(Editor's Note: This article was updated on March 25, 2005 with photographs and further descriptions.)
Upon hearing that there once was a Dallas Cemetery, I set out to discover more about it. On this website’s Message Board I asked the question: “Is anyone familiar with the Dallas Cemetery administered by the City of Huntsville and located on Lee High Drive, supposedly located on private property with no markers?” Getting no response, I proceeded to do some investigating.
I first got in touch with the Director of Cemeteries for the City of Huntsville who sent me this note - "Sorry I could not find the information about burials at the Dallas Cemetery. We do not have a street number for that cemetery. It is not available except through a fenced yard. There are no longer readable markers." What a shame; I was still hoping some of our neighbors and readers might have some information. The folks interred there must have been early residents of our area or had some connection to it.
Well, quite to my surprise I have found the information on Dallas Cemetery. I began in the Heritage Room of the Huntsville Library and was referred to Ms. Dot Johnson of the Tennessee Valley Genealogical Society. She was most gracious and helpful. The cemetery is actually named "Dallas Mill Cemetery" and is located in the center of the Southeast Quarter of the Northeast Quarter of Section 25 Township 3 Range 1 West which is on the west side of Lee High Drive north of Oakwood Avenue adjacent to the railroad tracks. Ms. Johnson described the interments there as being poor persons. At one time there were two legible headstones that read - HAYES, Pearlie Bell - Daughter of J.C. and M.L. Hayes - June 25, 1917 - October 31, 1919 and BUTLER, Herbert Jr - May 27, 1923 - February 14, 1925 "Happy Infant Early Blest, Rest In Peaceful Slumber, Rest". Additionally there were two footstones with the initials P.H. and W.G.H. She went on to say there was a death notice in a Huntsville newspaper from 1909 that read "W.C. KING, Age 50, 616 Halsey Avenue, Died May 19, 1909, Buried in Dallas Mill Cemetery, Survived By Three Sons and Four Daughters. Rumor has it that a gentleman by the name of Joe Darnell is buried there as well. It appears there may have been at least five burials there.
A neighborhood mystery has been solved!
March 25, 2005 Update:
Collins recently learned specific directions to the cemetery from Jason Prestley as follows:
“There are a couple broken pieces to other stones, as well as 4 or 5 tombstone bases with no stones. The cemetery is behind houses on Lee High Drive off Oakwood. From Oakwood, turn left on Lee High Dr., drive past Withers Ave. to the corner of Forrest Cir. and Lee High Dr. From that corner, if you face west, and walk between the houses facing the intersection, up the hill behind the houses and about 50 yards to the right, you'll find the cemetery. The west fence separates the top of the hill from a 20 ft drop down to the railroad tracks. As many of the stone bases are near the fence, I'm betting there are probably headstone fragments down the hillside near the tracks.”
So, with that information, a trip was made to the cemetery and what we found is shown below. It was exciting to finally see the cemetery. With prior knowledge of engraving on two of the tombstones, we were able to identify them. Sonny Holland, a long-time employee of Spry Funeral Home, our “guide” to the cemetery and something of an expert on small cemeteries in Huntsville, looked at a particular unmarked area on the ground and said that because the dirt was a different color he’s positive that it is also a gravesite. Once the cemetery receives its spring cleanup, Sonny will walk the entire area. If he finds other unmarked gravesites, we’ll try some how to mark them all. The fenced portion of the cemetery site is estimated to be about 35’ x 75’.
While at the site, the cemetery maintenance supervisor arrived to assess needed maintenance. In a later discussion with him, it was learned that the City of Huntsville maintains the fenced area and, since the City assumed that a portion of the land to the south was probably a part of the cemetery, it is also maintained.
The railroad track is 20-feet below and behind the cemetery, and runs through an area called, “Little Rock Cut.” A search was not made down the 20-foot hillside to look for headstone fragments. However, the maintenance supervisor stated that it is possible that there are fragments on the hillside and agreed to search for them.
UPDATE 26 July 2005:
We’ve learned from Sara Ann Certain Hymer that there is also a place farther up the railroad track called, “Big Rock Cut.” She remembers that each spring that, “Aunt Leona (Wilbourn) used to take her sons Richard (Dick) and J.N. and me up there somewhere to pick blackberries.”
We cannot be sure when the first burial occurred at the cemetery and there is no known record as to the last person to be buried there. Since the Dallas Village area was incorporated into the City of Huntsville in 1955, it was assumed that additional burials would not be allowed. A query to Spry funeral Home revealed that there is no law preventing burials at the cemetery, but that approval would need to be granted by the appropriate City office. How likely do you think it is that the City would approve such a request?
Ultimately, it is our hope to place a marker at the site so that we can finally honor the cemetery, its people, and the community.
Ms. Brenda Webb, Cemetery Director for the City of Huntsville, volunteered to take the information of the cemetery's plat location and obtain a more definitive determination as to its size. She was pleased with our interest and offered additional assistance.
We’ll keep you posted on our progress.
HAYES, Pearlie Bell - Daughter of J.C. and M.L. Hayes - June 25, 1917 - October 31, 1919
BUTLER, Herbert Jr - May 27, 1923 - February 14, 1925 "Happy Infant Early Blest, Rest In Peaceful Slumber, Rest"
Unable to read engraving
Stones in left foreground and right background unmarked
Butler headstone in foreground, all other headstone/stones in distant background
April 15, 2005 Update:
Our friend, Bobby Alverson, son of Maurine Hayes Alverson Surrett, said that Pearlie Bell Hayes was his great aunt; she was his maternal grandfather's younger sister. Next to Pearlie Bell Hayes was a tombstone for William Columbus Hayes, his mother's older brother who died before she was born. Bobby also said that the families of those buried in this cemetery were never notified that houses were to be built in that area and nothing was done to preserve the graves.
CEMETERY UPDATE, JUNE 16, 2006: Here's the cemetery marker that has been added to the Dallas Mill cemetery. Over time, additional upgrades will also be made to the cemetery. We're grateful to our councilman, Mark Russell, who made the marker and upgrades happen.
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