Lamar County/Silver Cross Cemetery, Paris, Lamar County, TX

Silver Cross Cemetery is located on Farm Market 195 less than a mile from the intersection of Farm Market Road 195 and Loop 286 on the left side of the road going northeast. It is in Block 32 of the Lamar County Road Map produced by American Drafting and Services revised December 1993. This cemetery is sometimes called the county pauper graveyard. It is a county cemetery provided for those who have no funds for burial. It has gone from use to non use frequently and no records of burials have been located that were kept by the county.

GPS Coordinates are 33° 40' 56.5020'' N, 95° 31' 14.5283'' W. (33.68236168031361 Latitude and -95.520702 Longitude)

In 1992 a group of postal workers cleaned the cemetery and a state highway sign was erected to mark its position. It is a part of the Wesley Askins Survey, Abstract #7 and deeded from P. M. Chisum to Lamar Co., on 30 Sep 1895, recorded in Deed Record Book 79, page 335: [this could be citing the Warranty Deed Book and not the general land deed book] 'Know all men by these presents, that we, P. M. Chisum and Angie W. Chisum, husband and wife, of the County of Lamar and State of Texas, for an in consideration of $120.00 to us in hand paid by Lamar County (the receipt whereof is hereby acknowledged) have granted, sold and conveyed, and do by these presents Grant, Bargain, Sell and Convey, unto the said Lamar County and to its successors or assigns forever, the following described tract or parcel of land situated in the County of Lamar and State of Texas, and described as follows; a part of the Wesley Askins Survey and a part of an eleven acre tract deeded by the Sheriff of Lamar County to P. M. Chisum on the 5th day of December A.D. 1889, and situated about 2 1/2 miles NE from Paris, Texas and begins on a small hickory tree marked two blazes on the south side of the Pine Bluff Road thence north 980 feet a stake the NE corner of said 11 acre tract thence West with the north boundary line of said tract 267 feet to the NE corner of a 5 acre lot this day deeded to the city of Paris, thence south with the east boundary line of said City 5 acres 980 to a stake the City's SE corner thence East 267 to the beginning. Contains 6 acres, and it is hereby specially agreed and stipulated that a street or passway 40 feet wide off of the south side of the above conveyed tract shall be opened up and kept open for a public passway to the property. [drawing shown] To have and to hold the above... witness our hands this 30th day of September A.D. 1895 [signed] P. M. Chisum and Angie Chisum. The State of Texas, County of Lamar, before me J. W. Wright a notary public... etc.'

The following was provided by Robert Groves, the book from which the photo copy was made is not stated but is believed to be from the Commissioner Court Minutes, '[page 77]... Be it remembered that on this the 18th day of October [the year 1895 appears in the previous entry] there was begun and held at the court house of the said county in the City of Paris a special term of the Commissioners Court present the honorable J. C. Hunt, Co. Judge presiding and T. J. Vansant, J. R. O'Connor, J. K. Pally? and J. B. Nixon, Commissioners when court was conveyed in due form and among other matters the following proceedings were had- Purchase of land for Graveyard- The Court having considered the report of the Committee appointed to select land for a paupers graveyard and the proposition submitted by P. M. Chisum for the sale of land for that purpose it is ordered that the proposal of said Chisum for the sale to Lamar County of Six Acres of land and the same is hereby accepted and it is further ordered that when said Chisum had furnished to Lamar County a complete and satisfactory abstract of his title together with a deed of General Warrant to Lamar County properly executed and when the same has been approved and accepted for Lamar County by the Lamar County Judge the Clerk of this court shall issue his draft upon the General County fund for the sum of one hundred and twenty dollars in full payment for said 6 acres of land and thereupon the forgoing minutes having been read and approved the court was adjourned. Signed J. C. Hunt, County Judge.'

Other deed records are found in Book 98, page 456: 'Know all men by these presents, that we, P. M. Chisum and Angie W. Chisum, husband and wife, of the County of Lamar and State of Texas, for an in consideration of $100.00 to us in hand paid by the City of Paris, the receipt whereof is hereby acknowledged, have granted, sold and conveyed, and do by these presents Grant, Bargain, Sell and Convey, unto the said City of Paris, and to its successors or heirs or assigns forever, the following described tract or parcel of land situated in the County of Lamar and State of Texas, and described as follows; a part of the headright of Wesley Askins and situated about 2 1/2 miles NE from the City of Paris and part of an eleven acre tract deed by the Sheriff of Lamar County on the 5th day of December A.D. 1889. Beginning at a stake from which a black oak marked X ___? East 1/2 poles, thence East 222 1/2 feet a stake. Thence North 980 feet to a stake in the north boundary line of said Eleven acre tract. Thence West 222 1/3 feet to a stake from which a Red oak marked X bears West 1/2 poles. The NW corner of said 11 acre tract. Thence South 980 feet to the beginning, containing 5 acres, and said is hereby specially agreed and stipulated that a street or passway 40 feet wide off of the south side of the above conveyed tract shall be opened up and kept open for a public passway to the property. To have and to hold the above... etc... Witness our hands, this 30th day of September A.D. 1895, signed P. M. Chisum and Angie W. Chisum... before me, J. W. Wright, Notary Public, etc... 30th September 1895.'

