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First Integrated Graveyard In Dallas County Honored

CEDAR HILL (CBSDFW.COM) – Hidden in a thicket of trees in Cedar Hill lies a 156-year-old graveyard.

Buried there are the victims of a tornado a newspaper at the time described as so violent they "literally swept the village of Cedar Hill from the face of the earth."

But, by the beginning of this century, the city had lost track of it.

"They knew the cemetery was here, and they started researching deed records," said Patty Bushart, a board trustee for the Cedar Hill Museum of History.  "They just tromped around out here, and with the information they had, they were able to locate it."

The cemetery sits on the site of the former Cedar Mountain Methodist church, which was destroyed by the twister.

An old hog wire fence once meant to keep out livestock has imbedded itself in the trees, and unmarked stones mark the spots, where each grave is likely located.

"They've been more or less in the same spot for 156 years," said Bushart.

It's the presence of one unnamed individual, though, that makes this spot so special.

The Dallas Times Herald in 1856 listed her as simply "a negro woman."

"This was before the Civil War so it's significant that they were all buried at the site at the same time," said Bushart.  "It's the first integrated graveyard in south Dallas County."

The tornado also reportedly destroyed all but two structures in the town, forcing survivors to rebuild.

It is a moment in time the state finally acknowledged just last week with a historical plaque.

Named "Crawford's Tornado Graveyard" after the Methodist pastor who first donated the land for an "indiscriminate" graveyard, the spot will now be preserved by the city as a reminder of its history.

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