History in county in a grave situation

Posted 10/6/20

In these uncertain times, I like to dwell on permanence and history. Much of our area’s history is recorded in bronze on stone, as historical markers and of which Madison County has quite a few. The first marker named below honors the formation of our county, and the other nine give information for some of our older cemeteries. I did not keep repeating the word “marker”, but there is a Texas historical marker at each of the named cemeteries.

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History in county in a grave situation


In these uncertain times, I like to dwell on permanence and history. Much of our area’s history is recorded in bronze on stone, as historical markers and of which Madison County has quite a few. The first marker named below honors the formation of our county, and the other nine give information for some of our older cemeteries. I did not keep repeating the word “marker”, but there is a Texas historical marker at each of the named cemeteries.

At 901 North May, at the Texas Highway Department Maintenance Center, stands the marker recognizing Madison County’s creation. The inscription includes “Madison County. Formed from Grimes, Walker, and Leon counties. Created January 21, 1853. Organized April 4, 1853. Named in honor of James Madison (1751-1836) “Father of the Constitution,” Fourth President of the United States. County seat, Madisonville.”

Allphin Cemetery is east of Madisonville, off of Highway 21 on FM 2376 about one mile south of OSR.

Ransom Allphin (1812-1854) and his parents migrated from Illinois to the area, which was at that time part of Montgomery County until Madison County was later separated and created. Ransom’s father, Reverend Shelton Allphin, first acquired a league (4,428 acres of land) via a Mexican land grant in 1835. Later the family received other land grants as well, which wound up including the cemetery piece and much more. When the Reverend died October 8, 1835, he was buried on his land grant, but no one is sure today of his gravesite. Ransom and his wife Elizabeth had seven children and also cared for his widowed mother and her minor children. He farmed and operated a grist mill. While digging a well, he discovered clay and soapstone in the soil, abandoned the well, and donated the five-acre plot for a community burial ground. Ransom died the same year and his was the first grave in the new cemetery.

Bozeman Cemetery stands east of Midway, about a mile and a half west of the community of Antioch and just west of the intersection of Antioch Road and Bozeman Ferry Road. Established in 1852, it was recognized with a Texas historical marker in 2008. There are 15 known graves, with the first known being that of Harmon Warren Bozeman (1788-1852). According to family lore, the cemetery was established near the old family home place. The Bozemans were among the first Madison County settlers. An early map of the county shows Harmon Bozeman as owner of approximately a quarter of a league of land, or 1,107 acres, in northeast Madison County bordering the Trinity River. His parents had operated a ferry in South Carolina, so Harmon had ferry business experience before coming to Texas. For years, family members ran the ferry here that carried their name, and that’s still remembered over 150 years later via Bozeman Ferry Road.

Elwood Cemetery is northwest of Midway on FM 1119. Elwood was a thriving town by the mid-1850s and was almost chosen our county seat. Judge Neely’s introduction of our Volume II of local history states that Elwood was strongly considered for designation as county seat but lost out because of a requirement that county administration must be within five miles of the center of the county. In 1874, the family of prominent Civil War veteran James Blair Durham donated four acres for the Elwood Methodist Church, cemetery, and school. His son, Amzie or Amuzi (1844-1875), was the first recorded burial. The Methodist Church relocated in 1901 but continues to maintain the cemetery.

Greenbriar Cemetery is northwest of Madisonville about four miles, on Greenbriar Road. It contains remains of over 200 pioneer settlers and their descendants. In 1884, Lillis Jane and James C. Colwell deeded one acre of land at this site for a community school. Part of the school property was set aside for a cemetery when their four-year-old daughter, Callie Lorena, died in 1889. From about 1890 until the 1940s, a two-room schoolhouse stood beside the cemetery.

Hayes Cemetery is located on private land south of Highway 21, two miles south of the Antioch community. The family cemetery contains only five known graves but is suspected to hold graves of servants and workers also. The earliest grave is dated 1857 and the latest 1865. The original owner, Patrick H. Hayes (1807-1864), was born in County Limerick, Ireland, and came to Texas by way of New York and Maryland. He arrived in 1836 and soon enlisted in the Texas army, fighting for independence. After being discharged, he moved to Leon County, and remember, Madison County did not yet exist. He amassed large tracts of land, mostly near the Trinity River. He established three plantations, Seven Oaks, Cairo, and Boggy Creek, on which he raised cotton and bred horses. Known as “Dr. Hayes”, he practiced herbal medicine as a respected rural doctor. One of his daughters, Mary Hayes Young, (1830-1919), was born County Limerick, Ireland, also. At the age of 16, she crossed the Atlantic Ocean alone, spending three weeks on a ship, to join her father. Though she is NOT buried in Hayes Cemetery but Midway, I just had to include about her trip! She’s grandmother a few times removed to the Gorees here now.

