Hart Cemetery, Lamar County, TX
THE PARIS NEWS, Thursday, July 29, 1999, page 4B: '(Picture Caption) Jim Hamilton stands near the area of three graves on former family-owned land now bulldozed for a car wash. Graves present dilemma - by Cherie Bell. Years ago farm families buried their own, without filing records with the county or marking graves with tombstones. So it was in the Sumner community earlier this century when on five acres owned by John Vernon Hamilton, relatives of his wife, Mae Hart, were buried in an area just off Farm to Market 79. Old timers still living in the area who remember Hamilton and Hart - more clearly than actual descendants - called attention to the property now annexed into Paris and bulldozed for a car wash. Hamilton's grandson, Jim, confirmed at least three relatives of Mae Hart, his step-grandmother, were buried on the property and remain there today. The story is a mystery clouded in vague recollections with moments of certainty, but both family of J. V. Hamilton and neighbors from as far back as the 1940s and '50s recall Mae Hart as a gypsy, one who cared for either ex-husbands or her parents even after death. No one is absolutely sure who is buried on the land, but many say the deceased were never moved to another final resting spot. 'Seemed like it was her ex-husband I don't know exactly what it was. It was some of her kinfolks. I know one of them was an ex-husband,' Jim said. Mrs. Hart had married his grandfather years after the graves. Jim and his siblings last saw the graves as children. But he is certain the area bulldozed for a car wash encompasses the graves. 'I can't pinpoint exactly, but I can get close,' he said, studying the terrain before dusk Wednesday. When he was younger, his father bought the land and sold it in the 1980s. Jim's sister, Brenda Bivens, also visited the site Wednesday to show where the graves used to be, again pointing to area bulldozed. 'It was our step-grandmother's ex-husband and father, maybe two ex-husbands and father. Their names were Hart,' she said. She was emphatic the graves were never removed. 'No, they are still here. I am certain of that,' she said. 'There were three people there,' she said, rethinking all three were named Hart and perhaps one was a son of Mae Hart. Verdell Holcomb, age 73, has lived in the Hopewell community her entire life. She recalled gravesites on the property in the 1940s and '50s. 'I just remember them (family) burying them there and building little houses over them,' she said. 'They used to have these little houses built over the graves,' she said, adding, 'They rotted away.' 'They were buried in the front yard from the old house,' she said, as years later the Hamiltons built another house away from the graves and demolished the first home near the graves. Richard McCord, age 80, remembered a John and Mae Hart and that John had died. 'My wife carried food for their family when Mr. Hart was buried,' McCord said. 'They were the last people out in that country who used a wagon and team,' he said. Mrs. Hart, he said, 'She told fortunes.' Mrs. Hart married J. V. Hamilton, but McCord thought Mrs. Hart moved her first husband's grave from the property, as he said, 'There is nobody buried there now.' 'We know that he was the only one buried there and he was moved. I know that for sure.' A day after his statements, McCord referred another neighbor whose memory he trusted more than his own. Developing unmarked graves is very common. 'It happens all the time everywhere in the state,' Mark Denton, director of the state and federal review section of the archeology division of Texas Historical Commission, said. According to state penal code and state cemetery code, desecration of graves is against the law, even unmarked and unrecorded family plots. But Denton said, 'The laws are not well written and enforced very often.' Current property owners risk liability to build atop suspected gravesites as family descendants could take the issue to court. Lamar County Judge Chuck Superville researched Texas law and found when a gravesite is determined, the county judge has the authority to stop property development and order graves removed and reburied in a cemetery. Sgt. Shane Boatwright with Paris Police Department, called by a neighbor of the former Hamilton homestead, continues to investigate for graves though he is unclear of contradictory information. Jim Hamilton, though, is certain, as he said three graves are on the property, and 'They're still there.' Mrs. Bivens, reluctant to be interviewed for the story, recalled Mae Hart frequently leaving fresh flowers and food at the gravesite. Through the years, Hamilton and Hart died along with the parents of Jim and his sister. Both siblings assured no family members who could solve the mystery are alive today. Helen Reaves purchased the property in the mid 1980s and claimed no knowledge of gravesites as she recently sold to Marshall Sugg who is developing the land for a car wash. Sugg continues to develop the property for a car wash, though he expressed frustration by perpetual rumors of gravesites existing or removed, as he said, 'No one really knows.'
