Old City Cemetery

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.

More information:
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.

5 responses to “Old City Cemetery

  1. I lived in First Ward from around 1981 to 1989; I remember playing around the old hospital that’s right a cross from an Amtrak station and I also remember tripping over one of the heads stones that sit directly in front of the entrance of the hospital. The number one thing is that years before the fire department was built, there was a number of houses on a three square block there that ran from Hickory St. and Holly Street. I remember in back in 86′ when I was 11 years old and going to to Brock Elementary School that the teachers were talking about remains being found and how it turned out to be an old forgotten cemetery that was plowed down and streets and buildings including the old Jefferson Davis hospital built over it which is no surprise to me as it was a very common practice in those days especially in old negro graveyards.

  2. Does anybody know what happened to the tombstones that were in the Old City Cemetery? I had a relative buried there and would like to know if the tombstone still exists.

    Thanks

  3. The only head stones left, well they were there back in the 80’s were of the Super Family. From what I gather is that the tomb stones were destroyed or moved to other Cemeteries. I’m guessing that there are some left under the hospital it’s self since it’s basement is above ground. Steve what is your relative’s name?

  4. Not much mention about First Ward online but I found this website. http://www.techs-on-the-side.mysite.com/houstonhistory.html

  5. Amanda Barned

    It’s very sad that the city thought so little of these people as to build things over the top of them. These were living breathing people at one time. Reading all the documentation on this cemetery has made me thing very little of the city of Houston now.

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