This audit of the Pilot Point Community Cemetery is the result of a promise I made many years ago before my retirement. Because people have searched for many hours in the cemetery for relatives and friends, in the absence of an audit of the physical location of individual burials, I committed myself to perform this long overdue task.
I audited on hot days, on cold days, early mornings, late afternoons, and other parts of the day as time permitted. One surprising thing was that regardless of the time of day, every minute was an enjoyable one. While recording my field notes, I discovered names of individuals and families I had not thought of in years. In almost every case, I always could remember something about them that would bring a smile, a laugh, or sometimes a tear. The moments, the minutes, the hours seemed to be shared with those whose name I was finally recording somewhere in history.
Some markers, with name and date of birth inscribed but with no date of death (indicating that the person has not yet died) has prompted me to omit that name from this audit. Stone or metal markers with names and dates not legible have been entered in this audit as "Unmarked Grave". Nicknames, when known, are entered in quotations. Maiden names of women, when known, are entered in parenthesis. Infant burials, without first names, are identified as Baby or Infant.
Abbreviations in the "Location in Cemetery" heading of each page are explained as follows; "SQ" means Square, "BL" means Block, "LT" means Lot, and "GR" means Grave Number. All grave spaces are numbered from right to left, 1 through 6, when facing east in the cemetery.
The first edition, in loose-leaf form, was intended to be a working copy. This second edition has been reformatted to include the alphabetical section and the physical location section into one combined section, conserving much space and making the audit more "user friendly".
I continue to seek inputs from anyone and everyone with information on unknown burials and unknown names and dates on existing monuments located in the cemetery.
The time I have spent on this project was to make the book accurate and easy to use. I hope it will prove a valuable source of information today and for many years and generations to come.
For the most part, I have based the text of this history on information I have obtained from the following sources: Deed Records of Pilot Point Lodge No. 270 A.F.&A.M. (records of cemetery burial plots sold); Copies of several cemetery documents from the Lodge; plats of cemetery sections; 1990 Survey of Pilot Point Community Cemetery and accompanying field notes; legal documents of Pilot Point Community Cemetery Association; the Association's newsletters and minutes of meetings.
I am grateful for information about the cemetery received from Mr. Nealous Cockrill, Mr. Elwood Branum, Mr. Luther Slay, and, some years ago, from Mrs. J.D. Elder, Sr. and Mr. and Mrs. James T. "Jake" Marshall, both of whom are deceased. I am indebted to Mr. Elwood Branum not only for his suggestion that this history be written but especially for his superbly-done audit of the Pilot Point Community Cemetery, an impressive record.
Rebecca Reid Porter
Pilot Point, Texas
Pilot Point Community Cemetery is the present name of a cemetery whose history goes back about 140 years. It is located on North Prairie Street in the northeast part of Pilot Point, Denton County, Texas. It had its beginning in this location with the establishment of the Odd Fellows Cemetery in the 1850's or 1860's.
The Independent Order of Odd Fellows (I.O.O.F.), still a major fraternal and benevolent organization in the United States, developed a cemetery of 3.9872 acres in the area that lies to the right as one enters the present Community Cemetery through the west entrance, which is off Prairie Street. The year that the Odd Fellows started their cemetery is not known, but there is a record of an 1854 burial and one in 1865.
In those days Pilot Point was a new town on the frontier, having been plotted on Christmas Day in 1853. Stores opened by late 1850's. Townsmen, ranchers, and farmers and their families were experiencing the excitement, surprises, dangers, successes and failures, joys and sorrows that came with getting established in this new country, so beautiful and promising.
Years passed, and by 1887 the Odd Fellows were ready to give up the responsibility of their cemetery. On March 10,1887, they conveyed it to the Knights of Honor, Lodge No. 1392 in Pilot Point, which was represented by A.H. Gee, W.T. Nunn, and E.E. Flippin, trustees of the Lodge. Acting for Pilot Point Lodge No. 103, I.O.O.F. were F.N. Oliver, Noble Grand, and W.T. Scott, Vice Grand. This conveyance is recorded in Denton County Deed Records, Vol. 34, Page 157.
