Many younger Denton County residents may not be familiar with Decoration Day, a tradition that calls for neighbors to get together to spruce up their community cemeteries.
More mature residents, however, especially those whose roots run deep and recall when rural cemeteries were regular destinations for family outings, remember the tradition and why it was so important.
Some authorities believe that Decoration Day, which originated after the Civil War to commemorate the Union and Confederate soldiers who died, was the inspiration for Memorial Day, now observed on the last Monday of May to pay tribute to the men and women who died while serving in the United States armed forces.
Unlike Memorial Day, however, there is no set date for Decoration Day, although it is most often observed at this time of year.
As families have lost their rural ties and been scattered by the passing years and changing times, fewer people remain who understand and appreciate the old ways, although some Denton County cemetery associations continue to observe Decoration Day.
The members of these associations and lovers of history throughout the county have worked to protect their hallowed burial grounds, the hillside plots and shaded groves where family members lie at rest and American flags dot the landscape on Memorial Day and other holidays to mark the graves of veterans. Throughout history, the residents of rural communities have always been among the first to answer the call to arms, and many heroes have hailed from Denton County.
We were pleased to see recent ceremonies held at Denton County cemeteries to unveil historical markers, including Belew Cemetery in Aubrey and Cooper Creek Cemetery off Fishtrap Road in northeast Denton. Another marker was dedicated at Indian Creek Cemetery, which is located in southeastern Cooke County and is the final resting place for many folks who lived in Pilot Point, Aubrey, Denton and other Denton County communities.
These cemeteries join many others in the area that have historical markers, including Chinn’s Chapel Cemetery in Copper Canyon, where Decoration Day, complete with a traditional “dinner on the ground,” will be observed on Sunday, May 19.
Each of these cemeteries is a special place, a landmark of great significance to all who now call Denton County home.
“A cemetery tells the history of a town,” Beth Stribling, Denton County Historical Commission chairwoman, said at the Belew Cemetery ceremony. “It tells the story of the people who came before us.”
We appreciate the efforts of those who work to protect and preserve our cemeteries, and we encourage all residents to seek out opportunities to help with such projects. The traditions of Decoration Day may never again be as strong or as widely observed as in days gone by, but it wouldn’t be a bad idea if they were.
Proper reverence for the burial places of those who came before us and a greater appreciation of local history are good lessons for anyone to learn.
Perhaps it’s time to teach the old ways to a new generation.