From a public survey given by Robert Groves; 'Field Notes: Situated about 3 miles east from the City of Paris, Lamar County Texas: being a part of the Wesley Askins Survey, Abstract # 7; and being a part, of the property described in a Deed from P. M. Chisum and wife to Lamar County, dated September 30, 1895, recorded in Volume 79, Page 335, Lamar County Deed Records. Beginning at an old fence corner found and iron pin set for corner at the Northwest corner of said Lamar County Tract; Thence North 89 degrees 39 minutes East along an old line of fence posts, 272.1 feet to an old fence corner found and iron pin set for corner at the Northeast corner of said Lamar County Tract; Thence South along an old fence line, 884.8 feet to an iron pin set for corner; Thence South 50 degrees 39 minutes West along the Northwest boundary line of F. M. Highway No. 195, 99.6 feet to an iron pin set for corner; Thence South 88 degrees 59 minutes West alone a fence line, 195.1 feet to an old fence corner found and iron pin set for corner at the Southwest corner of said Lamar County Tract; Thence North along an old fence line, 949.8 feet to the place of beginning containing 5.87 acres of land. I, Mike S. Wright, do hereby certify that the field notes herein truly and correctly represent a survey made by me, on the ground and completed April 20, 1984. State of Texas Mike S. Wright 2103 Registered Public Surveyor etc..'

THE PARIS NEWS, Sunday, June 19, 1994: 'Cemetery Upkeep, Paris Moves to Help; Lamar County Waits', by Sherrie Langston- 'While the city of Paris has committed to help pay cleanup cost at a jointly owned cemetery, Lamar County commissioners want to wait. Called Silver Cross Cemetery, the 11-acre site is also known as the county cemetery or the pauper's graveyard. Commissioners voted last week to have the property surveyed before accepting a proposal to clear the area of weeds, wild-flowers and brush. Robert Groves of Reno, who has worked to clean up Union Grove and Moore Springs cemeteries, approached city and county leaders about paying Nip Whiteley to work on Silver Cross. Whitely has maintained local burial sites in the area for a number of years, Groves said. In a June 14 letter to Whitely city manager Mike Malone wrote the city agrees to pay $500 for half the cost of the initial cleanup and commits to a 'proportionate share of any poison or other needed material used.' The letter further obligated the city to pay a share of $250 annually plus supplies to continue maintenance through next year. Commissioners want to wait until survey results are in before acting on the maintenance costs. In late 1987, Lamar County jail inmates cut weeds, pulled up bushes, raked leaves and chopped limbs. In November 1992, a group of postal workers spent time cleaning the graveyard. Precinct 1 Commissioner Troy Owens has questioned the name Silver Cross Cemetery. 'It's always been called Lamar County Pauper's Graveyard,' he said. There is evidence the name Silver Cross has been in use for a number of years. A death certificate dated August 1984 states Silver Cross Cemetery as the burial site. Marcus Roden said when he began working at the funeral home in 1959, 'My dad knew it as Silver Cross and my grandfather did, too. I don't know who named it, but it stuck.' The cemetery's origin is traced back to 1895 when P. M. and Angie Chisum sold six acres to the county for $120 and five acres to the city for $100. While a complete account of who is buried there isn't available, local researchers have identified a number of gravesites. Virgil Sampson, a man hanged here in May 1921 for grabbing a 14-year-old girl near Honey Grove, is buried there, as are child who died in 1961 from heart and stomach problems and a Vietnam War veteran who died in 1982. The most recent burial was in November. A small metal marker near the chain-link fence marks the grave. The dates and names on other tombstones have become illegible over the years. A concrete monument stands atop one grave while stones litter an area nearby. County records indicate local funeral homes billed the county $235.50 for 'pauper burials' in July, September and October 1926. In 1900, the county paid $5 for each burial.'

From THE PARIS NEWS, 3 Jun 1954, 'Backward Glances,' by A. W. Neville: 'Shallow Graves Caused Protest- Many years ago the city had to bury persons who were classed as paupers, having no relatives to do that final service. East of the Odd Fellows Cemetery the city owned a small piece of ground that was used for that purpose. It had no care and was covered by grass, weeds and underbrush. In 1895 a citizen living east of this ground told the council that the county was burying paupers there, that the graves were so shallow as to be a threat to sanitation, and he asked that burials there be discontinued. Later that year a committee reported that 11 acres about two miles northeast of the public square could be bought from P. M. Chisum for $20 an acre, and that the county would pay for six acres if the city would pay for the other five acres, the ground to be used for pauper burials. The council decided to buy, but by a close vote, 4 to 3, one alderman being absent. The council at this same session had a petition signed by a number, of citizens, asking that future burials in the old cemetery on the hill in northwest Paris be prohibited, and the petition was 'received and filed,' meaning that no action was taken and that it was pigeonholed. The council did not forbid burials there because occasionally a descendant of some oldtimer buried there died and the family wished the body to be laid beside those buried there in other years. The Old Cemetery, which had been given by George Wright to the city for a burial ground before Evergreen Cemetery was established, was at that time almost in the condition of the pauper burial ground. Some years later, while Ed McCuistion was mayor, the graveyard was made a part of the parks system, was cleared of undergrowth and has since [1954] been kept in fairly decent condition.'

