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Volunteers bring respect to cemetery

The old stone markers in our area’s historical cemeteries tell fascinating stories — many pay tribute to the harshness of life on the frontier and the heartbreak experienced by those who settled Denton County before modern medicine managed to control diseases that once ravaged entire communities.

Duck Creek Cemetery near Sanger has such stories to tell, and thanks to the efforts of community volunteers, much of the underbrush and trash that once obscured some of its graves have been removed.

At one time, the graves in Duck Creek Cemetery — the resting place of some of Sanger’s earliest residents — were cared for and maintained. In recent years, however, the cemetery fell on hard times, and it seemed that no one remembered.

“I think they moved away, died, forgot that they have family out here or they just don’t know they have someone buried out here,” Sanger resident Jess Bell said.

The cemetery is located just outside of Sanger city limits on Sullivan Road. Recently, a group of residents from Sanger and nearby cities decided to conduct a clean-up effort.

Bell said she and other volunteers worked about 12 hours a day to remove brush and garbage and clean the cemetery, which had become a dumping site and a hangout for people to drink alcohol.

“We’ve picked up maybe 100 bottles,” she said.

Volunteers worked tirelessly, drenched in sweat and wearing the cuts and bruises they received from removing thorny plants and saplings. In just a week’s time, the volunteers had cleared much of the brush and uncovered most of the graves. Headstones that were once hidden behind towering grass are now visible from the road.

When researching the history of the graveyard, Bell said she was surprised at all of the stories behind the headstones. She said there are stories of heartbreak and romance behind almost every grave.

Records estimate that 104 people are buried in Duck Creek Cemetery and there are believed to be about 52 unmarked graves. Volunteers marked the ground to show the location of known graves that currently have no identifiable markers.

“Many of the rocks that you see out here aren’t rocks. They’re grave markers,” Bell said.

Historical records show that the cemetery was founded in about 1868 when the land was sold to church trustees for the Friendship Baptist Church with the intent for the land “to be used as a public burial ground forever.”

Volunteer Kacie Pena said the effort that volunteers have put forth has been amazing.

“They’ve really done some amazing work,” she said. “If it weren’t for everyone working together, this probably wouldn’t have been completed.”

Bell said the community effort will continue and that now they want to encourage others to volunteer.

“A lot of people don’t know that this is here,” she said. “We’re just trying to spread the word and make this 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 about the cemetery and efforts to help, call 940-580-5075.

The volunteers who worked on the Duck Creek Cemetery project deserve a lot of credit, and we thank them for their labors and caring attitude.

Their efforts will help ensure that this hallowed ground will once again be visited and respected.

The years may have taken away the families of those who lie at rest here, but thanks to a caring community, these graves have not been forgotten.