SANGER — At one time, thegraves in Duck Creek Cemetery were cared for and possibly maintained by thefamilies of the deceased, some of Sanger’s earliest residents.
Today, however, many gravesare marked by headstones that are split in half or cracked, and some graveshave no markers. Old, worn silk flowers decorate a few headstones, and emptyplastic flower pots are spread throughout the cemetery — evidence that it’sbeen a while since anyone has paid their respects at the site.
“I think they moved away,died, forgot that they have family out here or they just don’t know they havesomeone buried out here,” Sanger resident Jess Bell said.
The cemetery is located justoutside of Sanger city limits on Sullivan Road. Last week, a group of residentsfrom Sanger and nearby cities decided to clean the abandoned cemetery. OnSaturday, many of the volunteers even brought their children to help on the bigcleanup day.
Bell said she and othervolunteers worked about 12 hours each day to remove brush and garbage and cleanthe cemetery, which had become a dumping site and a hangout for people to drinkalcohol.
“We’ve picked up maybe 100bottles,” she said.
Volunteers worked tirelessly,drenched in sweat and wearing the cuts and bruises they received from removingthorny plants and saplings.
In just a week’s time, thevolunteers had cleared much of the brush and uncovered most of the graves.Headstones that were once hidden behind towering grass are now visible from theroad.
When researching the historyof the graveyard, Bell said she was surprised at all of the stories behind theheadstones. She said there are stories of heartbreak and romance behind almostevery grave.
There are several graves ofinfants who only lived days after their births. And there’s the story of J.F.and Lousisa Creach. One by one, they watched their five children die from whatmany believe was small pox.
According to dates on thegravestones, three of the children died within days of each other and the othertwo died before their first birthdays.
“It’s just heartbreaking,”Bell said. “After the oldest child died, that family packed up and left Sanger.He probably couldn’t take the pain and loss anymore.”
Records estimate that 104people are buried in Duck Creek Cemetery and there are believed to be about 52unmarked graves.
Volunteers marked the groundto show the location of known graves that currently have no identifiablemarkers.
“Many of the rocks that yousee out here aren’t rocks. They’re grave markers,” Bell said.
Historical records show thatthe cemetery was founded in about 1868 when the land was sold to churchtrustees for the Friendship Baptist Church with the intent for the land “to beused as a public burial ground forever.”
Denton County propertyrecords show that Mary Patricia Etal Walker owns the property. But volunteerKacie Pena, who contacted Walker, said that Walker has no problem with thecommunity pitching in to help with upkeep.
Pena said the effort that thelocals have put forth has been amazing.
“They’ve really done someamazing work,” she said. “If it weren’t for everyone working together, thisprobably wouldn’t have been completed.”
Bell said the communityeffort will continue and that now they want to encourage others to volunteer.
“A lot of people don’t knowthat this is here,” she said. “We’re just trying to spread the word and makethis a place that people can take pride in and learn more about their city.We’re all really happy to see this come together.”
For more information aboutthe cemetery and efforts to help, call 940-580-5075.
JOHN D. HARDEN can bereached at 940-566-6882 and via Twitter at @JDHarden.