Volunteers Breathe New Life into Forgotten Gravesites

The Paupers Cemetery off Walnut Hill in Dallas is tucked behind industrial warehouses, out of sight and out of mind. "I've lived in Dallas all my life and I've never heard of this cemetery," said Daniel Babb, a volunteer photographer with "Find a Grave". 

"I've got 9 requests that are outstanding right now from Find a Grave that I'm not able to find the graves for," Babb explained. All of them were for the Dallas Paupers Cemetery. "I guess I don't like that." 

The cemetery is 3 1/2 acres of rolling hills and shade trees. Many of the metal grave markers are either missing, damaged, or buried. Babb thought something should be done about it. "There's somebody out there that's just 'Mr. X.'" Another grave marker simply read, 'Unidentified Man'.

"It's like a solving a puzzle," Babb said. "This is just a giant 2,000 piece jigsaw puzzle." It's unclear exactly how many souls are buried in the cemetery. It's estimated there are about 2,000 gravesites. 

Babb told his neighbor, Reggie Cusick, a metal detector enthusiast, who helped organized dozens of volunteers from DFW metal detector clubs over the weekend to comb the cemetery for buried grave markers.

"And boom, there's the marker and nothing else on a piece of concrete," Cusick said. "It's still getting to me."

Babb reached out to the city parks department to form a partnership, hoping to breathe new life into the cemetery. 

"Sometimes you lose history when you come to a place and you can't see who's here and you don't know their story," said Sloan Anderson, Community Programs Coordinator with the city's parks department.

"They're stories that should be told," said volunteer Chad Dugger, who's spent hours washing grave markers to be able to read the names. "Everybody should have somebody know they existed in this world at one point."

Babb started a Facebook group to bring awareness and coordinate efforts to clean up the cemetery and provide more permanent markers for those who rest in peace there.

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