City workers, descendants work to reveal Irving slave cemetery

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by GLORIA CAMPOS

Bio | Email | Follow: @gloriacampos

WFAA

Posted on October 25, 2011 at 9:42 PM

IRVING - Tucked away off of Highway 161 is a patch of land; Tall grass and tons of trees hiding a secret - a chronicle of African Americans in North Texas.

Tuesday marked the first step in effort to share the story with new generations.

At Shelton's Bear Creek Cemetery, weeds and overgrowth hide history.

"We've got graves in here of slaves that were born in the 1840s," said Anthony Bond, the founder of the Irving NAACP.

About 200 graves in one of the oldest African American cemeteries in Texas has been forgotten for decades.

On Tuesday, Irving city workers and descendants teamed up to clean it up.

Jamie Simon's great-grandfather is one of the slaves buried at Bear Creek.

"Once this is cleaned up, I hope the people in this community who have relatives in this cemetery will come up here and visit it," Simon said. "And let their kids know that they have relatives here in this slave graveyard."

Simon did his part, hauling away tree limbs. Then the big equipment moved in, clearing the ground around broken headstones.

"The people were disrespected in their life, let's at least give them a little respect in death," Bond said.

The cemetery was designated as a state historic landmark last year, and volunteers hope the clean-up will lead to recognition by the U.S. Registry of Historical Places, which would make it eligible for federal grant money to maintain the cemetery.

E-mail gcampos@wfaa.com

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