2000 Longview News & Journal Longview TX
Lifetimes of stories buried in historic
By Eduardo Vento
TATUM Hundreds of people have probably
passed by it without even knowing. The waters of Martin Creek Lake State Park overshadow
its modest two-acre location off Texas 43. But sitting on that plot of land is a wealth of
The place is Harmony Hills Cemetery, one of the oldest
cemeteries in Rusk County, and one of the few in Texas which has both a Texas Historical
Marker and a place on the National Register of Historic Places.
"I could write a book with the amount of
stories that are buried here," said Melton Turlington, who is on the grounds
committee for the cemetery. Worlds of people are here. I personally knew so many of
Turlington is on a crusade to help generate
interest in the historic cemetery again. The annual Harmony Hills Cemetery Association
Homecoming will be held Saturday, and Turlington hopes people remember the history that
lies on that little plot of land in Tatum. "People who fought in the Civil War,
Korean War, World War I, and World War II are buried here," Turlington said
Thursday as he looked over tombstones with burial dates that go back to 1844.
"This is a memorial, that's what it is and that's why it's important."
Three generations of Turlington's family members are buried at Harmony Hills, including
his great-grandfather who fought in the Civil War. A prisoner of war, Turlington's
grandfather had to walk from Pennsylvania to his home in Alabama when the war was over.
But that, Turlington said, is just one of the
many stories that the cemetery has
to offer. "People tend to forget that, though," Turlington said. "And
interest just isn't there anymore."
Turlington has seen the number of people who
used to gather at Harmony
Hills Cemetery for the homecoming dwindle over the years.
"I remember the time when you couldn't
even find a place to park here,"
Turlington said. "Now we only get about 50 people, sometimes less. I just
don't know why."
The concern for Turlington is the future of
the cemetery. The association
there has spent the last decade trying to keep the cemetery clean and free
In recent years, they've been able to put a
fence around the cemetery and
even plant grass. Turlington said their efforts might be wasted though if no
one is in line to take their place.
"If the cemetery is going to be
maintained, the young people have to be
involved," he said. "They have to take an interest in this. It's too important
for them not to."
Saturday's homecoming will begin at 10 a.m.
and will feature a speech by
Rusk County Judge Sandra Hodges. After the speech, the group will meet
to discuss cemetery business. They will then hold a little picnic to
reminisce about the past.
"That's inevitable," Turlington
said. "When you come here you just start
thinking about people who lived 100 to 150 years ago. There are just so
Anyone interested in donating money to help
the Harmony Hill Cemetery
can send their donations to the association's treasurer, Larry Smith, P.O.
Box 975, Tatum, TX 75691.