Early-day cemetery keeps history alive
Carrollton: Perry graveyard recognized by state commission
By Jeremy Roebuck
Every afternoon, children leaving DeWitt Perry Middle School
race past the graveyard on North Perry Road. Its limestone obelisks and
weathered headstones hardly register as they rush by.
But beyond the simple chain-link fence, grave markers bearing names such as
Perry, Fyke and Myers make up a who's who of Carrollton's past. Five
generations of the city's history is buried here, creating a timeline that
links the area's first settlers to descendants who lived and died in the
rapidly growing suburb.
Earlier this summer, the Texas Historical Commission recognized the site as
a Texas Historical Cemetery. The designation places the graveyard in the
company of 30 other recognized burial sites in Denton and Dallas counties.
"Our cemetery is a monument to everyone that's lived here, worked here or
called Carrollton home," said Fancy Oliver Tanner, a member of the Perry
Cemetery Association's board of directors. "If there was any sort of
designation it qualified for, we thought we should have it."
Built by Ms. Tanner's great-great-grandfather, A. W. Perry, the cemetery
served as Carrollton's only burial site for several years. Mr. Perry first
used the site to bury his wife in 1896. He opened its gates to the city's
early settlers the next year.
But family plots like Perry Cemetery faced challenges after World War I,
said Karen Thompson, president of the Austin-based Save Texas
Cemeteries. Widespread automobile use made it easier for family members to
Paul Price, president of the Perry Cemetery
Association, is a descendant of A W Perry,
who stated the cemetery.
properties that had been tended to four years in
"Back then, everyone buried in a cemetery was kin by blood or marriage," she
said. "Families were around or at least nearby. Now, families move, and
before you know it, not one person within miles is kin to the original
Encroaching development, livestock grazing and vandalism now threaten the
state's estimated 5,000 historic gravesites, Ms. Thompson said. The state
historical commission created the Texas Historical Cemetery designation in
the late '90s to increase awareness of these significant burial grounds.
"Sometimes these cemeteries are all that's left of entire communities,"
historical association spokeswoman Annette Bethke said, "The provide a
tangible contract to our past."
Cemeteries must be at least 50 years old and deemed worthy of preservation
to qualify for the distinction.
Applicants must provide a map of the cemetery, notify nearby landowners and
make a case for the site's historical relevance. Nearly 1,000 cemeteries
across the state have earned the designation.
Today, Perry Cemetery lies in a high-traffic area along Perry Road, near the
A. W. Perry Homestead Museum and DeWitt Perry Middle School.
And although the new designation from the state does not offer protection
from future development, cemetery association president Paul Price hopes the
distinction will encourage the hundreds of people who pass by every day to
consider what lies beyond its gates.
"There are only a few historical points left in Carrollton," he said, "This
site is one of them. It just adds a sense of history to the city."