History of Pine Hill Methodist Cemetery

Rusk County, Cemeteries of TX

Prepared 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.  (7)

            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 tombstones.  

            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.    


1  Rusk County Genealogical Society.  Remembering Rusk County. Curtis                          Media Corporation: Dallas, Texas. 1992

2  Obituary for W. H. Hillin, taken from the Christian Advocate, August 14,                               1913 and submitted to the Rusk County Library obituary collection.       

3  Patman, Wright.  A History of Post Offices and Communities.  (Cardboard                              bound excerpts from Rusk County Library, Henderson, TX.)    

4  Compiled and edited by Rusk County Historical Commission.  Rusk County History.

5  Compiled by:  Hopper, Kathryn Davis & Ericson, Carolyn Reeves.  Rusk                           County Rebs.  Available at the Rusk County Historical Commission.

6  Kit #18373, Robert Howard, Panola/Rusk Co, Tx.  Online.  Retrieved from                         http://thehowardhhistorian.com/page11.html on September 28, 2004.

7  Barlow Geneology 1998-2005.  William Barlow, son of Branson.  Online.              Retrieved from://www.barlowgenealogy.com/Families/Branson/

            Barlow/WilliamBarlow-sonofBranson on April 10, 2005.  

8  Deed Book F, p. 280, Rusk County Clerks Office.  George                                                            Brown/Elizabeth McLade (actually McLeod), September 4, 1851.

   Deed Book G, p. 190, Rusk County Clerks Office.  Josiah                                                  Roquemore/George Brown, March 10, 1852,

   Deed Books S, p. 288, Rusk County Clerk's Office.  William Moss Zuber/John &             Sarah Giles, June 25, 1870.

9  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.