The five-acre city cemetery known as Old City Cemetery was actually the second official cemetery. It was founded, in 1840, when the original City Cemetery, now known as Founders Memorial Cemetery, was becoming near full. At the time, the new site was about a mile north of town. Many of those buried in the cemetery were victims of yellow fever and cholera epidemics, and many were Civil War veterans. It is believed that as many as 10,000 people were buried on the site.
Burials continued until 1904, when the city de-designated the cemetery (though perhaps illegally). The city had grown significantly by then and, despite opposition from groups such as the Daughters of the Confederacy, it wished to make the land available for city use and industrial development. Some small portion of the graves were moved to other sites, but most remained.
In the 1920’s, the city of Houston and Harris County built the original Jefferson Davis Hospital directly on top of one portion of the cemetery. The hospital was elevated, likely so as to disturb as few graves as possible. Nevertheless, many graves were disturbed during the hospital’s construction, and it is unknown whether the remains of those exhumed were reburied elsewhere.
Bones were again uncovered in 1968, when the city built Fire Department maintenance facilities at 1010 Girard, on part of the cemetery. Those exhumed were reportedly reburied in Magnolia Cemetery. Another 25-30 graves were exposed in 1986, during construction at the Fire Department facility. A number of the graves were desecrated by souvenir-seekers before the city hired a local anthropologist to supervise the handling of the remains. The bones were reburied in a set-aside area on the Fire Department facility’s grounds, amidst original graves, but not until 2006. The area is only accessible by special permission.
Grant, A., “Human remains finally reburied,” Houston Chronicle, Aug. 4, 2006.
Stinebaker, J., “Awaiting prognosis,” Houston Chronicle, Nov. 30, 1998.
Tutt, B., “City Cemetery holds untold secrets,” Houston Chronicle, Sept. 28, 1986.