Extending west from the west boundary line of the Odd Fellows Cemetery across what is now North Prairie Street was a tract of 1.39 acres belonging to the Odd Fellows. This parcel, which was included in the above conveyance, has had an interesting history over the years. Now, in 1994, what remains of it is that area once the lovely Rose Garden but now a lawn dotted with a variety of trees.
The Knights of Honor held title to the Odd Fellows Cemetery for 28 years, then conveyed it and the 1.39-acre tract to the Pilot Point Ladies Cemetery Association on August 14, 1915. A.H. Gee, F.W. Hayden, and J.A.L. McFarland, trustees for the Ladies Association, acted for the ladies but under their instruction in this transaction, which is recorded in Denton County Deed Records, Vol. 141, Page 607.
The Ladies Cemetery Association had been a highly-regarded, active and productive organization since the late 1800's. The ladies had the demanding responsibility of keeping the lots in the cemetery clean and neat, engaging the sexton for this work. They also collected dues, handled correspondence and made appeals through letters and the local newspaper for contributions to the Association. During the years around the turn of the century and well into the 1900's, the citizens of Pilot Point faithfully supported the Association, turning out in large numbers for different kinds of suppers, ice cream socials, benefit performances in the opera house, and evenings of table games. No raffles, however. The Ladies Cemetery Association was grateful for this support because it was responsible for the upkeep of two cemeteries, the Odd Fellows Cemetery and the Original Masonic Cemetery.
Pilot Point Masonic Lodge No. 270 received its charter on June 2, 1862. A great Centennial Celebration was held on June 7, 1962. On that occasion C.W. Morrow, a local Mason, delivered an address. He stated that beginning in 1875 the Masonic Lodge sponsored and controlled a cemetery for many years. He called the cemetery a fitting memorial to the 87 years of service rendered by the Lodge to the community.
In time the 1875 cemetery became known as the Original Masonic Cemetery. It lies to the left as one enters the cemetery, just across the drive from the Odd Fellows Cemetery. It extends 420 feet to the north. To the west it extends to the cemetery fence along North Prairie Street. Its east boundary is the first north-south drive east of the Pavilion.
The original Masonic Cemetery was laid out by the same plan used for the Odd Fellows Cemetery and for all subsequent additions to the cemetery. It was laid out in squares. Each square comprised nine blocks. Each block had ten lots. Each lot had six grave spaces. There are only a few deviations from the plan, which is followed to this day. The Original Masonic Cemetery comprises Squares 1,2,3 and 4 in its 3.9972 acres.
By 1895 the Masonic Lodge was selling lots in a tract lying just north of the Original Masonic Cemetery. This information comes from the Cemetery Deed Records kept through the years by the Pilot Point Lodge. The south boundary line lies along the Original Masonic Cemetery. On the north, Masonic 2 Addition extends to the cemetery fence along Carol Street. On the west it extends to the cemetery fence on North Prairie Street and on the east to the first north-south drive east of the Pavilion. The 3.8017 acres of this tract comprise Squares 5,6,7 and 8.
An old, tattered, undated clipping from an unidentified newspaper tells of an occasion that was surely the dedication of the Pilot Point Masonic Cemetery as it existed at that time. A very large crowd of people from Pilot Point, the surrounding countryside and neighboring towns gathered around the Pavilion for a program of music, speeches and prayer. Participating in the program were the Reverend A.F. Hendrix, who was pastor of the Pilot Point Methodist Church from 1898 to 1901. Rev. Hendrix introduced the main speaker, James Stephen Hogg, ex-governor of Texas, who held his state's highest office from 1891-1895. He died in 1906. It appears, then, that the dedication of the Masonic Cemetery took place at some time between 1898 and 1901, at the turn of the century.
Governor Hogg was a popular man with the reputation of remembering the name of every man to whom he had been formally introduced. His daughter, Ima Hogg, according to tradition, once attended Pilot Point's Franklin College. Miss Hogg became a prominent Texan, widely known at home and abroad.
The governor stated in his speech that in all his travels he had never seen a more beautiful cemetery nor one better kept than the Masonic Cemetery. He paid the Ladies Cemetery Association a glowing tribute for their commitment to beautifying what he called the city of the dead. The governor delivered an inspiring speech, one befitting the occasion. It was a memorable afternoon.
