Henderson County commissioners agree to help restore historic African-American cemetery

Henderson County commissioners agree to help restore historic African-American cemetery
Historic African-American cemetery to be restored (Source: KLTV)

ATHENS, TX (KLTV) - A historic African-American cemetery in East Texas is getting some much-needed renovations.

Henderson County commissioners have agreed to provide labor and equipment to help remove debris from a black historical cemetery in Athens.

Past the trees and underneath the debris lies Fisher-Robinson cemetery. In 1874, a Methodist church and black cemetery were founded on the property.

"Dilcey Ruffin, she was a slave, [and] she bought 40 acres of land and designated the acre for [a] cemetery and church and so she was a pioneer," said Ivory Givens, a member of the Historical Commission.

Givens said in the 1980s, members attempted to build a Texas historical marker at the site to recognize the property as a black historical cemetery.

"It's significant because people who worked [...] to help build this county to make it what it is are buried here, and we just don't want it to be forgotten completely," he said.

Henderson County Attorney Clint Davis said there are two reasons why it's taken so long to begin cleaning up the cemetery. One, no markers remain on site and two there's no clear title to the property.

"Sometime during the 30s or 40s there was a gentleman with the last name of Bass that apparently went in and filed a fraudulent deed claiming that he owned the cemetery," Davis said. "He then later transferred that deed, sold it to someone and it had subsequent sales that went on down the line."

Givens said once the property is cleaned up, the historic commission will work to get a historical marker placed at the cemetery.

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