Small family cemetery

This small family cemetery is located on VZC Road 3915. The oldest grave found at the time of the last survey in 1990 conducted by Ruch McGee was that of Hattie B. Graves, with a date of birth listed as 29 July, 1869 and a date of death as 24 October 1875. There are said to be many unmarked graves. This cemetery was last used in 1945 and was considered complete in 1990.

Additional information:
written by Judy Keener; transcribed by B. Miller, 1999

Fairview Cemetery is a very old cemetery and has been neglected for many years. The grounds had became over grown with trees, brush and vines. Varmints had dug holes and uprooted gravestones. This tragedy yet an understandable tragedy; after all, almost no immediate living relatives existed. The ladies of the Fairview Extension Club knew that something needed to be done about the cemetery; but, they were not able to take on such an enormous cleaning project.

Raymond Keener had been looking for a suitable project for some time to earn merits for his Boys Scout work. Early in 1990 had contacted Mrs. Dorothy Barnes about a project involving locating Indian burial grounds in Van Zandt County. Due to school and other commitments throughout the year Raymond was unable to complete the project. The project did arouse his interest in local history. He knew that he wanted a project that concerned itself with history and preservation in Van Zandt County history in particular.

After his return from camp in July 1991, Raymond decided it was time to try to earn his Eagle rank. To do this heknew hemust find and complete a service project worthy of the Eagle. Raymond again contacted Mrs. Barnes, a staunch supporter of Scouting, who put Raymond in touch with Mrs. Ruth McGee and Mrs. Lavona Blackwell who were working on compiling a fourth and final history book of Van Zandt County cemeteries.

Mrs. McGee a prominent member of the community as well as a member of the Extension Club and the Historical Commission felt strongly about the abandoned cemetery. Mrs. McGee has always been a person who could pull various individuals and groups together for the good of the community in so many ways.

Mrs. McGee ever mindful of community needs, mentioned in a conversation with Raymond and his mother, Judy Keener, that the graves in this cemetery needed to be cataloged and recorded for the upcoming Van Zandt County Cemetery Book 4. Mrs. McGee even ask if Raymond would like to take on cataloging the graves as a Eagle Project if it would fit the requirements needed for the project. One of the requirements of Eagle Project is that it must benefit a community, church or school.

Raymond agreed to look at the cemetery to see if he thought is would merit an Eagle project. Being a history buff himself, the project seemed like a natural one for Raymond.

After Raymond took a look at the cemetery he knew this was the project for him. The problem with obtaining the information that the ladies needed was, that due to years of neglect, the cemetery was completely overgrown, finding or even getting to the graves was virtually impossible. On Tuesday 9 July 1991 Raymond agreed to take on the cemetery. He knew that he must first clean away years of growth to be able to locate all the graves.

Events began to heppen very fast after agreeing to take on this overwhelming task. He mentioned to Mrs. McGee that there was a need for an easier way to get into the cemetery. There was no entrance into the cemetery. The only way was through a deep drainage ditch that was head high in thick Johnson grass.

Within hours concerned citizens including Ruth McGee, Dorothy Barnes and Ruth Massey, had Raymond in touch with Precinct 3 Commissioner, Charles Holland. Mr. Holland, upon examining the gravesites said that a culvert could be installed by the county because the graves represented historical sites over fifty years old (most of the graves were more than a hundred years old).

Early on the Friday 12 Jul 1991 a county crew had installed a culvert making access much easier. By Saturday morning Raymond had gathered a crew of fellow Boy Scouts, parents and friends to help with the enormous project.

The project took eighteen days-mostly Saturdays, holidays and Sunday afternoons. A total of 229 man hours were put in on clean up. Due to other commitments and summer heat the people had to arrive early in the mornings and could only work a few hours per day. No heavy equipment was used for fear of disturbing the gravesites. Most of the work was done with saws, axes, hoes, rakes and pruning tools.

Those who helped with the project and number of hours they put in on the project were: Earl Keener (56.5), Judy Keener (29), Mrs. Terry Thompson (16), Lisa Thompson (12), Billy Thompson (12), Troy Kilgore (9.5), John Loveland, Sr. (9), John Loveland, Jr. (9), Bill Thompson (6), Robert Mayben (5.5), Brandon Raynolds (4), Robert Wheeler (4), and Jesse Cook (2).

The boys were fascinated by the people that would come by and tell them stories about the people that were buried in the cemetery. Raymond likes to tell about how … “people would tell us stories about the cemetery and about the people buried there. We even heard of the great grandchildren of some the people that are buried there tell us how much they appreciate what we were doing. A lady stopped me in town and told me that she thought we were doing a fine job, I don’t even know who she was, but she recognized me from my picture in the Wills Point Chronicle”.

When the clean up was over the graves were marked off on a rough sketch and information on each gravestone was rcorded, Raymond talked with Mr. Kenneth Mayben, an Assistant Scoutmaster for Troop 381, who works for the government, about the best way to record the area of the cemetery and the plots. Mr. Mayben said that he might be able to use the cemetery as a test spot for a new piece of computer survey equipment that his office was needing to try out. The equipment could take pictures of certain marked spots then when the information was fed into a computer it would plot the area. The crew were able to use the cemetery as a test area and when they were finished they presented Raymond with a detailed map of the cemetery.

The boys who workedon this project will never forget the excitement of finding a hidden grave marker in the brush as they cleared away the undergrowth, nor will they forget that feeling of sadness they felt as they read the markers realizing that most were children of one family. Children that had died at such a very young age. They had a feeling of the grief and pain that those parents must have felt each time they laid a child to rest. It was then they realized just how hard life must have been a century ago. What impressed them most was that here, where they live-right here in Wills Point Texas, history and events of the past took on a whole new meaning for those who participated in the clean up effort. They now realize that people do not have to be famous to be a part of history; they only had to have lived to be part of history. The project took many long hours to complete but is left everyone with a sense of price for what they had accomplished. It also left them with a sense of sadness knowing that the cemetery will probably grow up once again and the people there will be forgotten by ost. This time their names will become part of history recorded in this book and in the lives of those who volunteered at the Fairview Cemetery.