Leach-Thomas Cemetery

Collin Co Cemeteries of Texas

Photos Submitted by Valerie Laskowski

Located southwest of Chaparral Road at Jupiter Road. 

Last Name First Name Birth Death Comments
Leach Preston Lawrence Dec 1824 Jan 8 1868 CSA Military
Leach Delana Mar 10 1859 Aug 10 1873 -
Leach Allie - - -
Thomas Jane Curtis Jan 20 1876 Jun 03 1877 d/o H. G. & A.D. Thomas

New ending for an old story--Cemeteries nobody will claim

Staff writer

July 2002

Family legend has it that the Leach family was traveling north in 1868 along a wagon trail that is now Jupiter Road and stopped at a campsite just south of the current border between Plano and Allen.

The land was elevated, affording a clear view of approaching Indians. There was plentiful game. And there was smallpox.

Four graves were dug for the parents, Preston   (military)  and Delana Leach, their infant daughter Allie, and a young child, Jane Curtis. A fifth tombstone is illegible, and oral tradition says that up to 100 people are buried in unmarked tombs with faint burial depressions now difficult to distinguish because of the ground cover that now blankets the land.

Through the years, the Leach-Thomas Cemetery transferred hands multiple times, was owned by the great-great grandfather of President Lyndon B. Johnson, and gradually was encroached upon by a growing city with new demands for development.

Developer Jim Douglass now owns the property. On Monday, he presented a site plan to the Plano Planning and Zoning Commission for 122 single-family residential lots bordering the cemetery on the north near the intersection of Chaparral Road and Jupiter.

You can tear down or redevelop an antiquated building, but when it comes to the sacred and taboo-ridden space of the graveyard, city officials and developers say, a different set of challenges emerges.

“The real challenge is that you have to overcome the mystique of living next to the cemetery,” said Douglass, president of Douglass Properties. “I always joke that the advantage is that you have quiet neighbors.

Upon acquiring the land, Douglass hired a professor from The University of Texas at Arlington to conduct a survey of the graveyard. The city then commissioned a subsequent study in 2000 as part of a city-wide preservation plan for 13 historic cemeteries in the Plano-area.

According to heritage preservation officer Marcus Watson, Leach-Thomas is just one of a disparate array of Plano burial grounds with murky histories and numerous changes in ownership.

“Things happen over time that you can’t even figure out,” said Watson, who spearheaded the original city study. “A cemetery sometimes will just be abandoned and will become part of another property. Or it will just be sold.”

And sometimes, according to Watson, no living relative and no record of ownership can be found.

The Old City Cemetery in the Douglass Community is one of those ownerless graveyards that the city adopted after an extensive search for the landowner failed.

“There is a huge question as to who owns it,” said Watson. “Because we can’t solve that dilemma, we took it over. The association that cared for it before disbanded and no longer exists. There’s truly nobody that owns the land.”

The oldest cemeteries fall along Rowlett Creek, White Rock Creek, and Spring Creek, the earliest settled areas in Plano. Leach-Thomas cemetery is one of the Rowlett Creek sites.

Douglass says that when graveyards and developments collide, he attempts to accommodate rather than hide the cemetery.

“You can’t ignore it or hide it in somebody’s backyard. You have to acknowledge that it’s there,” he said.

In some cases, however, the graveyard does end up in a Plano backyard.

The Felker Cemetery lies on the southwest corner of Waycross Drive and Auburn Place.

The Felkers moved to Texas from Arkansas in the late 1860s and acquired a large farm west of Plano called Walnut Grove. Margaret Felker died April 13, 1891, and was buried on the family farm, which was sold and re-sold.

Then developers came in and made the burial plots part of a residential housing development.

“A development went in and they just decided to include it in one of the lots,” said Watson.

According to the preservation study, the landowner now regards the cemetery as part of his backyard landscaping and has no complaints, apart from the occasional Halloween vandal.

Only once in recent years has a decision been made to disturb the dead for the sake of development. In 1997, a development project began west of Preston Road and south of Parker Road in an area that included a small graveyard. Rather than build around the cemetery, the developer contacted the living descendents and received court permission to move the bodies to Frisco.

“They were developing land and it was a small family cemetery with two graves and it didn’t fit into the plan for the subdivision,” said Watson. “It would have ended up in somebody’s backyard, so they decided to move it.”

As for the rest of Plano’s cemeteries, an effort is under way to bring the individual narratives to public consciousness. Four signs are scheduled to go up in Old City, Bowman, Bethany, and Bacchus cemeteries, highlighting their history; and the city has published a corresponding brochure for residents.

More information submitted by Ken Leach of Gainesville, Tx

Preston Lawrence Leach and his wife, Nancy Elizabeth Atkins, along with 8 children came from Anderson County TN to Texas in 1859. They had three more child after arriving in Texas . Preston and his oldest child, Charles Monroe, enlisted in the Confederate Army and served near McKinney .

 When Preston died he was buried in the Leach-Thomas Cemetery . The cemetery was only protected by a wire fence. In the 1940’s, a grandson constructed the present pipe fences around the three Leach Graves. As the wire fence disappeared, cows got into the cemetery and knocked over all but the Leach markers.. The cemetery area is marked by the trees the old wire fences protected from cows until the trees were established.

 When Nancy Elizabeth died in 1895, her family planned to bury her in the Leach-Thomas Cemetery . They headed out of Allen, but it was raining so hard when they got to the Allen Cemetery , the stopped there and dug a grave for her between her twin sons. John and Joseph. Her grave is immediately to the right upon entering the east-most entrance of the Allen Cemetery .  Ken Leach