THE PARIS NEWS, 22 Aug 1938, 'Backward Glances,' by A. W. Neville, 'City Bought Five-Acre Burial Plot-- Cemetery Near Pine Bluff Street was Causing Complaint So Its Use was Abandoned-- Good many years ago the city had a plot of ground east of the Odd Fellows cemetery, in which person whose burial had to be paid for by the city were laid to rest. There was no attempt made to keep it in any condition other than that provided by nature- grass and weeds and undergrowth were rank and graves were dug haphazard with no regard to regularity in spacing or conserving of room for future burials. In April 1895, E. P. Scott better known as (Red) because of his flaming hair, a lawyer, addressed the city council and asked that two practices be stopped- that persons for whose burial the county was liable were being buried in the comparatively small plot, and that some burials were being made in graves so shallow that it created a nuisance. Scott's home was east of this burial ground. At a later meeting the city marshal was instructed to notify the county that no burials were to be made in that place except those ordered by the city. I do not know where county burials were made previous to that time, but the county had been having to bury paupers ever since its organization as a county. Apparently the alderman, or some of them, concluded the burying ground was about filled and was too near some private property to continue its use. A report was made to the city council in September, 1895, that an option had been secured on 11 acres of land northeast of Paris, about two miles from the public square, for $20 an acre and that Lamar county had agreed to take six acres of the tract at that price if the city would take the balance. The council decided to do this though by a narrow margin, the vote being 4 to 3. At this same meeting there was presented to the council a petition from a number of residents, asking that no more burials be permitted in what was known as the Old Grave Yard on North Robinson (Sixteenth) street. This was read and the record says, 'received and filed.' October 28 the council ordered a warrant drawn in favor of P. M. Chisum for $100 to pay for the city's five acres, and from that time it was used as a burying place for persons who had no none to provide for them. I presume the county also paid its part for the remaining six acres. The burials in Old Grave Yard were not prohibited, because many pioneers are buried there and occasionally one of their descendants passes and the family wishes the body to be laid near the older members of the clan. So burials are still made here though they are infrequent, and the place is tended and kept slightly by the city's park department.'

In 1994, Robert Groves was negotiating with both the city and county to maintain this burial ground. When recorded by Ron Brothers in 1993 there were only 3 markers present. The oldest known burial is that of R. J. Sikes who died 12 Feb 1889 and is in an unmarked grave. Most of the information on this cemetery was supplied by Elizabeth Booth in 1970. There are 43 recorded burials.

THE PARIS NEWS, Sunday, Dec. 31, 1995. 'THE FAMILY TREE... Recently county commissioners appeared to have discovered a long lost cemetery, when in fact it wasn't lost but somehow neglected and ignored by these elected officials. As far as local historians know, what is now called the Lamar County Graveyard is the only known cemetery to have ever been called Silver Cross Cemetery in the county. There are obituaries as early as 1937 and death certificates to verify the name. Currently there are 46 identified burials in the cemetery. If anyone can locate the other Silver Cross cemetery mentioned on the front page of The Paris News on Dec. 17, 1995 located in the 'Fault' and Novice area, we would be very glad to add it to our database.

Silver Cross Cemetery was recorded in 1970 by Elizabeth Booth, noted genealogist and Cemeteriologist of Lamar County. Elizabeth's expertise in cemetery research has been noted in Texas Highways magazine and many others. With her diligence over the years, the cemetery had been cleaned for quite a long time by a chain gang of Lamar County prisoners, accompanied by deputy sheriff L. Z. 'Pete' Wilkerson.
The research of Elizabeth Booth produced the 1895 deed to the pauper cemetery. Later Bob Groves presented it to commissioner's court with a letter requesting that this cemetery be restored in 1990. He met with mountains of rejection and frustration for a couple of years. Bob poured his life into saving this cemetery. Then Commissioner Alan Weatherford came forth with the manpower to accomplish what so many others have tried to do for years.

Commissioner Weatherford's efforts in restoring this cemetery are very much appreciated by all of us. However, the above name people are the ones who deserve credit for perpetuating the records and calling for the preservation of what is left of this cemetery for the future. The county as a whole can now be proud of that cemetery and the people named who are due the credit. Even a pauper deserved a Christian burial which he received at county expense and was recorded in the county records. He (or she) may not have left many 'footprints in the sand', but he definitely left records.

There are 5 acres owned by the City of Paris joining the county owned cemetery supposedly to be used for burials also. It has been reported that the city area is being used for grazing private livestock. In June 1994 the city of Paris agreed to share maintenance costs for the upkeep of the cemetery, but negotiations broke down with county officials ending the city's participation. And that's another story...'

 

 

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