Denison completes work on Iron Ore Cemetery restoration

Michael Hutchins
Herald Democrat
Iron Ore Creek Cemetery sits just behind Texoma Medical Center in Denison.

Denison has completed the restoration of Iron Ore Cemetery — a predominantly black graveyard dating back to the early days of Denison as a city.

The cemetery is located along Reba Drive near FM 691, but has also been known as the Pool Road Cemetery during its nearly 140 years within the city. As a part of the restorations, Eastwood said the city plans to improve walkability and access to the site, noting that it requires a bit of a hike to reach the site.

"We've essentially restored the cemetery," Denison Parks and Recreation Director Justin Eastwood said. "It is a special site and definitely an important part of our city's history where we've essentially gotten it up to where it should be for a historical cemetery."

The cemetery was predominantly used by Iron Ore Baptist Church, who arrived early in Denison's history. The earliest known burials occurred around 1882, nearly a decade after the city's founding. However, city officials said that some of the sites may have been lost to time, erosion and rust. 

The cemetery is located along Reba Drive near FM 691

Today, about 45 graves are known in the Iron Ore Cemetery.

"The oldest burials in the cemetery are unknown due to the aging of the sandstone or iron ore markers," Eastwood said, noting the stone is a source of iron ore. "So, there isn't always any noticeable identification. What we do know is that there are about 45 known grave markers in the cemetery."

Records show that the most recent burials at the site occurred around 1922 and 1940.

The efforts to restore the aging cemetery have been a long priority of city council member Obie Greenleaf, who first  started pushing for the restoration during his first tenure on the city council between 2006 and 2012.

"He did a lot of leg work and got a plethora of historical information together," Eastwood said.

During that time, Greenleaf did research on the site and those buried there and brought it to the attention of leaders in the NAACP and then-Mayor Robert Brady.

"When Robert Brady was mayor, we looked at it and decided to see if we could get the boy scouts to clean up the white cemetery behind Cigna and this cemetery," Greenleaf said.

Both of the cemeteries were cleaned, but Greenleaf said the cemetery near Cigna has received more attention and care, including new fencing. However, the Iron Ore Cemetery was allowed to deteriorate further.

The cemetery is located along Reba Drive near FM 691

The most recent attempts to restore the site were conducted by the city, with officials stating that Denison plans to give the site the attention and resources it needs as a historic location. This will include a new sign and historic marker.

The efforts by the city were also more extensive than the initial cleaning. Crews were able to clear more overgrowth and some trees, which exposed graves that went unnoticed initially. In doing so, the city has revealed more of the history behind one of its oldest burial sites.

The city plans to hold a celebration at the site, commemorating the restoration efforts, at 9 a.m. May 5.