Brown Okay Community Cemetery

Gray AFB, Bell Co. Cemeteries of TX

Article submitted by Burnice Cowan

There is talk  that the persons buried in the "Brown Cemetery" (Okay Cemetery) are to be moved again.  Originally they were buried at the end of the runway of nearby Gray AFB.  If they are to be moved, I suggest the Cowan’s interred there be moved to the above mentioned Mayberry Cemetery, as they are kin to James Moses COWAN already buried there. (BC)

Will add information as it comes available

Oct. 13, 2003

Brown Okay Community Cemetery rediscovered

Herald Staff Writer

At a bend in Reese Creek Road just before it becomes Ivy Mountain Road, there is a three-acre patch of green amidst the flurry of airport construction.

This patch of green is the Brown Okay Community Cemetery, but it isn't the cemetery's original spot, according to Dale Just, a 75-year-old Killeen resident who used to mow the cemetery before he had quadruple bypass surgery last year.

"In 1953, when they were building Gray Airfield, the cemetery was at the end of what would be a 10,000 foot runway, so the Army Corps of Engineers said the cemetery had to be moved," Just said.

The 75 graves were dug up and removed to their present location. Only 50 of the graves are known while 25 of the remains were not identified by cemetery records, Just said.

"I was driving by one day and saw a very elderly man mowing the cemetery," Just said. "I knew Bell County should be moving at least some of it. They agreed to mow the area without stones, and I agreed to mow around the stones."

The elderly man mowing the cemetery was Oliver Bell, 90, who has several relatives buried there. His wife, Effie Mae Brown Bell, 82, is a relative of the original owners.

Bell's daughter, Alice Bell, 56, is the great-grand daughter of the original owners of the cemetery.

"It was my mother's grandparents who donated the property. The Browns originally donated the land for a community cemetery in the Okay Community," Bell said. "I'm not sure when they did that. It wasn't called the Brown Cemetery until after it was moved in 1953. Back then it was the Okay Community Cemetery."

According to cemetery records, the oldest head stone in the cemetery is dated 1886 and belongs to Winfield J. Seits. Records also show several infants and a World War I soldier are buried at the cemetery, and that the cemetery was deeded to Bell County Judge W.A. Messer on March 13, 1953 "and every successor there after."

Bell County Judge Jon Burrows said he was not aware he was responsible for a cemetery until after taking office.

"It only came to my attention when all the work on the new airport began, and where roads were going to go and such," Burrows said.

Burrows said how the cemetery will be maintained in the future isn't clear, but will be addressed.

Just said he would like the brush and cedar cleared out, leaving some nice oak trees and a wrought iron fence built around the cemetery.

"With all the development out here, I think it would be a good thing to see it cleaned up," Just said. "I don't know if anyone will do it, though."