My brother and sister-in-law thought we were just stopping by the park in downtown Dallas, Texas to see the statues of the Longhorn cattle and the cowboys. To be honest, I thought that was the simple plan, too. Then, I saw the cemetery…with old tombstones…AND interpretive signs.
Pioneer Park Cemetery hasn’t had any burials since 1921, and it’s actually made of four separate burial grounds: the Masonic Cemetery, the Odd Fellow’s Cemetery, the Jewish Cemetery, and the City Cemetery. The first internment took place in 1849, and some of the early American pioneers of the area are buried there, including some who fought or politicized during the Civil War. It is particularly helpful that interpretive signs have been added beside some of the old tombstones to help visitors learn. My brother and sister-in-law weren’t sure about exploring an old cemetery, but by the end, they were quite interested to walk to each different sign and learn more about the early settlers. (Win for history through good interpretation!)
Here are a few of the headstones and signs with Civil War connections that particularly caught our attention and I’ve got a few more in my notes file to be shared after some more in-depth research later in the year:
TREZEVANT CALHOUN HAWPE
September 16, 1820 – August 12, 1863
Georgia native Trezevant Calhoun Hawpe, a widower, moved from Tennessee to Dallas County with his son. He married Electa Underwood Bethurum, in 1848. Elected Dallas County Sheriff in 1850, he served two terms. He later was Justice of the Peace and County Coroner, and an officer of the Tannehill Masonic Lodge. A leader in the secession movement in Dallas County, he organized an was first colonel of the 31st Texas Cavalry in 1862, and was instrumental in the Confederate victory at Newtonia, Missouri. Hawpe was stabbed to death by a friend after a quarrel on the steps of the county courthouse.
(“What kind of friend is THAT?” my brother wanted to know)
BARTON WARREN STONE
Kentucky native Barton Warren Stone came to Dallas from Tennessee in 1851. He prospered at farming and the practice of law. In 1852 he helped lead a rebellion against Peter’s Colony Agent H.O. Hedgecoxe. Though initially opposed to Texas secession, Stone organized and commanded two Confederate cavalry regiments during the Civil War. He later moved his family to a farm in Missouri, but returned to Dallas in 1879 to practice law.
(Note how the fallen gravestone has been set in concrete. I thought this was a particularly interesting way to try to preserve the original and keep it from “walking away” – getting stolen. We saw this at quite a few graves in this cemetery.)
JOHN W. LANE
Kentucky native John W. Lane (1835-1888) was a member of Tannehill Lodge No. 52. Trained as a printer, he came to Dallas in 1859 and worked for the Dallas Herald Newspaper. He married Elizabeth Crutchfield in 1860 and the next year joined the 18th Texas Cavalry to serve in the Civil War. Upon returning to Dallas, Lane was elected mayor. He resigned to become personal secretary to Gov. James Throckmorton. As state representative (1869-1872), Lane ensured the future development of Dallas by amending legislation in 1871 that changed the route of the Texas and Pacific Railroad.
(There were several Confederate veterans of the 18th Texas Cavalry buried in this cemetery – clearly a unit recruited from the Dallas area.)
NICHOLAS HENRY DARNELL
(April 20, 1807 – June 7, 1885)
Soon after arriving in Texas in 1838, Nicholas Darnell was elected to the Republic of Texas Congress, where he served as speaker of the house. A delegate to the 1845 statehood convention, he later represented Dallas and Tarrant Counties in the state legislature, again serving as speaker. He resigned in 1863 to lead the 18th Texas Cavalry. After the Civil War, Darnell was again elected to the Texas Legislature and was a delegate to the 1875 Constitutional Convention.
As we walked through the cemetery, reading the interpretive summaries of these pioneers’ lives, my brother started noticing a trend that many of these men who put on a Confederate uniform later were active in their state government. Standing in the shade of a large tree, he started asking questions, and we had a Q&A style discussion about the Reconstruction Era, the theories of reconciliation, the later Jim Crow laws, and the long range effects of political decisions. It was really interesting to see how a quick walk-through an old cemetery to humor the sister turned into a sincere and interested discussion about the past and how it continues to affect the present.
Just as I was enjoying the conclusion of a good moment of “historic site prompts deeper discussion and serious thought,” my brother turned to me and said: “Are all historians a little weird?” Well…thanks, brother.
On that thought, let’s go look at the cattle drive statuary in the rest of Pioneer Plaza…
P.S. I didn’t know it when we visited, but doing some sleuthing later, I found out that a Confederate War Memorial had been relocated to Pioneer Park Cemetery in 1961 when its previously location was disrupted by freeway construction. In 2020, the Confederate War Memorial was moved and placed in storage to prevent destruction attempts.