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Historic all-Black cemetery awarded marker, restoration grant

Stringtown Cemetery in Burnet County

Only 20 of the 70 graves found so far in Stringtown Cemetery near Oatmeal have any identification. The Burnet County Historical Commission was recently awarded a grant that will help with cleanup and restoration of the all-Black burial ground. The group hopes to do most of the research to identify graves and descendants with the help of volunteers. Photo courtesy of BCHC

The Texas Historical Commission recently approved an Undertold Marker for Stringtown Cemetery and a 50/50 matching grant of $15,000 for the Burnet County Historical Commission, which is restoring the all-Black burial ground near Oatmeal. The cemetery dates back to 1877. 

The local commission applied for the marker and grant in November and announced the good news at its regular meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 6. 

The group’s next step is putting together a five- to 10-page history of the cemetery for the Texas Historical Commission, which will use the information for wording on the free marker. 

The THC began the Undertold Marker program in 2006 to address gaps in local history and uses historical marker application fees to pay for the monuments. 

“The people at the state historical commission are really interested in recognizing freedom colony cemeteries and their stories,” said Lela Gore, chair of the Certified Local Government Committee for the BCHC. The committee handles all grant applications for the commission.

Freedom colonies cropped up near small towns with sunset ordinances like Bertram’s, which did not allow Black people in the city limits between sunset and sunrise. The colonies were settled by freed slaves after the Civil War. 

The BCHC will have three years to meet the requirements of the 50/50 grant by restoring Stringtown. That includes clearing brush, cleaning and fixing headstones, and researching family histories and unmarked graves. The cemetery has about 70 graves, 50 of them unmarked, according to a commission survey done in 1982.

The BCHC also plans to fence the property and hopes to set up a cemetery association to take over maintenance and care in the future. 

Once the work is done, the Texas Historical Commission will reimburse the county group $7,500 of the approved $15,000 matching grant. 

Stringtown Cemetery was featured in the February issue of The Picayune Magazine, which is currently in newsstands and mailboxes and on countertops at local businesses. You can also read the story in the digital version of The Picayune at DailyTrib.com.

Anyone with information about descendants of early Burnet settlers buried in Stringtown Cemetery may contact Nichole Ritchie at 512-645-8658. To help establish a cemetery association for Stringtown, call Burnet County Historical Commission Chair Rachel Bryson at 512-876-5600.

suzanne@thepicayune.com