ETBU Community Helps In Restoring Local Historic Cemeteryby Mike Midkiff
MARSHALL, Texas (3/07/13) - Outside of Scottsville, Texas in the eastern part of Harrison County sits a historic African-American cemetery with graves dating back to slavery. The surrounding private property has limited visitors for more than 40 years. The growth of wisteria, grass and weeds had almost choked out any resemblance of a cemetery.
About 10 years ago, author China Galland, as well as individuals who have family members buried in Love Cemetery began working with land owners to gain access. Galland has written a book called Love Cemetery: Unburying the Secret History of Slaves and is working on a documentary as well.
Despite a 2009 Texas Law that allows access to family burial grounds, family members were still locked out until recently. Wiley College has been participating in the efforts to restore the cemetery for several years. This past fall, the Love Cemetery Burial Association invited East Texas Baptist University students to join the clean-up effort as well.
Student groups from both Wiley and ETBU, along with members of the Love Cemetery Burial Association and the Marshall Community have volunteered their time to help clean-up the grounds. Volunteers have faithfully been coming to each scheduled work day.
On the most recent community invited clean-up day at Love Cemetery Saturday, March 2, about 20 ETBU students, faculty and staff members came with gloves, shovels, rakes and brush clippers to participate alongside friends from Wiley and the cemetery association. The ETBU Physical Facilities Department constructed and donated steel crosses to mark gravesites that had previously been unmarked or poorly marked. "My experience at Love Cemetery was beyond what I expected,” said ETBU University Scholars program student Desmond Coleman. "Not only were we able to help in the attempt to give descendants of those buried there the full experience of a well kept cemetery, we were also privileged to hear the history behind the cemetery.”
Students in the ETBU University Scholars program devote one Saturday every semester to community service. Dr. Cassie Falke, director of the program, said, "In the Scholars Program, when we think about pursuing wisdom as Christian intellectuals, we think of James 3:13: ‘Who is wise and understanding among you? Show by your good life that your works are done with gentleness born of wisdom.’ That’s our verse for the University Scholars Program.”
"The Saturday at Love Cemetery was a wonderful opportunity to do a work of gentleness born of wisdom, not necessarily our wisdom either, but the wisdom of the folks who have been working on the project for ten years now. We just helped,” explained Dr. Falke.
Two ETBU students, Travis Dice and Zach Bearden, uncovered a hand-tooled grave marker that nobody knew was there. "That’s real discovery, memorializing a real person,” commented Dr. Falke. "Law and history, and particularly the history of slavery and civil rights can seem decidedly unreal to students sometimes, as though they are just questions to be answered on a test, but on the work day, law and history were very real to us.”
Coleman added, "Working at the site afforded us the opportunity to join knowledge and theory with the concrete and very real concerns of African-Americans fighting to honor their ancestors with a burial ground worthy of their struggles and triumphs.”
"It was a privilege for us to serve alongside and learn from friends from across our community in this project,” reflected Dr. Melody Maxwell, Director of the ETBU Great Commission Center. "I believe that Love Cemetery is a significant site for understanding our community's history and working together for reconciliation in Marshall and beyond. We are honored to be a part of this project as we seek to follow the example of service set by Christ.”
A press release from 2009 reports, "Love Cemetery has graves not only of prosperous black farmers, teachers, educators and former slaves, but Native Americans too. Family lore points to Caddo ancestry, Cherokee too. Though Caddo were the primary tribe in the area for over 1,000 years, Comanche, Creek, Osage, Lipon Apache, Kiowa and others, also lived in East Texas and may be buried there.”