Historical marker dedicated at Ryan Cemetery in Tarkington

The veil is dropped, revealing the new historical marker at Ryan Cemetery in Tarkington on Sunday. (Photo by Brandon Mullens with Texas Style Photography of Tarkington.)

By Rachel Hall

Ryan Cemetery and Rural Shade Baptist Church have a deeply-rooted history in Tarkington Prairie commemorated by the unveiling of a Texas Historical Marker during an annual Memorial Service held on Sunday, May 30.

“The cemetery and church have been tied together for 150 years – most of that time Rural Shade was the custodian of the cemetery. Many of the members who take care of Ryan are members of Rural Shade and we take pride in keeping that history alive,” said Pastor Brad Dancer.

Over 100 individuals ranging in age from young children to elderly community residents attended the ceremony honoring the legacy of loved ones laid to rest as well as acknowledged those who had a roll in preserving the history for generations to come, such as the Liberty County Historical Commission. 

Liberty County Judge Jay Knight and Liberty County Historical Commission Chair Linda Jamison speak to the crowd that gathered for the dedication of a historical marker at Ryan Cemetery in Tarkington on Sunday, May 30. (Photo by Brandon Mullens with Texas Style Photography of Tarkington)

“History is important for bringing our community together during this very divisive time in our country. The history that binds us together as one nation, one community, and one church,” said Dancer.

The Ryan Cemetery Historical Marker reads in part:

“Also known as Ryan’s Graveyard, this historic burial ground served the rural community of Tarkington since at least the 1860s. Named for early pioneer settler Burton B. Tarkington, the farming and ranching community also known as Tarkington Prairie thrived after the Civil War. Many veterans and pioneers are buried in Ryan Cemetery, with the first marked grave dating from 1863 for 10-year-old William E. West.”

In the marker application compiled by Liberty County Historical Commission Chair Linda Jamison, the background of John Jacob Ryan, for whom the cemetery is named, was explained.

The cemetery is named for early settler, John Jacob Ryan who arrived in Liberty County from Ireland sometime between 1850 and 1860. Ryan owned land on Tarkington Prairie including the property upon which the cemetery is located and opened a general store, according to Jamison.

“From census records, Mr. Ryan was very prosperous.  Ryan was found shot to death in August 1873 on the public road that ran in front of the cemetery.  By 1874, the pastor of Rural Shade Baptist Church, Reverend D.W. Jackson and church members, W.M. West and W.H. Croft were indicted and tried in the District Court of Liberty County for Mr. Ryan’s murder,” Jamison wrote.

To read more on the history of John Jacob Ryan, read this previous article from Bluebonnet News: https://bluebonnetnews.com/2021/05/18/marker-dedication-will-honor-ryan-cemetery-in-tarkington-on-may-30/

Ryan Cemetery is located off Highway 321 in the Tarkington community and between Dayton and Cleveland.

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