A few weeks ago I stopped at Oakwood Cemetery to take a few photographs. The sky was overcast, the weather balmy, (yes in February) and it just felt like a fitting day to visit a Cemetery. But Oakwood is more than just a place where people are buried. If there is any spot in Denton where one can get a feel for the breadth of the City’s history, it is this small cemetery tucked between a park, a neighborhood and an industrial area in Southeast Denton.
The cemetery was established in 1857 around the same time Denton was founded as the county seat. (There are a few burials that date before that time.) It was known for many years as the City Cemetery but in 1931 the name was changed to the Oakwood Cemetery. Ann Cope provides a little history and some of the local lore surrounding the cemetery in the “Last Resting Place of Denton’s Pioneer Ancestry; Once Neglected, Now Beauty Spot of Grass, Flowers.” (DRC 3 OCT 1930)
In another article, “The Silent City and the Sleepers There” (DRC 10 July 1915) the author provides a well-written, if not sentimental, biography of a few of the many of pioneer settlers and early citizens of Denton buried in the cemetery. The State of Texas designated it a historical site with the placement of a marker in 1982. (Oakwood Marker Dedication)
As I wandered the old part of cemetery I was looking for members of some of the African American families who are interred there. For many years this cemetery was their only option for a burial place in the City. I found the headstone for Henry Maddox and his wife Charlotte, proprietors of the boarding house in Quakertown, and next to that a marker inscribed with the names of Mr. Maddox’s mother and sister. (Providing his mother’s name after she remarried and his sister’s married name, a gold mine for a genealogist!)
I was surprised to see how few headstones are still standing in the old part of the cemetery. The remaining headstones range from unreadable weathered wood markers to elaborate granite monuments. Headstones are easy prey for vandals and the ravages of time. It’s possible that some graves never had a marker. The DRC published an article by Keith Shelton, “Old Graveyard Tells Denton County History” about the vandalism and decay of the headstones.(DRC 14 May 1967 1, DRC 14 May 1967 2)
There are over 4500 people interred at Oakwood Cemetery. If you would like to find out more about Oakwood Cemetery, and other cemeteries in Denton, visit the Genealogy and Local History Department at the Emily Fowler Central Library.
Emily Fowler Central Library