Honoring the past

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The tombstone of a person who was 100 years old is shown Monday in Cassady Cemetery on Lloyd Road near Little Elm.
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Denton County wins state approval for three historical markers

Denton County will receive three new historical markers from the state in recognition of the city of Justin, the old Elm Fork Bridge near Aubrey and three African-American cemeteries.

The Denton County Historical Commission recently received notification from the Texas Historical Commission that two new markers had been approved, a subject marker for the city of Justin and a Recorded Texas Historic Landmark marker for the bridge, which is four miles west of Aubrey.

A third marker, made under an application for an Undertold Story marker, was approved for the Harrington, Cassady and Clark cemeteries. Officials were notified that they would be among14 applicants in the state to receive funding for a Historic Texas Cemetery marker.

“This gives us three more opportunities to record the history of Denton County throughout the county,” said Beth Stribling, chairwoman of the Denton County Historical Commission.

The three cemeteries, located between the Oak Grove community and Little Elm, had long been neglected. They were brought to the historical commission’s attention in recent months after a resident who lived near them in Little Elm spoke with County Judge Mary Horn about cleaning them up.

A recent project from Eagle Scout Chris Green resulted in the cleaning of two of the three cemeteries, and new fencing and signage was provided by the county.

“They were cemeteries that date back to the 1870s,” Stribling said. “They are historic and that designation did need to happen to provide some sense of protection from future development.”

UNT graduate history student Chelsea Stallings researched the early families buried in the cities, and the historical commission received a Historic Texas Cemetery designation for each of the cemeteries in 2011.

The marker costs $1,800 and this year marked the second time county historical officials had applied for the designation. Both of those were waived, paid for by the state. It was the only way the marker could be obtained, she said.

Elm Fork Bridge

The Elm Fork Bridge is one of the few in the county eligible for a Texas historical marker as many others have been moved to other locations.

Morgan Gieringer, a member of the historical marker committee and head of special collections at the University of North Texas Libraries, was one of the writers on the historical narrative.

“There’s an ongoing project in Denton County to get recognition for all of our bridges,” she said. “They are part of the infrastructure of the county and a real connection for people to think about the history of Denton County.”

The Elm Fork bridge has remained in its original place and Davis said it is a great example of reuse of an historical piece of infrastructure.

“It’s been incorporated in part of the Greenbelt Trail,” she said. “People are still using it every day,walking and biking. When people use it, they have an opportunity to learn alittle bit more about the history of Denton County.”

City of Justin

The Justin marker was submitted by the city and the historical narrative written by Lisa Westkaemper,a member of the Justin City Council and the county historical commission.

“The more I got into it, the more I realized there was a significant history in Justin that I was not awareof,” Westkaemper said.

She recalled a nugget of information she wrote in the narrative about Justin being “one of the spokes on a regional hub.”

It was not necessarily the center, as Denton is the center in a political way. But she said Justin made an impact through agriculture, dairy and, once the train came, through a certain amount of shipping.

“We always felt there was history there, but we felt we had to prove it,” she said.

The marker gives them that proof.

“We’re hoping it will let people see Justin in a slightly different light,” Westkaemper said. “Maybe it will bring in a few people who have not been [here] in the past, and they can experience Justin as they haven’t before.”

BJ LEWIS can be reached at940-566-6875 and via Twitter at @BjlewisDRC.

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