Rockford Cemetery, Lamar County, Texas
LOCATION: Rockford Cemetery is located in the southeast quadrant of the county in the Rockford community about 4 miles south of Biardstown on Farm Market Road 1497. It is in Block 57 of the Lamar County Road Map produced by American Drafting and Services revised December 1993. It should not be confused with Rocky Ford Cemetery near Roxton. DIRECTIONS: From Loop 286 SE, turn south onto FM 1497. Stay on FM 1497 for about 13 miles. Cemetery is on the right beside Rockford Church. GPS COORDINATES: 33 ° 29 ' 34.6056 " N , -95 ° 29 ' 1.2084 " W
( 33.492946 Latitude and -95.483669 Longitude)
OLDEST KNOWN BURIAL: The oldest inscribed grave is that of Cora Ann Johnson who died 31 Aug 1872 NUMBER OF GRAVES: The cemetery contains 604 graves including the unknowns. (Sep 2014) SIGNS/MARKERS: There is a highway sign and a cemetery sign as you turn in the driveway to the cemetery.
Historic Texas Cemetery: No Texas Historical Commission Marker: Yes (1972)
The following is the text on the Texas Historical Marker in the cemetery: Rockford Church and Cemetery - Before April 1864 church was founded by Cumberland Presbyterians, with the Rev. W. W. Havanaugh as pastor. Congregation affiliated in 1926 with Presbyterian Church, U.S.A.; and in 1958 was dissolved. Cemetery was opened as early as 1874; has more than 1,000 graves. (1972)
LAST ENUMERATION: The cemetery was recorded in November 1992 by Elizabeth House, Ruth Renfro and Roberta Woods. ADD'L INFORMATION: The following is contained in the files of the Texas Historical Commission concerning the marker placed there: Information taken from a letter to Mr. Eugene Bray, Chairman of the Lamar County Historical Survey Committee from Mrs. Virginia Mounce, Archivist, Trinity University, The University in the Sun, 715 Stadium Drive, San Antonio, Texas 78212
The Presbyterian Archives, March 15, 1971
I am able to supply you with the following information concerning the Rockyford Presbyterian Church. It was organized sometime in early 1864 and came under the care of the Presbytery of Red River of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church on April 22, 1964. The minutes of the presbytery read:
'A newly organized congregation named Rockford prays through the Rev. W. W. Havanaugh to be received under care of this Presbytery. On motion said petition was granted.' Vol. 1, p. 255.
From the reference to W. W. Havanaugh, I assume that he organized the congregation.
The congregation went by the name Rockford until 1872. Thereafter it used the name Rockyford.
We have in our collection the minutes of Red River Presbytery from 1842 until 1873, and the minutes of the church session of Rockyford from 1880 until 1955. There is a gap from 1875 until 1880 for which I have been unable to find a list of ministers. Otherwise here is the list: 1864--W. W. Havanaugh; 1866--Anthony Travelstead; 1869--Benj. Spencer; ?; ?; ?; 1880--E. D. Dysart; 1883--G. M. Simpson; 1885--John H. Day; 1887--Ben Fuller; 1888--J. H. McKnight; 1889-90--John H. Day; 1891--Ben Fuller; 1892-93--J. H. McKnight; 1894--T. S. Causey; 1895--A. R. McClelland; 1896--F. L. Rogers; 1897--J. B. Kerr; 1898--R. D. Joiner; 1898-99--Wesley D. Thompson; 1899-1902--J. J. Williams; 1903--vacant; 1904--J. J. Williams; 1905--J. J. Williams; 1906--Shelby H. Renfro; 1907--T. W. Davidson; 1908-1909--George A. Crane; 1910--vacant; 1911--Rev. Grimes; 1912-1914--vacant; 1915--W. D. Johns; 1016--Thomas A. Rockett; 1017--W. D. Johns; 1918--vacant; 1919--R. A. Walker; 1920--M. F. Allen; 1921-26--R. M. Walker; 1927-1952--vacant; 1952-1956--Robert S. Richardson; 1956-1958--vacant
In 1906, the Cumberland Presbyterian Church merged with the Presbyterian Church in the U.S. A. Although there was a good deal of opposition to the merger, and in fact, part of the Cumberland Church maintained its separate existence, the Rockyford congregation became part of the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A. There is a note in the session records written in 1944 by J. M. Barr, an elder and clerk of the session at the time of the merger. He says that the session learned that the Rev. S. H. Renfro, an ex-Confederate soldier, was planning to give a 'red hot anti-union sermon.' According to Barr, he was authorized by the session to head off the sermon, and evidently, he did.
From 1906 until its dissolution in 1958, Rockyford Church was under the care of Paris Presbytery. Its membership varied from a low of three members in 1914, to a high of 85 in 1925. When it was dissolved, it had 30 members.
For the most part of its existence, Rockyford only had preaching once a month. This was typical of rural churches founded by the Cumberland Presbyterian Church. It was due to a lack of enough pastors, some men serving part time in three or four churches.
The value of the church property in 1894 is listed as $200.00 in the minutes of the General Assembly of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church. In 1900, the present building was constructed at a cost of $1,500. In 1908, the session minutes record that 'a manse has been built at Biardstown costing $800, the congregation assuming all responsibility.'
I have not been able to find any references to the cemetery.
The first Sunday School at Rockyford was organized in 1869. It had five officers, 16 teachers, 45 pupils, and no library. (Red River Presbytery minutes, Vol. 1, p. 313) This was a union Sunday School, and was later superseded by one whose members belonged to the Cumberland Church only.
For further information on the church's history, I would suggest that you contact the Presbyterian Historical Society, 425 Lombard St., Philadelphia, PA. 19147, and Dr. Thomas H. Campbell, Historical Library and Archives, Memphis Theological Seminary, 168 East Parkway South, Memphis, Tennessee 38104.
Also, I have come across several references to material that might be available at the University of Texas at Austin. These are:
Neville, A.W. The History of Lamar County. Paris, The North Texas Publishing Company, c. 1931.
Irvine, Laura J. 'History of Lamar County, Texas' in American Sketch Book V, pp. 234-246.
and Vanderburg, Marshall. The Presbyterians in the Northeast Texas to 1920. A Master of Arts thesis written at U.T., Aug., 1940.
The last book, by Vanderburg, would probably contain the most valuable material. It has a chapter on Rockyford Church, and the author may have had access to material that is not available from our collection.
A list of the charter members of the congregation is almost impossible to obtain unless the original session minutes book (1864-1879) is still extant. I have come across several references to it in the Presbytery of Red River minutes. Perhaps the Presbyterian Historical Society would know if it still exists, and if so where.
Our records do not show who currently owns the property. I have written the stated clerk of Trinity Presbytery, the successor to Paris Presbytery, and I am enclosing a carbon copy of that letter. I will let you know as soon as he replies. You might check with the Lamar County Courthouse.
Also, I am enclosing two articles on how to write a church history, one from the Presbyterian Historical Society, and the other from the Rev. Kenneth Hoff.
Let me know if I can be of any further assistance.
(Mrs. ) Virginia Mounce, Archivist.
These cemetery photos are used with permission from Mary Hall Ferguson.
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