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Pastor seeks to identify unmarked graves in Marble Falls Cemetery

Pastor George Perry at Marble Falls Cemetery

The Rev. George Perry of St. Frederick’s Baptist Church walks the back part of the Marble Falls City Cemetery, which was a gift to the church and has hundreds of unmarked graves, including of those who died in slavery. Perry and other residents want to identify every person buried in that portion but need help from longtime residents. Staff photo by Jennifer Fierro

The Rev. George Perry of St. Frederick’s Baptist Church in Marble Falls walks a specific part of the city’s cemetery twice a month praying for answers. Located about 150 yards from the entrance on Avenue N, the area has no headstones and is not bordered but could contain hundreds of unmarked graves.

“Who are you? Where did you come from?” Perry asks in his prayers as he walks. 

He seeks answers through research, spending countless hours reading books and microfilm and talking to people with roots in the community.

He has learned that many of the people buried in that location were prisoners who worked at Granite Mountain in the late 19th century. They lived in a cave-turned-jail cell near the worksite where they carved out the granite blocks used to build the state Capitol in Austin. Others are believed to be slaves who died working cotton and other farms in the area. 

“This is the Black portion of the cemetery,” Perry said on a recent fall morning walk. “Why aren’t they marked? As I go on, new questions come to my mind. How were the conditions? Have things really changed?”

Not everyone buried in that section is Black, Perry said.

“I don’t care if they’re yellow, red, black, or white, we all need to be remembered,” he continued. 

The Marble Falls Cemetery was founded in 1860 and came under the city’s direction in 1937. About four years ago, the city’s Parks and Recreation Department hired a company to create an online map of the roads and gravesites. The map revealed a large number of unmarked graves in the portion of the cemetery that St. Frederick’s bought. With that discovery, the Parks and Recreation Department contacted Perry for help identifying those buried in the unmarked graves.

Perry knew the task of identifying the unidentified in the cemetery was a big ask. He and other church leaders accepted the project anyway.

Somewhere among the unmarked graves are bodies that were moved by the Lower Colorado River Authority from a cemetery in Smithwick to the Marble Falls Cemetery sometime before 1941. Others are believed to be children who died from small pox around the turn of the 20th century. 

Church leaders plan to erect plaques to honor those who died from small pox but need more information before making the purchases, Perry said. 

“We can put them by the heads if families let us know,” he said. “I’m not concerned about exact dates, but we’d like to know what family they belong to.”

The project is important to Perry and members of the Marble Falls Cemetery committee.

“It’s to better understand who we are and why we react the way we do, why we think the way we do,” committee member Jane Knapik said. “We got that from our ancestors. My personal opinion and belief is everyone deserves to have their name known. I’d like to know the names of every person buried in that cemetery.”

Perry’s interest is historical.

“Because our children need to know who is there,” he said. “We need to show respect for those who are gone. We don’t want the Marble Falls Cemetery to start looking like some of the others I’ve run across that haven’t been kept up.”

Anyone who can help identify the unmarked graves may contact Perry at St. Frederick’s Baptist Church, 301 Avenue N in Marble Falls, or by calling the church office at 830-693-4499. 

“Anybody who has any information, any history books, scrapbooks, newspaper articles, pictures,” he said. “I’m looking for anything, any information. Verbal through a family member, documentation that can be copied.”

Documents are preferred, he said.  

“That way, we can keep accurate records,” he continued. “There are missing names and missing plaques. There are 50 who are unmarked in any kind of way. I know there’s more than that because of the prisoners. There are native Marble Falls folks there without a marker. We’d like to mark each and every one.” 

jfierro@thepicayune.com