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Old Round Rock Cemetery

This morning we all got up and crammed ourselves (relatively comfortably) into Drew’s Chevy cobalt coup to head over to Old Round Rock Cemetery. I thought it was interesting that it was on Sam Bass Road because I’m from this area, and I’ve driven on Sam Bass road many a time, and I have never been aware of a cemetery on that road. This is even more surprising because the cemetery is right on the side of the road, and it is pretty large.

So we arrived to discover that the acreage of land that Old Round Rock Cemetery is on is actually divided into two cemeteries. Hopewell and Old Round Rock. The only distinguishable divider is a gravel road between the two; and Round Rock Cemetery has a larger gravel area for parking. One of the first things that struck us was a plaque, similar to the one at old Georgetown Cemetery. The placard told us that the cemetery was established in the early 1850’s by “many area pioneers and outstanding round rock citizens.” I found this interesting because the language is so similar to the language from the placard at Old Georgetown: polite, airy, ambiguous. It depicts the burial ground as an ‘outstanding’ almost heroic effort by these (white) pioneers: after venturing forth into unpredictable wilderness, these adventurous and advanced (outstanding even) pioneers had enough sense to create a place to bury their dead. Just thought it was interesting. The sign also told us that the oldest legible gravestone belonged to an eleven-year-old girl who was buried in 1851.

What was even more interesting though, was that the sign told us that “one-half acre in the northwest” corner of the cemetery was used as a burial ground for slaves and freedmen during the 19th century. After that one brief statement about the slaves and African Americans buried in the corner of the lot, it continued on to mention that war veterans were in the cemetery, as well as Sam Bass (with a brief narrative of how he died), and then mentioned names of various other persons buried there such as an eye doctor, a broom factory owner, some ministers, and mentions an unusual grave from 1870 that belongs to Mary Ann Lavender. I’m not sure we found that one. What really bothered me was the effort that the plaque makers put into attempting to deflect interest from the Slave cemetery. It was almost saying, “There is a slave cemetery around here..but Sam Bass is Buried here! Oh, and G.T Cole, one of the areas few eye doctors..oh and did we tell you about…” The last sentence mentioning the “unusual” grave almost immediately draws the visitor to wonder where it is, turning focus away from the half acre in the corner of the lot.

The sign closes stating that the cemetery is a historical reminder of the early history of Williamson County. A history of a people whose prejudices can still be seen in the commemorative signs of today. As for the rest of the cemetery, it seemed to be divided racially. Perhaps this wasn’t on purpose, but there was a clear and definite section for people of Latin-American or Spanish decent, with graves as recent as 2010. These graves were ornamented and brightly decorated, an example is in the following photographs. It was a stark contrast to the (presumingly) white graves on the other side of the path. There was also a section of the graveyard for children. From what our group could tell the graveyard is still actively burying people today.

The slave cemetery was found by accident. I looked up a hill and saw a brown sign (photographed) that said “Slave Cemetery” in what I assume was the northwest corner of the lot. Like old Georgetown Cemetery, the area was heavily wooded and had not been cleared. Unlike old Georgetown Cemetery, this area had a plaque describing what the area was, who was buried there (slaves and freedmen), the date of the earliest known grave, and how the plots were marked. Oddly, the sign said that the burial ground is still in use. We weren’t really sure what that implied. Nearby was the headstone of none other than Sam Bass and one of his gang-members, as well as a sign commemorating the committee members responsible for the grave-site and a small stone commemorating the date of the shootout in which Sam Bass died. It was hard to tell if the placement of Sam Bass’s grave acted as a distraction from the slave cemetery, or whether it drew people toward it. I think it would depend on the visitors reasons for stopping by.

Overall the condition of the older portion of the cemetery, white and black sides together, was poor. Many headstones were cracked, broken, and the graves appeared not to be tended to. What was really upsetting for me, and is pictured below, is a pile of stones Charlotte and I found in the very corner of the slave section. They were in fact head stones, all broken, that had been all piled and lumped together in a huge mess. It would be impossible to tell where the real locations of the bodies that belong to those stones lay. Not only that, but after being piled together like that more damage has probably been done to the stones, erasing the identities of their owners with them. Only a chain link fence separates this area from the houses only feet away, giving it little to no privacy, causing a build up of trash, and diminishing the weight and significance of this area.

Old Round Rock Cemetery, the aged sector, barely has enough cement to hold its stones together. You can see the disrepair in the headstones of the “outstanding” pioneers of Round Rock, and as such the gravemarkings of the people whose backs worked to build Round Rock have been all but virtually erased.

This experience has definitely given me a lot to consider.

-Megan

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Categories: Uncategorized
  1. trilderos
    January 19, 2011 at 2:20 am

    The whole signage as well as the layout of the whole thing left a bad taste in my mouth. It was just extremely subtle in it’s racism, yet it was somehow ridiculously blatant at the same time. Just the fact that the whole place was so segregated was really unappealing to me. Additionally, the fact that they made it so the nicest and most well maintained memorial was of a freaking robber and murderer. I just wanted to say, “really?” It’s just hard to come to terms that such blatant apathy is so prevalent even now.

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