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African American Cemetery Bulldozed In Ellis County

ELLIS CO. (CBSDFW.COM) - It's a small parcel of land sitting between the Ellis County towns of Italy and Avalon.

St. Mary cemetery sits across the road from Hughes Cemetery.  The road is a century old demarcation line, dividing cemeteries by race and ethnicity.

St. Mary is an African American cemetery, developed in the late 1800's.  Today, the headstones are overwhelmed by tall weeds fed by recent rains.  "We come out here to cut the lawn every month", Curtis Kirby said.

It was last Saturday, when Kirby arrived at St. Mary to cut the grass, when he saw a shocking scene.  "They were just gone", he said.  A section of the cemetery had disappeared.  A muddy swath had been cleared for the development of a road.  The cemetery's barbed wire fence, tall shrubbery and any sign of grave markings in the western edge of the cemetery were gone.

All that was left was the beginning of a developed road.  "Where I'm standing now is on top of graves", Elmerine Bell outlined as she walked over the dirt road.  Bell said work crews ignored or disregarded the cemetery boundary line, and bulldozed an area where bodies have laid for generations. "They have the road constructed over graves.  They removed headstones that we know are gone", she said.

Bell points to  Creek Land and Cattle LLC, the owner of several hundred acres of land adjacent to St. Mary Cemetery.

The owner of the firm Blair Dance has reportedly said he was unaware the development of the road encroached onto cemetery land.  The Ellis County Sheriff's Department is investigating.

Bell produced personal photographs of the cemetery, and the section that has been plowed under.  The images show headstones, trees and a barbed wire fence that is deemed as the boundary for the cemetery.  "Where did all that go?", she asks.  "Something needs to be done.  This isn't right".

(Copyright 2012 KTVT, CBSDFW.COM, CBS Local.  All Rights Reserved.)

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