IRVING, Texas — Dozens of volunteers grabbed tools and cleaning equipment and gathered on an old piece of land near Highway 161 and Pioneer Road in Irving on Monday. They were on a mission to spend the Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday making a difference, by cleaning up Shelton’s Bear Creek Cemetery.
”Since it’s Martin Luther King Day, I felt that I had to come out and help out with my brothers,” Randy Wallick said as he pulled weeds and stumps from the ground.
Some say Shelton’s Bear Creek Cemetery was forgotten for a long time. Community activist Anthony Bond is among a group that has been uncovering stories of those buried on the land. So far, 189 marked graves have been discovered. Historians believe the cemetery is the final resting place to more than 200 slaves and former slaves.
Bond said, ”We’ve documented that the Blacks were brought here from Tennessee, Kentucky, and Mississippi primarily as slaves.”
The cemetery needed lost of attention. Volunteers spent Monday mowing the grounds, trimming trees, cleaning the area around grave markers, and placing small wooden crosses at grave sites they’ve been able to identify.
”We wanted to take action,” Elias Taylor explained. He brought his twin daughters with him to participate in the service project.
Taylor said, ”Community service is what makes America great. And I want them to be a part of that. To feel it. And to be proud of it.”
The people who participated spoke about a sense of pride across the crowd of volunteers who just wanted to spend time giving back. They were working together and building new bonds.
”There’s a lot of love,” said volunteer David Mitchell. “It’s all good. I mean, there’s all colors out here. We all bleed red.”
The volunteers left knowing they did a small part in trying to preserve history.
Organizers say the next step is forming the Bear Creek Cemetery Association. Bond says they plan on building a social media page, so that community members and volunteers can stay up to date on the projects happening at the cemetery.