The Washington DC-based American Cultural Resources Association honored the McCree Cemetery Association with their Private Industry Award earlier this month in Indianapolis. The group advocates for protecting historic treasures which tell our nation’s story and connect us to our past.
McCree Cemetery is a 2.6-acre plot founded in 1866 by local families amidst farmland in the heart of Lake Highlands. Located south of Estate Lane and east of Audelia, the cemetery has been hidden and largely unknown to many neighbors, save the ne’er-do-wells who snuck in over the years to topple graves and steal keepsakes. Several organizations and individuals have recently banded together to document, restore and preserve the fascinating history represented by each grave and each family.
Segregation was an unfortunate part of death, as it was part of life, during the days of Reconstruction and Jim Crow, and the eastern half of McCree Cemetery was used to bury white residents, while the western half was used to bury Black residents from the nearby Freedman’s town called Little Egypt. In fact, the western half was called Little Egypt Cemetery by the descendants who lovingly recalled family members interred there.
In 2015, Richland College professors Tim Sullivan and Clive Siegle mentored honors students who interviewed multiple members of the McCoy family about their life in Little Egypt. Information collected was later used in meticulous restoration and mapping of the area.
The City of Dallas designated McCree Cemetery as a historic landmark in 2018, and Preservation Dallas placed it on their Endangered List. Mark Willis documented damage on the site using drone technology in 2019, and volunteers from Versar, Inc. and Richland College began cleanup work that year. Repairs included locating broken stones beneath underbrush, then resetting and leveling them on new foundations.
Students were trained in the use of D/2 biological solution to remove stains caused by mold, mildew, algae, lichens and air pollutants, and they’ve spent hundreds of hours restoring the markers to readable condition. Cemeteries of Dallas now includes McCree on their historic fall tour, and a War of 1812 dedication was recently held in honor of two veterans buried there.
This year, Guerin Honeycutt cleaned up the Little Egypt Cemetery and developed signage for his Eagle Scout service project, and descendants of Little Egypt hosted another cleanup day as they gathered for the unveiling of a historic marker. Jackson Clemmons’s Eagle project was to remove 100 feet of non-historic fencing which divided the two cemeteries.
Oh, and one point of trivia: Multiple members of the Jackson family are buried in McCree Cemetery after making an impact on Lake Highlands. Ardelia Ellen Jackson Chenault West’s family crafted a homeplace at the southwest corner of what is now Audelia Road and Walnut Street near Richland College. Her father and her second husband, John West, built a grocery store at what is now Audelia and Forest Lane where Big Mama’s Chicken and Waffles sits today. Nearby was a small country school where Ardelia worked as a teacher. They named the community for her, but somewhere along the way the spelling was corrupted. You guessed it: It’s now Audelia Road, Audelia Library and so on.
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