Community Leaders, Volunteers Aim to Revitalize Cemetery

Along an unassuming dirt road in Tarrant County, a historic graveyard sits with more than 200 burial sites.

Pastor Bruce Datcher with the Ebenezer Missionary Baptist Church says the cemetery, known as the Handley Hill cemetery, is owned by the church and is more than 100 years old.

It is a historic African American cemetery, he said. Access to it can be made by a trail near the 7100 block of East Rosedale Street.

“There are 273 remains here,” Pastor Datcher told NBC 5. “There are some World War I veterans buried in this facility. There are some former slaves in this community.”

To help upkeep the cemetery grounds, Datcher said they rely on volunteers with the county through a partnership fostered about 20 years ago.

The weeds have not been cut since May, partially due to weather conditions, Datcher said.

“Some was natural occurrences, as well as some was trying to find services such as brush hall operators -- something that could come in because of the height of the grass, it became so tall,” he explained.

Rickey Moore has lived in Fort Worth for most of his life. About a week and a half ago, he and a friend tried twice to find the cemetery.

“An elder person had told him that he [friend] had a family member in this area,” Moore said. “We thought it was just a piece of land with a gate around it. You couldn’t see [any] tombstones, everything was high.”

That’s when Moore took to Facebook and tried to gather more information on who owned the cemetery and if people were interested in cleaning it up.

Two lawn service companies answered the call this past Sunday, including Jumbo’s Lawn Service and Tip The Fade.

William Leslie with Jumbo’s Lawn Service said he has family members buried in other cemeteries that are only partially maintained.

“As a kid, I would have to go out with my mother and help clean up it. When I saw this and the history of our 131 year old cemetery to be in the condition that it’s in, and given the services that I do, there was no question of where I needed to be,” Leslie told NBC 5.

There is another clean-up effort expected to be held Sunday.

Pastor Datcher said the best way the community can help with the revitalization of the cemetery is by putting an end to illegal dumping on the site and vandalism.

“Because of the location of this cemetery, it’s very easy to be discreet in this area,” Datcher said. “Cult rituals have been performed here on this property. I guess if there’s a bright side to this story, the tall grass did maybe deter some of the activities taking place on the inside.”

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