The Pavilion with its unique roof and stately presence was standing in the Original Masonic Cemetery at the turn of the century. Apparently no one knows when it was erected. It is said that wooden posts originally supported its roof. The dirt floor of the Pavilion held sandburs that without warning tortured the tender bare feet of little children. In those days a horse-drawn hearse brought the body of the deceased to the shelter of the Pavilion, where the funeral service was conducted. Then pallbearers carried the casket, with relatives and friends following on foot, as all made their way to the grave for the interment.
In time brick pillars replaced the wooden posts. Years passed and there was talk of demolishing the Pavilion, then in need of a new roof, paint and general repairs. The Nineteenth Century Club solicited funds, and generous contributions made possible the restoration of the historic structure.
In 1986 the Nineteenth Century Club again made improvements to the Pavilion, having workmen strengthen the brick pillars, install a concrete floor, and paint. The club financed the project with contributions made to its cemetery fund over the years on Homecoming Day, the first Sunday in May.
As the cemetery grew in acreage the sexton had much more work to do. The Ladies Cemetery Association, finding it increasingly difficult to finance upkeep of cemetery lots, issued an appeal to cemetery lot owners in a letter proposing a Cemetery Endowment Fund. The letter was from a committee whose members were Mrs. Nora Reid Wilson, Mrs. Gordon Elmore, Mrs. George McDonald and Miss Laura Cooke. Other correspondence indicates this letter was written sometime during World War I.
The fee for endowing a lot for all time was one payment of $50; for one grave space, $10. Cemetery lot owners could choose from several methods of payment: make two payments of $25 each; continue to pay annual dues to the Association until such time as the lot owner was able to remit $50; or make a provision in one's will for the endowment. Payments were to be sent to the Masonic Lodge.
Several years passed during the time the endowment plan was getting established. The Masonic Lodge was receiving inquiries about the endowment plan and the endowment fund. Frank Wilson, secretary of the Masonic Lodge, answered these inquiries in a letter dated October 12, 1921 and directed to Mrs. J.R. Windle, president of the Ladies Cemetery Association, in order that the Association might pass on the information to those interested.
Mr. Wilson noted in his letter that the ladies, feeling their association was only temporary, had asked the Masonic Lodge to undertake the endowment plan. The Lodge, after serious deliberation, had agreed to do so, offering to assist in every way possible. The Masonic Lodge guaranteed that the lots would be well kept as they had been when dues were paid to the Ladies Cemetery Association. It also guaranteed that the endowment would be held in a separate fund to be invested to the best advantage but under no circumstances would it be spent. It was further understood that the Ladies Cemetery Association would continue to have charge of the upkeep of these lots as heretofore. Interest earned by the fund would be applied to maintenance of the lots.
The letters imply that under the former plan the ladies were responsible for maintaining only those lots whose owners had paid dues to the Cemetery Association, and under the endowment plan only those lots that were endowed. Old-timers reported that remaining lots were cleaned by family members or perhaps left untended.
As many of you know, the endowment plan was in effect for many years, the endowment fee increasing from time to time.
Deed Records of Pilot Point Masonic Lodge indicate that by 1920 the Lodge was selling lots in the 3rd or Yarbrough 1 Addition. The Lodge acquired this tract of 4.2578 acres from Joe E. Yarbrough, whose farm lay along the east boundary lines of the Original Masonic Cemetery and Masonic 2. The north boundary is the north limit of the cemetery. If the south boundary of the Original Masonic Cemetery were extended eastward, it would lie along the south boundary of Yarbrough 1 Addition. This tract, comprising 4.2578 acres, is divided into Squares 9, 10, 11, and 12.
On May 24, 1924 the Ladies Cemetery Association conveyed the Odd Fellows Cemetery to the Masonic Lodge. The Association was represented by the same trustees who in 1915 had received the cemetery from the Knights of Honor. The 1.39-acre tract along the west boundary of the Odd Fellows Cemetery was included in the 1924 conveyance, which is recorded in Denton County Deed Records, Vol. 242, Page 111. J.H. Riley, Worshipful Master of the Masonic Lodge; J.H. Russell, Senior Warden; and R.L. Massey, Junior Warden acted on behalf of the Masonic Lodge.
