Touring Fort Worth's Buried History

Organization promotes Fort Worth history through cemeteries

By Chris Van Horne
|  Thursday, Mar 15, 2012  |  Updated 3:42 PM CDT
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Hebrew Rest Cemetery next door to John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth is one of several cemeteries offering spring break tours to help people learn local history.

Chris Van Horne, NBC 5 News

Hebrew Rest Cemetery next door to John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth is one of several cemeteries offering spring break tours to help people learn local history.

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When you think spring break activities, you think the zoo, theme parks and vacations. What you probably don't think of is cemeteries. But that's how one organization in Fort Worth hoped people would spend this week, visiting cemeteries to learn local history.

"Surprisingly it's a cemetery, but it brings history to life," said Hollace Weiner, an archivist for Beth-El Congregation.

Weiner is no stranger to Hebrew Rest Cemetery located next to John Peter Smith Hospital. Weiner leads tours through the cemetery on a regular basis, and she sees nothing strange about spending part of spring break talking about the dead.

"I see it as something exciting because there's art on the stones, there's fabulous stories about the people who are buried here," Weiner said.

People like Jacob Samuels, a Jewish Confederate soldier, and a man named Abraham Lincoln Neiman, better known as Al and the co-founder of Neiman Marcus.

Hebrew Rest is one of 11 cemeteries hosting Historic Fort Worth's buried history tour. It's a tour designed to share the tales of those who built the city, famous or otherwise.

Craig Goldman only recently learned about his own family history buried here. His great-great grandfather Ike Gronsky who helped run a horse team for the T&P Railroad from Fort Worth to El Paso.

"We just found this out recently and it's been fascinating to research and know the history of my own family," Goldman said. He thinks the tour is a great idea. "It's a fascinating part of Fort Worth history."

And even those who know that history well keep making discoveries.

"Every time I show someone the cemetery, they show me something I haven't seen before," Weiner said.

As they're hoping more people see and learn from something they usually walk past.

"History comes alive when you walk in here," she said.

Most of the tour is self-guided, with books available for purchase from Historic Fort Worth. There's even a competition for children eight years and younger who visit at least eight of the cemeteries.

More: Spring Break Tour - Fort Worth's Buried History

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