THE PARIS NEWS, Friday, August 6, 1999, page 1: '(Picture Caption) Flowers on stakes used to mark gravesites at the site where a car wash is to be built on Farm-to-Market 79 rest in the foreground as construction continues in the area. The flowers had been pulled up and moved. Photo by Dan Sansing / Staff - Police close graves probe - By Cherie Bell - The Paris News - An investigation into grave sites rumored on land bulldozed for a car wash has been closed by Paris Police Department. Property along Farm to Market 79, territory recently annexed into Paris, has been investigated by Sgt. Shane Boatwright who confirmed Thursday the case has been closed and no criminal charges will be filed, a determination made after consulting with Lamar County Attorney's office. Several residents of the Sumner community said as many as three family members of Mae Hart, who resided on the property earlier this century, remain buried there. Family descendants of John Vernon Hamilton, a late-in-life husband of Mae Hart, said the three graves remain on the family property. Death records at Lamar County Clerk's office show only one Hart member, Baby Hart, who died in 1930 and was buried in Sumner. Without specific plot records, authorities cannot restrict future property development. The conflict is common throughout Texas, an official with the state historical commission confirmed in a previous article on the possible Hart graves in The Paris News. Though desecration of graves, even unmarked and unrecorded family plots, is against the law, the law is vague and rarely enforced.'
THE PARIS NEWS, Tuesday, August 10, 1999, page 4A: EDITORIAL - 'Let ancestors rest in peace - The controversy about a family gravesite recently bulldozed for a car wash is interesting and disturbing. Calls came to The Paris News last week about a car wash being built on Farm to Market 79 in the Sumner community. Old timers knew of at least three graves that used to front FM 79. Though property was unkept for years, the graves remained - at least in the memories of several long-time neighbors. A reporter with The Paris News located descendants of the former property owner who incidentally are unrelated to the Hart family members buried on the property. Since the strip along FM 79 was annexed into Paris, the police investigated the situation and found no violations of law. In an emotional appeal, a Hart family descendant claimed to have placed markers and flowers on the gravesites. Local authorities including the county judge, city councilman and county commissioner should intervene in this situation, even if temporarily halting private land development. Though no records of deaths and burials on the property exist - except a Baby Hart in 1930 buried in 'Sumner' - too many people, including Hart family members who still reside in Lamar County, are certain of the graves and the location.'
THE PARIS NEWS, Thursday, August 12, 1999, page 1B: 'Hart descendant produces proof of relative's burial - A descendant of the Hart family, whose gravesites are reportedly on a location being developed into a car wash, found a death record confirming home burial. Joey Hart, descendant of J. B. and Mae Hart who for decades lived in the Sumner community on a farm off Farm to Market 79, presented to Paris Police Department and The Paris News a copy of the death record of J. B. Hart. The death record of J. B. Hart from Aug. 11, 1961, verifies 'Family Plot at Home' as the place of interment. Death of the retired farmer at age 69 was by myocardial infarction. Funeral direction and presumably burial was by Gene Roden & Sons. Joey Hart wrote the following note on the death record copy to the newspaper: 'I am tired of the questions of whether these 'graves ever existed.' This is on file with the county clerk's office. Just thought you and Ms. (Cherie) Bell would like to know that they are real and they are there. 'If they were ever moved, there would be records at the courthouse. They have not been moved.' The Paris News requested Lamar County Clerk's Office search Hart family death records specifically for burial in Sumner. Only a death record for a 'Baby Hart' who died in 1930 and buried in Sumner was found. Sgt. Shane Boatwright with Paris Police Department maintained a crime has not been committed and advised Hart to seek a solution through civil court. A petition to move the graves may be considered by the county judge.'
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