History of Pine Hill Methodist Cemetery
County, Cemeteries of TX
by Elizabeth J. Hancock, March 2005
The founding of Pine Hill, Rusk County, Texas is credited to William Henderson
Hillin in 1844. (1) Arriving in
an ox drawn wagon, he decided to stop and plant his crops in Pine Hill.
Hillin is also the subject of one version of folklore explaining the
nickname for Pine Hill - "Rake Pocket".
It was told that Hillin was so broke, he literally had to rake his
pockets for the money to buy feed for his oxen.
Nevertheless, W. H. Hillin stayed in Pine Hill the rest of his life.
He was a charter member of the First Methodist Church in Pine Hill (2),
Postmaster in 1857(3), and businessman.
Hillin wrote to friends and relatives inviting them to join him in Texas.
In the next few years, the numbers of pioneers to the area multiplied
greatly. William Moss Zuber,
wife Mariah, and three children came from Georgia.
Zuber, who became the Postmaster in Minden, (4)
once owned the land on which this cemetery is located. Dawson Hancock, wife Louisa, and five
children emigrated to Rusk county from Lebanon, Wilson County, Tennessee in
1859. Hancock was a saddler and
Rusk County Justice of the Peace. Dawson's
children all were active members of the early community of Pine Hill.
His older son Tyre was Postmaster of Pine Hill from 1872-1878 and
youngest daughter Priscilla Hancock Buckner with husband Allen Kilgore owned and
operated the Buckner Hotel. Dr.
Thomas Jefferson Jehoida Howard, another Tennessee native, settled in Pine
Hill after serving as a surgeon in the CSA.
He was also a Methodist minister and a Rusk county Justice of the Peace. Dr. T. J. J. Howard practiced medicine in Pine Hill from 1868
until 1889. (6) Daniel James
Barlow, wife Charlotte McRee, and small son William Neavels traveled
in a large wagon train from Mississippi and arrived in Pine Hill in 1870.
Daniel started a large general merchandise store and was part owner of
the Salon Holt Cotton Gin. The
oldest son, William Neavels, became a doctor and practiced in the same area all
his life where he also operated a drug store. Dr. W. N. Barlow married Ida
Kirksey, a member of another early pioneer family.
From the 1860s through the 1890s many other early settlers came to this
area, remained throughout their lives, and were eventually laid to rest in this
cemetery. Some of the other families whose names are a part of Pine
Hill history include Bolding, Deason, Elliott, Guinn, Harris, Howard, Langston,
Patrick, Roquemore, Sanders, Shaw, and
Smith. There are soldiers of the
Indian Wars, the Civil War, Korea, World
War I, World War II, and Vietnam buried here.
Pine Hill grew steadily until the early 1900s.
Two fires caused setbacks, one in 1916 and one in 1937.
The most serious blow, however, was the collapse of the Ragley Railroad
in 1920. As the population
dwindled, so did those actively involved with the care of the Pine Hill
Methodist Cemetery. Descendants of
the families became almost nonexistent with a population of only 100 by the
1950s and 49 by 1990. In fact,
there have only been approximately
26 burials on the "white" side and 49 on the "black" side
1950. Mrs. Modenia Hillin
worked tirelessly and with little assistance caring for the cemetery for many
years. Her health eventually became
too fragile and she passed away in 1996. Her
daughter, Jo Sealey, is the only contact I have found for the southwestern (know
as the "white") section of
the cemetery. Since the community
of Pine Hill currently exists only in name, it took two years for me to even
find Mrs. Sealey. I was also able
to locate Rev. Johnson who cares for and oversees burials for the northeastern
(known as the "black") section of the cemetery.
My daughters and I have been working to assist with caring for the
cemetery - mowing, trimming, and removing fallen branches whenever we possibly
can. I am in hopes of contacting as
many families and other community members as possible with regard to improving
the cemetery grounds and possibly restoring the condition of a number of
The earliest marked grave is that of Wilson Sanders, dated June
1854. More than half of the burials
are over one hundred years old. I
was able to trace sale of the land back to 1851.
The earliest Rusk County deed books were destroyed in a fire in 1878 and
thus, I was unable to obtain deeds prior to that.
Most of the deeds referred to "five acres expressly set aside for a
church, school, and burial ground".(8)
The 1895 deed from William M. Zuber's daughters Nancy Amanda Hull and
Martha Rettig to A. M. Sanders, was
the last one that mentioned a church or school (9).
It is unclear whether or not a church ever existed on the property.
It is not believed that a school was ever located here.
Subsequent deeds refer only to the "Methodist Cemetery".
Pine Hill Methodist Cemetery is the final resting place for
many early citizens of the Rusk County community of Pine Hill.
Its preservation is important to the history of early East Texas.
I believe it is indeed worthy of historical designation.
Rusk County Genealogical Society. Remembering
Rusk County. Curtis
Media Corporation: Dallas, Texas. 1992
Obituary for W. H. Hillin, taken from the Christian Advocate, August 14,
1913 and submitted to the Rusk County Library obituary collection.
Patman, Wright. A History of
Post Offices and Communities. (Cardboard
bound excerpts from Rusk County Library, Henderson, TX.)
Compiled and edited by Rusk County Historical Commission.
Rusk County History.
Compiled by: Hopper, Kathryn
Davis & Ericson, Carolyn Reeves. Rusk
Rebs. Available at the Rusk County
Kit #18373, Robert Howard, Panola/Rusk Co, Tx. Online. Retrieved
http://thehowardhhistorian.com/page11.html on September 28, 2004.
Barlow Geneology 1998-2005. William
Barlow, son of Branson. Online.
Barlow/WilliamBarlow-sonofBranson on April 10, 2005.
Deed Book F, p. 280, Rusk County Clerks Office.
Brown/Elizabeth McLade (actually McLeod), September 4, 1851.
Deed Book G, p. 190, Rusk County Clerks Office.
Brown, March 10, 1852,
Deed Books S, p. 288, Rusk County Clerk's Office. William Moss Zuber/John &
Sarah Giles, June 25, 1870.
Deed Book 46, p. 188, Rusk County Clerk's Office. A. M. Sanders/T. J. Hull & wife Nancy
Amanda, and Paul Rettig & wife Martha, Feb 13, 1895.