Black and white Dayton cemeteries merge, each earning Historic Texas Cemetery designations

Mike George, president of the Linney-Acie Cemetery Association, and Linda Jamison, chair of the Liberty County Historical Commission, stand beside the markers at the entrance of Linney-Acie Cemetery on Saturday, April 13.

By Vanesa Brashier,

When Linney Cemetery in Dayton was founded in the 1850s, it was a reflection of that era with burials restricted to white persons. On the neighboring property was the Acie Cemetery, founded in the 1880s, the final resting place for black residents of the Dayton area.

While the two cemeteries peacefully coexisted in the community, though separated in recent years by a chain link fence, the two now have merged under a new association called Linney-Acie Cemetery with Mike George, the former president of Linney Cemetery, and Lynda Young, the former president of Acie Cemetery, now sharing leadership. The merger took place on April 13, just minutes after both cemeteries were recognized as Historic Texas Cemeteries, a distinction they gained with the help of the Liberty County Historical Commission.

The zigzagging fence that once divided the two cemeteries has come down, removed by an 82-year-old Dayton resident, Harry Buxton, and several volunteers prior to the celebration on April 13.

“It should have been taken down years ago,” Buxton said. “Forgive me, but if we are all God’s children, then there can’t be any fences between us.”

The Historic Texas Cemetery designation for both cemeteries is a project that was spearheaded by Linda Jamison, county chair of the Liberty County Historical Commission.

Jamison is devoted to having all of Liberty County’s historic cemeteries registered as historic landmarks. She plans to dedicate a few more local cemeteries this year as Historic Texas Cemeteries.

“We have eight. For other sites, we are planning historical markers,” she said. “We have several in Austin now that are going through the process of being designated.”

The sites being pushed for inclusion are Ryan Cemetery in Tarkington, Yettie Kersting Hospital in Liberty, McGinnis Cemetery in Tarkington, Oak Shade Baptist Church Cemetery in Tarkington, Bryan-Neyland Cemetery in Liberty, Cooke-Griffin Methodist Cemetery in Liberty, City Cemetery in Liberty and Concord Baptist Church Cemetery in Clark (south of Rye).

Two other historic cemeteries – Redmond Fields Cemetery on FM 563 and Branch Cemetery in Liberty – are on the horizon, according to Jamison.

At the dedication ceremony on April 13, Jamison explained the significance of being named a Historic Texas Cemetery.

“This distinction means that this cemetery has been legally recorded through the THC cemetery preservation program, an important step in ensuring its preservation. This designation is for cemeteries that are at least 50 years old and documented through the HTC designation process to record their historic significance,” she said. “Cemeteries are an important key to the history of Texas. A designation as an HTC helps increase public awareness of these important cultural resources – knowledge and education are among the best ways to preserve the cemeteries.”

The HTC designation encourages cemetery preservation, though it cannot guarantee that a historic cemetery will avoid destruction.

“Threats to historic cemeteries include urban expansion and development, vandalism, grazing animals and long-term deterioration from weather and uncontrolled vegetation. The HTC designation was created to address the preservation of historic cemeteries and the illegal removal of cemetery fixtures,” she said.

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Before creating Bluebonnet News in 2018, Vanesa Brashier was a community editor for the Houston Chronicle/Houston Community Newspapers. During part of her 12 years at the newspapers, she was assigned as the digital editor and managing editor for the Humble Observer, Kingwood Observer, East Montgomery County Observer and the Lake Houston Observer, and the editor of the Dayton News, Cleveland Advocate and Eastex Advocate. Over the years, she has earned more than two dozen writing awards, including Journalist of the Year.

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