Park Cemetery is located on Spur 104, almost four miles south of Madisonville off Highway 75. The first burial there took place in 1852, when John and Elizabeth Kellett Par buried her brother, Thomas Jefferson Kellett, on their land there. In 1855, Andrew Park, brother of John, was buried there on the family land. When John Park himself died in 1860, Elizabeth buried him with their brothers. Later she deeded 207 acres, including the burial ground, to Saxton Tarpley. In 1870, he deeded three acres of that parcel to his son, the Reverend B. Tarpley, and four other trustees for a community cemetery and school.

Rock Prairie Cemetery is between Madisonville and North Zulch, 7.6 miles west on Highway 21 and then 2.25 miles north on Oxford Cemetery Road. Pioneers William D. and Delina Walker Hollis arrived in Texas in 1837 and in 1855 they purchased land in what became known as the Hollis Community. In 1880, Joshua and Martha Terrell Ford bought adjoining property. According to oral history, a baby born to slaves was buried on the Hollis Farm before the Civil War. The first marked burial on the Hollis land was that of William B. Best in 1861. Martha

Ford’s mother, Isabella Terrell, was buried on the Ford’s property in 1868. The two families then set aside acreage of their properties for a community cemetery. Later owners of the land included J.W. Eaves and J. Milton Jackson, whose heirs later deeded the burial ground to the Rock Prairie Cemetery Association.

Willowhole Cemetery is south of North Zulch on FM 1372. The area was named for willow trees surrounding a spring fed water hole that attracted early travelers passing through the area. The first settlers were the Robert Mosley family in the 1830s. The cemetery’s first recorded burial was that of Mary J. Burts in 1866. Willowhole grew into a booming community, with businesses, schools, and churches, until it faded away in the early 1900s. The large cemetery contains almost 3,000 graves, 30 noted sadly as infants. Cemetery records include information regarding the burial of an “unknown Finnish male”. The records include his death certificate, which says he was an alien, and beside residence it says “don’t know”. Dr. A. Barlow completed that death certificate, estimating the deceased as about 30 years old and including the facts that he died about 6 p.m. on December 20, 1905. Cause of death was noted as heart failure, with syphilis a contributing factor.

The Oxford Cemetery marker has been approved by the state historical commission and ordered, but it has not been cast (made) yet. I’m betting there will be a ceremony when it is installed, and I plan to give you a heads-up then. The cemetery is on Highway 21 west of Madisonville, halfway between the communities of Cottonwood and North Zulch. As early as 1869, it was in use as the primary burial ground for citizens of the Cottonwood community and the family of Garland Walker Ross (1807-1892) and Elizabeth Hodges Ross (1826-1882), The Ross family came to Texas from Lauderdale County, Mississippi around 1865. Another early family in the area was the Neal family, who also came here from Mississippi, arriving in Texas in 1851. They named the area Neal in the application for a post office. Later the community was known as Cottonwood. As Ross property in the 1870s, the current cemetery area was originally used for the Oxford Church and Academy, a center for learning and worship. The building was removed by 1891, leaving only the cemetery. That same year, A.S. Ross, Nancy Ann Ross Madole, and F. R. Madole deeded the property to the church and cemetery trustees. The first recorded burial in the cemetery was that of Julie Ann Roberts Pigford (1827-1869).

It’s always saddened me a bit that our community does not have the many beautiful old houses that some other places have. That does NOT mean that we don’t have plenty of history. I hope you enjoyed the above and learned at least half as much as I did in writing it!

THE MUSEUM HAS BEEN OPEN THE PAST TWO WEEKS and we plan to keep it that way! We sure would appreciate your visit! It is open to the public Wednesday through Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., and it is located at 201 N. Madison Street. The mailing address is P.O. Box 61, Madisonville, TX 77864. You also might enjoy the Madison County Museum Facebook page, which has been full of fascinating photos and facts lately.