Historians looking for descendants of people buried at Walter Brown Cemetery in Chambers County

Some of the graves at Walter Brown Cemetery in Chambers County are clearly marked while others are missing headstones.

The descendant of a former slave and the namesake of Chambers County is working with county historians to compile a history of the people buried at Walter Brown Cemetery, located on FM 565 in the Old Winfree area of Chambers County.

According to Regina St. Romain, the great-granddaughter of Amanda Chambers Gailes – reportedly the illegitimate daughter of Harriet Abraham Jackson (a slave) and Thomas Jefferson Chambers, Gailes is among the dozens of people buried at the cemetery. Based on St. Romain’s family history, Gailes was born in March 1865, the same month and year of the recorded death of Chambers, who was shot through an open window of a second-story parlor in his home in Anahuac.

Gailes was married to Nathan Gailes and the couple had three children – Roy, Priscilla and Chapman Archie Gailes. Priscilla married Walter Brown, for whom the cemetery is named. When Gailes died in August 1958 at the age of 93, she was buried in the cemetery started by her son-in-law. The Browns had 10 children – Alvin, Wilfred, Willie Mae, Thelma, Walter Jr., Augusta, Aurelius, Robert, Gladys and Rose Mary. St. Romain is the daughter of Rose Mary.

Amanda Chambers Gailes’ headstone

Through the years, much of the cemetery’s history has been lost, but St. Romain is hoping that a public appeal for information will change that.

“There are a lot of my family members buried there but there are other families out there as well. It was known as a black cemetery,” St. Romain said. “Most people couldn’t afford fancy headstones, so they might have had simple markers that are no longer visible. We are hoping to do a ground-penetrating sonar to locate other bodies.”

According to St. Romain, the information that was passed down to her from relatives is that the cemetery was originally on a 20-acre tract of land that bordered the Trinity River on FM 565. At some point, four acres were sold, based on records she has gleaned, but the metes and bounds of the remaining 16 acres is uncertain. The cemetery today is bordered by homes, some of which share a fence line with the cemetery.

St. Romain is concerned that if the cemetery is not preserved and documented, more property will be lost to development. She has sought the help of Chambers County Historical Commission and Commission representatives say they are interested in the rich history of the cemetery.

“The Walter Brown Cemetery is on my list of cemeteries to delve into but I haven’t had a lot of time to research it in depth,” said Historian Darla Willcox. “I feel quite certain there are some graves in the woods or along the perimeter of the cemetery. If we can find someone with a plot record of the cemetery, or the original metes and bounds, that would help greatly.”

Anyone with information about the Walter Brown Cemetery is asked to call St. Romain at 310-254-5325 or send email to walterbrowncemetery@gmail.com.

For more information on Amanda Chambers Gailes, go online to https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/203778854/amanda-gailes

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