The Ladies Cemetery Association maintained cemetery lots into the 1930's, according to records kept at that time. Perhaps the ladies continued their work into the 1940's or longer. At some point the Masonic Lodge helped them with the upkeep of lots. By 1950, however, the Ladies Cemetery Association had disbanded; its long commitment to the maintenance of the cemetery had come to an end. A member of the Lodge who devoted many years to working with the Masonic Cemetery provided this information.
It was a custom through the years for persons to come to the cemetery to tend family graves and perhaps set out flowers and shrubs. The only source of water for this work was one lone hydrant at the cemetery entrance. In 1965 the Nineteenth Century Club undertook a project of installing a cemetery water system. The club donated $100 and raised $400. In less than a year water was available at any one of many water hydrants over the cemetery, and there was enough money left to pay the water bill for several years! In addition to an article in the Pilot Point Post-Signal, there was an article about this award-winning project in the Denton Record-Chronicle on March 31, 1965. The club continued to pay the water bill until the summer of 1990.
In 1965 the Nineteenth Century Club flanked the entrance-way with two brick walls into which a tall pole on either side was anchored to support the cemetery's name above the entrance. Now almost thirty years later visitors enter between these same walls. Vandals long ago destroyed the wrought iron, electric lamps that sat on the brick corner posts. The lamps were decorative by day and shed a soft light in the evening.
The Yarbrough 2 addition with its 2.1862 acres fills in the southeast corner of the cemetery, with the result that the entire cemetery has a rectangular shape. The north boundary of this tract lies along the south boundary of Yarbrough 1. Its west boundary lies along the entire east boundary of the Odd Fellows Cemetery. The south boundary lies along the south fence of the cemetery, and the east boundary is an extension of the east boundary of Yarbrough 1. The Masonic Lodge acquired this addition from Dorothy Yarbrough on October 7, 1980 as recorded in Denton County Real Property Records, Vol. 2825, Page 0804.
The relocation of human remains to make way for the creation of Lake Ray Roberts was a somber undertaking for the U.S. Corps of Engineers. A 29,350 acre-impoundment on the Elm Fork of the Trinity River, the lake would take in portions of three counties: Denton, Cooke and Grayson. In 1981 the Corps bought a number of burial spaces in the southeast corner of the Odd Fellows area of the Pilot Point Masonic Cemetery. The Corps then transferred remains to those graves from the following places: Jackie Davis Cemetery, West Cemetery, Strickland Cemetery, and the John and Sarah Strickland burial site. Gravestones accompanied the remains from marked graves, but other remains came from unmarked graves.
The Pilot Point Masonic Cemetery comprised, as we have noted, the Original Masonic Cemetery; Masonic 2 Addition; 3rd or Yarbrough 1 Addition; Odd Fellows Cemetery; the small tract, once 1.39 acres and in 1990 1.2425 acres; and Yarbrough 2 Addition. The tracts are given here in order of acquisition by the Masonic Cemetery. In area they total 19.476 acres. Boundary lines and acreage figures come from a survey of the Pilot Point Community Cemetery, formerly Pilot Point Masonic Cemetery, made in November, 1990 by Hammett and Nash, Consulting Engineers and Surveyors, Denton, Texas.
The Masonic Lodge No. 270 of Pilot Point, Texas had sponsored and controlled a cemetery in Pilot Point since 1875, as noted in this account. Through the years it added four more tracts to its first burial area. By late 1940's, the lodge became solely responsible for the upkeep of the cemetery lots. Income from the endowment fund was not sufficient for maintenance; cost of labor and equipment continued to increase; and the Masonic Lodge, by the terms of its charter, was not allowed to solicit funds or conduct fund-raising activities. By the late 1980's the Lodge was ready to convey its cemetery to an appropriate group.
Several years passed. Luther Slay, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church and owner of Huff/Slay Funeral Home, announced that on June 21, 1990 a meeting of area citizens would be held for the purpose of organizing a cemetery association. The meeting was held with Luther Slay presiding. Those attending voted to organize a Pilot Point Community Cemetery Association with a seven-member board to conduct the business of the Association. Elected to temporary one-year positions were Luther Slay, president; Tom Porter, vice president; Rebecca Porter, secretary/treasurer; and four other board members, namely, Bob Davis, Jake Marshall, Joyce Wood, all of Pilot Point, and Charles Floyd of Krugerville. All owners of property in the Masonic Cemetery automatically became members of the association.
