along with Jack and Margaret Brumley (a cousin) maintained the cemetery for as long as he could remember, he said. When Kenneth retired in the early 2000’s, he took it over from them. Now, he explained, his nephews have taken over the majority of care. He said they care for the cemetery almost daily.
It is still an active cemetery. Kenneth said of the approximate two-acre site, two-thirds of the space is still available. He said there are only about three lines of the Wilson family that have used it.
“People have traditions,” Kenneth said. “A lot of the girls, as they would get married, they would go with their husband’s traditions and be buried [with their families].”
It was Kenneth’s involvement and being a member of the Aubrey Historical Society that eventually led to Carolyn’s interest in getting the cemetery designated as a historical site.
At the beginning of 2020, Carolyn and other members of the Aubrey Historical Society planned to begin this work. It, like so many other things, was delayed during COVID-19 shutdowns.
Carolyn started gathering research and even produced a website for the cemetery.
“The oldest marked grave is that of Mildred M. Wilson’s, daughter of J. H. and Melinda Wilson b—1865 d—1866,” she wrote.
Kenneth said the two of them cataloged all the existing information on the headstones.
According to Carolyn’s research, one of the graves is that of Frank Wilson, who joined the Confederate Army in January of 1862. He only served four months because he was only 16 at the time. The family tale is that he wanted to join his three older brothers who had all enlisted. He was also the only family member to be born in the Republic of Texas in 1845.
Unfortunately, Carolyn Wilson passed away unexpectedly in September.
The Aubrey Historical Society Members wanted to complete the work they had started in her memory. Jean Burk of the Aubrey Historical Society said, “in honor of her memory, we finished the task which she had started.”
Burk then relayed that most of all the necessary information had been collected by Carolyn and Kenneth as well as Jim and Barbara Johnson who had written a family narrative in 1996 for a Wilson Family Reunion.
Some requirements for a cemetery to receive historical designation are that it has to be over 50 years old, and it has to be proven why the cemetery is important, Burk said.
The Aubrey Historical Society went on to take new pictures of the cemetery, make measurements and produce a sitemap for the application.
They were able to submit it to the Texas Historical Commission in December 2020.
In early March, the Wilson Cemetery was granted a Historic Texas Cemetery Designation. The Aubrey Historical Society then began work on the next step in the process. They have submitted an application for it to receive a historical marker. They are waiting to see if their request for a historical marker has been approved.
Carolyn is now buried in the cemetery she was so fascinated by and determined to have recognized. She too awaits her headstone as she now rests in her beloved cemetery.
“I’m glad that it’s happening. The Historical Society really put a big effort into it. They’ve really honored Carolyn and myself and my family. We really appreciate it,” Kenneth said.