Greenwood Cemetery

Gregg County Cemeteries of TX

Courtesy of  Phyllis Bridges, DRT

Plot thickens: invitation to a graveyard


Saturday, June 07, 2008

You are cordially invited to a cemetery.

The Greenwood Cemetery Association is holding its annual meeting at 10 a.m. today at the historic graveyard located just south of Longview's Good Shepherd Medical Center.

To be honest, some folks wouldn't be caught dead in a cemetery. But Greenwood, which the association has beautifully restored, is a welcomed oasis despite being only a couple of blocks from downtown Longview.

Greenwood, at 705 Magrill St., is one of three city-owned cemeteries. The others are Grace Hill Cemetery on Marshall Avenue and White Cemetery on Brentwood Street.

The names on the tombstones at Greenwood read like a history of the city: Birdsong, Bodenheim, Kelly, Lacy, Markham, Mobberly, Northcutt, Oliver, Teague, Turner, Ware, Whaley. The memorials range from the elaborate Rembert mausoleum to simple stone markers worn by time.

It was in 1877 when Andrew S. Taylor and J. M. Cornes bought 4 acres and established what they called Longview Cemetery. By 1884 the men had bought additional land for the growing graveyard.

Majestic oak

Interestingly, you'll fine some graves with death dates that predate the opening of the cemetery. That's because many folks buried at the older Boring and Leake Cemetery were reinterred in Longview Cemetery. (Boring and Leake graveyard was off College Street near what today is Foster Middle School.)

In 1905, the Longview Cemetery acreage was annexed into the city limits and renamed Greenwood Cemetery. That year, Longview's Times-Clarion newspaper noted that Mayor G. A. Bodenheim was suggesting that "the ladies of Longview get together and form a cemetery association for the object of maintaining and beautifying the city cemetery."

The mayor said the city would "cooperate with them and give them all the financial aid necessary to accomplish something. Now someone start the good work."

So they did. Today the cemetery is covered by majestic oak, cedar, sycamore, mimosa and persimmon trees, crepe myrtles and ligustrum shrubs. However, by the time the Greenwood Cemetery Association was organized in 1974, the cemetery was in such disrepair that the gates were only unlocked for funerals.

That has changed thanks to the association, which has added a beautiful iron-and-brick fence and visitors' kiosk, among other improvements. A new retaining wall is being built, but additional funds are needed to complete that project.

Flood victims

There are at least 37 Confederate veterans buried in Greenwood. Then there is John B. Levy, a veteran of the War of 1812. Greenwood also holds the graves of Wortham and Eoline Levy and their two children, all victims of the 1900 Galveston flood.

On the cemetery's east side, near Fifth Street, is the final resting place of Reese De Graffenreid (1859-1902) and his wife, Annie.

The stone mentions nothing about De Graffenreid having been a United States congressman from 1897 until his untimely death. With a big handlebar mustache and a gift for oratory, he was called the "Black Eagle of the Piney Woods." When De Graffenreid was buried at Greenwood, 6,000 people showed up.

Resting in Peace at Greenwood is O.H. Methvin (1815-1882), the "Father of Longview," as well as William Thomas Tardy (1872-1919), founder of Marshall's East Texas Baptist University. Here also are four people who died in the 1894 Dalton gang bank robbery.

Anyway, you're invited to today's meeting at Greenwood Cemetery. (Just look for the white tent). Association dues are $20 a year.