February is when the country takes a look back for Black History Month. In Arlington, there's a historic cemetery that was the only place where African Americans could be buried in the early 1900's.
If you take a drive by the 600 block of W. Arkansas Lane, you will see the cemetery has declined in disrepair over the years.
On Friday at an 11 a.m. ceremony, the Arlington Heritage Memorial Grounds Corporation, along with representatives from the City of Arlington and Tarrant County, will officially begin the process of bringing the cemetery, founded in 1854, back to life.
The Arlington Historical Society doesn't want this piece of Arlington history to be forgotten.
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Geraldine Mills, Director of the Arlington Historical Society, brought the importance of the project to the forefront after she met a man whose entire family was buried there.
But for years, a locked fence kept him from accessing his family’s graves.
"There's just a lot of great history that is buried out here, and Mr. Poynter had like a list of 77 people, there were 77 graves out here. Now, we have over 100 that have been verified through death records and burial records. If they say they were buried in Arlington and they were black, they were buried here," Mills said.
The plan is for the entire site to be surrounded by an ornamental fence with walkways winding through the cemetery, benches conveniently located throughout and existing grave markers will be restored to new ones.
Mills says the site is intended to reflect its significant history and provide a welcoming place for descendants, students, citizens of Arlington, and all who wish to visit.
Restoration work is already underway.
According to the Arlington Historical Society, the historic cemeteries began as:
• Mill Branch Cemetery - 1850s - 1950s
Located in the eastern portion of the cemetery site, this is the resting place for the Eli Ford Family and other pioneers, including the Middleton Tate Johnson family.
• Middleton Tate Johnson Family Cemetery - mid 1850s - 1950s
The Father of Tarrant County, M. T. Johnson, passed away in 1866 and was buried in the State Cemetery in Austin. In 1870, his remains were relocated to the Mill Branch cemetery. In 1936, his grave site was marked with a Centennial Marker by the Texas Historic Commission.
In the 1950s, the Johnson family requested that a portion of the cemetery be renamed to Middle Tate Johnson Family Cemetery.
• Arlington Colored Cemetery - 1900 - 1950s
Located on the western portion of the cemetery, this was the only place in Arlington where African American residents could purchase burial plots. Alma Johnson is the earliest identified burial in 1916.
Go here for more information on the restoration project.