Olivewood Cemetery

[Photo by Houstorian Kate]

Olivewood Cemetery is a near-abandoned cemetery hidden behind Party Boy and the grocery supply warehouse on Studemont, just south of I-10 and White Oak Bayou. (Hence, one suspects, Party’s Boy’s claim that the haunted house it hosts each October – Nightmare on the Bayou – is “Houston’s only haunted house that is really haunted.”) The cemetery was the first black cemetery in Houston. Burials continued there into the 1960’s, but the cemetery became overgrown and neglected in the decades that followed. While various community service organizations have sponsored clean-up activities at the cemetery, much work remains to be done.

[Photo by Houstorian Kate]

One of the more interesting gravestone inscriptions reads: “Think what a wife should be. She was that.” Another reads: “Murdered at Dallas, Tex. Dec. 12, 1889.” A partial registry of those buried at Olivewood Cemetery is available online.

(Please note the additional comments below from Ms. Margott Williams, President of Descendents of Olivewood, Inc. Also, the book referenced in Ms. Rhonda McDonald’s comment below, Out of the Ditch, A True Story of an Ex-Slave, is available online here.)

More information:
Aulbach, L.F., “Ghosts of Houston’s Past Haunt the Cemeteries on Buffalo Bayou,” Buffalo Bayou – An Echo of Houston’s Wilderness Beginnings (2001).
Perry, J., “Houston Heritage – Grave undertaking: efforts to preserve earliest black cemetery,” City Savvy (Online Ed. 2005).
Preservation Update,” Greater Houston Preservation Alliance


16 responses to “Olivewood Cemetery

  1. Margott Williams

    Hi Tracey my name is Margott Williams I am the president of Descendants of Olivewood,Inc. we are the group who is working on the cemetery to restore and preserve its history. the cemetery was established in 1875. Buried there are:slaves,freedmen and women,veterans, influental citizens. Olivewood was designated as a historical cemetery in 2005

  2. Trevia Wooster Beverly

    Looks like a very interesting site. I will come back to it later and really go through it— thanks! However, the black background makes it a little hard on the eyes .. a different background color, maybe?

  3. Rhonda McDonald

    According to the his death cerificate, my Great-Grandfather Joseph Vance Lewis, the first black man to pass the Texas Bar of Law and author of the book Out Of The Ditch, published in the early 1900’s is buried there. I have checked the on-line registry, and to my dismay, he is not listed. He was an extremely prominent man in Houston, the state of Texas and well as Washington DC, Chicago, New York and Europe. I am learning all that I can about him and would love to assist in any clean up of the cemetery and find out that he is definately buried there. Please contact me.

    • Rhonda,
      I was in Houston two weeks ago and had a chance to visit Olivewood cemetery with an employee of the Yates Museum. Debra Blacklock-Stone now has a copy of the burial plots for the cemetery and we were able to find the actual burial plot of J. Vance which is next to Pauline Lewis mother Mary E. Gray. We had the area cleaned two weeks ago and I have taken a pictures of the plot site. What needs to happen is that the descents of J. Vance need to donate money to the Yates Foundation to purchase a head stone and pay a maintenance fee to keep the plot free of weeds.

  4. Houstorian Tracey

    Ms. McDonald – I emailed Ms. Williams after she left her comment, and asked her to please let me know of any clean-up projects organized in the future. I have your email address, and will be sure to let you know if I hear anything from Ms. Williams. Also – I hope you don’t mind, but I’ve linked above to an electronic version of your Great-Grandfather’s book. Thanks for the note.

  5. Stephen Williams

    My name is Stephen Williams and I am a decendant of Olivewood. My great-great grandfather, Gilbert Hicks was a very prominent citizen of First Ward along with many members of his family. I am currently researching all of the family records that his daughter, Idell Austin left when she passed in May 2006. She was 100 years old. She left many stories and documents with me and they will prove to be very maeaningful for local history. Although only John and Estell Hicks graves have been found I have funeral programs showing they are there somewhere.

  6. My name is Melrita Taylor and I am a decendant of Olivewood. My great great grandfather is buried there. I’ve had the pleasure of participating in the recent cleanup at Olivewood. At this time I have not located his gravesite. It is a very interesting place to explore. So much history….

    • You are a bi-sexual slut who has tried to destroy my family. It is my understanding that your entire family seek out evil by these many counts of this type of behavior.

  7. Good morning Tracey touching bases to let you know Descendants of Olivewood,Inc. is now a 501c3 charitable organization as of November 30,we are also working with Yes Preparatory school their next clean up will be saturday Jan. 26,2008 we will have clean ups before that one Descendants is also
    collecting the history of those buried in Olivewood my e-maili is the same mwilliams_734@yahoo.com I bid you peace

  8. Hello to all of you. I am writing to let you know that I am a descendent of Olivewood. My Great, Great, Great Uncle, Wade Hampton Logan is buried there. He was a very prominent African American Reverend that worked there. The large majority of our family lives in Illinois at this time. We will be traveling to Houston in July and plan to visit the cemetery at that time. Thank-you so much!

  9. Rebecca Yzquierdo


    I actually coming to volunteer on the 21st to help clean up with the obama Volunteer Corp Group but I am interested in coming out on a regular basis to help. Please let me know who I would talk to about this.



  10. Houstorian Tracey

    Rebecca – The person to contact regarding volunteer work is Margott Williams. Her email address is listed in an earlier comment. I’m sure she would be glad to hear from you!

  11. I ran across this doing research on historic cemeteries in Houston, and was wondering if this article has been updated? And is the cemetery still kept up? And has this cemetery been documented by a photographer? Thanks .
    Cat Martin

  12. La Faye Johnson Lee

    I am LaFaye Johnson Lee and my great grandfather William Johnson was a caretaker for Olivewood. His son, A. D. “Picky” Johnson also worked at Olivewood as a gravedigger. I want to find out if Willima Johnson and his wife Elizabeth Johnson are buried at Olivewood. If so, our family would like to get involved involved in clean up efforts.

  13. I am trying to contact Houstorian Kate. I am writing a poetry chapbook called Toska, The Art of Misery. I would like permission to use one of her photographs of Olivewood Cemetery in it. Does anyone know how I can reach her? Thanks, Claire http://www.clairecount.com

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