There followed a very amiable but prolonged transfer of cemetery ownership from the Masonic Lodge to the Pilot Point Community Cemetery Association. The cemetery association engaged the services of a well-qualified attorney to conduct the conveyance and also to give legal counsel and prepare documents, all to ensure the compliance of the new cemetery association with the extensive body of laws now governing Texas cemeteries.
The official transfer of the cemetery from the Masonic Lodge No. 270 to the Pilot Point Community Cemetery Association, Inc., took place November 26, 1990. On December 6, 1990 the Lodge transferred to the cemetery association its cemetery operating fund of $22,934.06 and its cemetery endowment fund of $81,801.48.
On June 21, 1990 at the Association's organizing meeting, President Slay asked for volunteers for a committee that would create a mailing list of names of owners of cemetery property or their survivors. He asked the secretary of the Association to chair this committee and then to prepare a letter presenting the goals and needs of the new association and requesting financial support. The committee members were Lola and Jake Marshall, Helen Selz, Edith Bolin, Patsy Brown, Agnes Hopson Hughes, Ruby Ray, Markoleta Triplett, Mary Manry, Polly Davis, Estelle Whitley, and Rebecca Porter, chairman. Several others were able to help from time to time. The committee worked faithfully for a long time gathering names and setting up a file of hundreds of names. In the spring of 1991, 730 letters were mailed to many Texas town and cities and to states from coast to coast. The response was immediate and continued for some time. Contributions came in from places near and far away.
The Pilot Point Cemetery Association, as already noted, holds its annual meeting on the community's Homecoming and Decoration Day, always the first Sunday in May. The Board of Directors holds quarterly meetings, and special meetings as needed. The Association's newsletter is mailed to about 650 addresses every April and October or November.
The Cemetery Association, in the four years of its existence, has been able to achieve a number of things, all because of its members with their unfailing interest and generous financial support; and now and then a change occurs. Examples of accomplishments and of a change follow.
1. On October 15, 1991, the Association increased the size of the cemetery by four acres when it paid Mrs. Dorothy Yarbrough $26,000 cash for a strip of cultivated land lying along the entire east boundary of the cemetery. This is known as Yarbrough 3 Addition. The person who farms it will continue to do so, benefitting from the crop he grows. The four acres will take care of future needs for burial space.
2. At the time of conveyance, the Masonic Lodge transferred to the Pilot Point Community Cemetery Association an Endowment Fund of $81,801. This fund, now termed the Permanent Maintenance Fund, has grown to $148,479. The greatest boost to its growth came as a matching gift of $10,000! What excitement that created in 1992! Then the donors chose to remain anonymous, but now they do not mind being identified. They are former Pilot Pointers, Ronald McAdams and his wife Lucy Grace Harris McAdams, who made their gift in memory of their parents, Mr. and Mrs. E.A. McAdams and Dr. and Mrs. T.M. Harris. Their gift was matched in a short time. Other contributions by the McAdamses total $5300. Their contributions and those from all other contributors show interest, loyalty and generosity.
3. The spring of 1993 was a busy time at the cemetery. E.B. '"Buster" Wood and Jim Sitzes graded driveways, extending them to their original width. Joyce Wood took care of the updating and painting of the entrance sign.
4. The south boundary of the cemetery is 939 feet long. A number of workers--several volunteers and a paid worker with heavy equipment--cleared the fence line of trees and undergrowth and graded it. Luther Slay and Elwood Branum installed posts and braces, ready for the wire. Ronald McAdams paid for the materials. Charles Floyd started a Fence Fund with a $500 donation, a fund that is growing. The west and north fences need to be replaced.
5. In 1993 Texas law governing perpetual care cemeteries was changed. Perpetual care status places a cemetery association under the scrutiny of the Texas Banking Commission, which imposes strict and burdensome regulations and also certain fees. After carefully studying the matter, the Board of Directors voted to designate no longer the Pilot Point Community Cemetery as a perpetual care cemetery. Association members were notified by letter of a meeting set for them at which they could vote on the matter. They met and voted to end the cemetery's perpetual care status. The Association's attorney drafted Restated Articles of Incorporation and Revised Bylaws, documents accepted by the Board and the Association. The words perpetual care were deleted from these documents. Instead of the Perpetual Care and Maintenance Fund, the Association has a Permanent Maintenance Fund, which cannot be spent and which is in a segregated account. Interest earned by the fund shall be spent solely for the permanent care and maintenance of the cemetery. In short, the Cemetery Association will continue to operate as it has been operating: keeping the entire cemetery mowed and trimmed and also making improvements.
