The McCree Cemetery is the final resting place for many of Dallas’ early residents. Photo by Can Türkyilmaz

At the very least, Lake Highlands residents know old McCree Cemetery by its familiar signage visible from a busy neighborhood thoroughfare.

But one local group — in partnership with Preservation Dallas — has been working hard for years to maintain the historical land, uncover its memories and share them.

As part of that effort, the McCree Cemetery organization will begin hosting educational and commemorative events. One slated for this Sunday, March 6 is a grave-marking ceremony for Henry Kyle and John Jackson, men who died in Dallas in the 1800s. Both were soldiers in the War of 1812.

The program will include a brief history of the War of 1812, memorial wreath laying and a salute by volley, organizers say.

“It’s wonderful to welcome people back to the cemetery to learn about the history of some of Dallas’ earliest settlers,” Robin Moss Norcross, president of the McCree Cemetery Association Board of Directors says.“This is one of the most historically significant cemeteries in all of North Texas.”

She adds that many of our City’s founding families, Peters colonists, and residents of Little Egypt are buried here.

“There are wonderful people that made significant contributions we enjoy today in Lake Highlands,” Norcross says.

Founded in 1866, McCree once overlooked a vast swath of prairie and farmland.

Now it’s inside the intersection of Audelia Road and Estate Lane, nestled between an apartment complex and a neighborhood of single-family homes.

Separated into two sections by a fence, white bodies RIP on one side, the remains of Black men, women and children on the other.

A freed slave named Bonner rests on the Black side — he is known to have purchased little pieces of land as he could afford them, and he became a millionaire after Medical City Hospital compensated him for certain parcels. (Hence, Bonner Park, north of Central). Later, founders of Black community Little Egypt added the land for the Black side of the cemetery. Local historians say it was Bonner’s onetime owner, Mahulda Bonner McCree, who donated the first parcel of land for McCree.

Designated a City of Dallas landmark in 2018, the 3-or-so-acre property is recognized under seven of ten possible historic designation criteria, including the historical development, ethnic heritage and cultural characteristics of the city.

As development boomed in the 1950s and 60s, vandals couldn’t resist, a fence went up, which helped just a little. In 2013, frustrated by continued trespassing and destruction, Norcross and other neighborhood residents employed the assistance of Preservation Dallas to help care for the property.

Thanks to them and grants from the B.B. Owen Foundation and others, cemetery restoration, new research and educational/commemorative events such as the one happening this weekend have been possible.

 

The two veterans being honored in this grave marking ceremony have descendants still live in the area today, event organizers say.

Henry Kyle, born in North Carolina in 1796, died in 1881 in Dallas County. Cpl. Kyle served in the War of 1812 at Fort Nelson, Virginia, in the 5th Regiment of the VA Militia (Artillery). He married Elizabeth Pirkey in 1817 and the couple had four children: James W., Sarah Margaret, George R. and Elizabeth A. Kyle accompanied daughters Sarah Dougherty and Elizabeth Foree and their families to Texas in 1860.

John Jackson, born in Tennessee in 1798, died in 1875 in Dallas County. Private Jackson served in the War of 1812 in the Tennessee Militia under Captain Craig. He married Elizabeth Brown in 1822 and the couple had eight children: Andrew, William, James, Mary Jane, Lucy, John, Thomas and Hannah.Jackson and his family came to Texas in 1846 and settled near present-day Garland on a Peters Colony grant.

“This event is first in what the cemetery board hopes are many that help to bring history alive as McCree’s preservation continues,” according to an announcement.

 

The public is invited to attend the event on Sunday, March 6, at 2 p.m. at McCree Cemetery, located just south of Audelia Road and Estate Lane, where attendees can follow McCree Cemetery signs. Seating will be limited, but attendees are welcome to bring lawn chairs.