Church family headstone. Photo by Carol Toler.

Conservation of McCree Cemetery enters a new phase in August, as crews begin restoring broken and stolen headstones – some more than 100 years old. Preservation Dallas began the project in 2013, securing a $200,000 grant from the B.B. Owen Trust. Texas Cemetery Restoration’s Rusty Brenner, hired to complete the work, has labored in early phases to map the graves.

The 3-acre cemetery, hidden behind vine-covered chain link fences and accessible only by back alleys near Estate Lane and Audelia Road, is a treasure trove of Dallas history. Though many graves are unmarked or faded beyond recognition, others are carved with the names of pioneer families including Church, Goforth, Dixon and Jackson.

“Headstones stand as a silent record of early pioneers who helped settle this area over 100 years ago,” said David Preziosi, executive director of Preservation Dallas. “With so many young families living near this historic site, we felt like this project would afford us the opportunity to recognize an important chapter in Dallas’ history and the many individuals who helped this part of Northeast Dallas thrive.”

Drones were used earlier this year to take aerial images and collect data for 3D mapping of the site, according to Preservation Dallas’ July 2020 newsletter. High resolution models will permit users to “fly” into the cemetery and view the markers. When the restoration is complete, a new round of drone footage will be taken. This work is also helping to identify the many unmarked burials or those whose markers were stolen over time, particularly on the African American side of the cemetery.

McCree Cemetery was established in 1866 and separated into two distinct sections according to the times – one for whites and one for Blacks. The easternmost section holds the graves of freed slaves who settled into Little Egypt at the end of the Civil War. The white section hosts Peter Colonists, war veterans and founding members of Lake Highlands and White Rock-area churches.

Restoration of the markers is expected to be completed by the end of September.

Preservation Dallas is a volunteer-run organization founded in 1972 to preserve and revitalize the city’s buildings, neighborhoods and other historical, architectural and cultural resources. Their advocacy and support include a wide variety of events and tours. You may become a member here, donate here or become a volunteer here.

Drone photo of McCree Cemetery. Courtesy of Preservation Dallas.

Historical marker at McCree Cemetery. Photo by Carol Toler.