The west and north fences have been replaced with new chain link fencing and a new access gate has been installed at the northeast corner of the cemetery. The Association also committed to levelling monuments throughout the cemetery. Approximately 200 large monuments and at least 300 small monuments have been levelled since 1994. Better streets are a new project with the Association beginning in 1998. Cemetery Drive from North Prairie Street to the storage buildings to the east was prepared and graveled in 1998. Pavilion Drive South from the big oak tree to the pavilion, Pavilion Drive North to Legacy Drive, and Masonic Drive from south to north are scheduled to be completed in 1999. Many trees and shrubs within the cemetery have also been trimmed in 1998 and 1999.
The second half of 1999 and all of the year 2000 was spent in the re-construction of most of the remaining streets in the cemetery. Gifts of $50,000 from Estelle Whitley in memory of her late husband, Eugene Whitley, a $25,000 gift from Earl and Flora Mitchell in memory of her parents, Joe and Dollie Cates, and a $1,000 gift from the Cordell family in memory of their parents, Ted and Edna Cordell, gave the cemetery a boost in added beauty at the entrance gate as well as the superb streets throughout the cemetery. In the year 2001, the Cemetery Board of Directors have planned to repair and refinish the pavilion columns and continue to level monuments in all sections of the cemetery. The Cemetery Association received a $7,500 gift from Clifton and Nadene Irick for the construction of a new 20 foot by 24 foot metal building for the storage of cemetery equipment and supplies. The eastern four acres were cleared of two terraces, trees were removed from the southeastern roadway and smoothing of the landscape in the northern half was completed. The pavilion columns were repaired and re-finished this year and the two wood frame storage buildings were removed from the southeast section of the cemetery. Finally, underground wiring was installed and electricity connected to the newly installed security lights at the main entrance gate. In 2005 the Association opened the new acreage on the east side of the cemetery for burials. It then initatiated a Memorial Tree Program in hopes of covering the cemetery with live oak trees for future beautification.
Nine new trees were planted in June, 2005; eight being planted on the new eastern sections and one planted in Masonic Square 5. During a very hot and dry year, it required that each tree had to be watered every other day with five gallons of water for the duration of the summer. All nine trees survived. Also during 2006, the southern undeveloped sections of the cemetery began to be groomed by more frequent and closer cutting of the grass.
The cemetery pavilion was completely repainted including the eight columns. Some repair work was done to the columns before painting. This year also brought us good fortune in the form of proceeds from a will of Dorothy Benton who's grandparents are buried in Community Cemetery, the Franklin Pearce Atkins family. The will provided for a new six foot tall chain link fence on the east and south sides of the cemetery. A new six foot tall vertical iron fence was included in the will for the west and north sides. Also included were automatic gates on the west and north sides.
In 2015, the Dorothy Benton will provided for the paving of all streets in the cemetery with a TXDOT prescribed base of 1-1/2" of large packed gravel and 2-1/2" of asphalt to a width of eighteen feet. New culverts were installed in two places on Cemetery Drive prior to the paving.
The Pilot Point Community Cemetery pavilion underwent a major renovation during the summer of 2019. The pavilion columns were completed taken down and new interior steel beams installed with brick columns on the outside. A new concrete floor with additional metal support was installed to support the weight of the structure. A new red roof completed the historical look of the pavilion. Partial funding was provided by the Dorothy Benton Trust. The construction was completed by LTC Construction.
The cemetery is at 601 N. Prairie Street. From Hwy 377 (N. Washington Street), go one block south on N. Prairie Street. From the downtown area, go two blocks east on Main Street to N. Prairie Street, then north six blocks to the cemetery.
Pilot Point Community Cemetery Association is a non-profit organization chartered in 1990. If anyone would like to help in the upkeep and preservation of the cemetery, donations may be sent to P. O. Box 65, Pilot Point, Texas 76258.