Can you believe it! The holiday season is here already, and there’s no shortage of things to do in Bryan between now and the new year. Here are just a few of the festivities.
Soon, the community will know more about some parts of its historical past, thanks to a grant from Texas Historical Commission. The City of Bryan recently received a $10,807 matching grant from the Historical Commission to map and conduct a monument assessment of the Grandview Cemetery and Freedman’s Burying Ground at the Bryan City Cemetery.
Comprising more than 2,300 graves, the two sites are an integral part of Bryan’s and Brazos County’s rich cultural resources. Information about each is limited due to a number of factors, including missing or incomplete burial records, deterioration of monuments and headstones and the prevalence of unmarked graves. This project will allow the city to study, document and protect the historic value of these sites and perpetuate the memories of the many Bryan and Brazos County residents who are buried there.
The surveying project will involve using GPS and GIS equipment to develop a comprehensive map and database of each existing monument, and document the location of existing fencing, trees, curbing, roads, entrances and other landmarks. This information will then be translated into a GIS format that will provide specific information for each monument, including photographs, names, birth dates, death dates and inscriptions. In addition, the city will receive a detailed assessment and preservation strategy for each existing monument, including a cost estimate for the restoration.
“We were excited to receive this grant from the Texas Historical Commission to document the history of thousands of members of Bryan’s African American community through this project. It’s particularly noteworthy that we were notified in February, as we celebrate Black History Month,” said Randy Haynes, Bryan’s Planning Administrator and Historic Preservation Officer.
This work is expected to begin in May and take approximately 10 weeks. Once complete, the data will be available on the City of Bryan’s website and at the Carnegie History Center.
About Freedman’s Burying Ground
Very little is known about the early history of the area locally known as the Freedman’s Burying Ground, a 3.8-acre section of the larger Bryan City Cemetery. It is estimated to contain more than 1,300 graves. The City Cemetery is located on the east side of North Texas Avenue and North Washington Avenue. The Freedman’s Burying Ground is located on the northeast side of the cemetery.
A number of very significant early citizens of Bryan are buried in the Freedman’s Burying Ground, including Deputy City Marshal Levi Neal. Neal is the one of the early African American law enforcement officers to be killed in the line of duty in Texas. Neal had been in law enforcement for about 20 years. He was buried in an unmarked grave in Freedman’s Burying Ground. His grave site could not be located but a marker commemorating his service was later erected.
Although the Bryan City Cemetery was established in 1868, the Bryan City Sexton only recorded burials of white residents for the first few years. The first documented burial in the Freedman’s Burying Ground was not recorded until 1876.
About the Grandview Cemetery
The Grandview Cemetery is one of the largest African-American burial grounds in Brazos County, with more than 1,000 graves. It currently covers approximately 10 acres of land out of the original 20 acres and is located near the southeast corner of Earl Rudder Freeway and State Highway 21.
After the Bryan City Commission prohibited future burials of African-Americans in the Freedman’s Burying Ground in the Bryan City Cemetery, Grandview Cemetery was established in 1921 by a group of African American residents.
As is the case with the Freedman’s Burying Ground, Grandview is the resting place for a large number of Bryan citizens who made meaningful contributions to the community.
Dr. William Hammond, one of Bryan’s first Black physicians, led an effort to purchase the land and establish the “Colored Cemetery Association of Bryan” in 1922 with a term of 50 years. After 1972, ownership of the cemetery came into question, and the property fell into a state of disrepair. Maintenance was discontinued for decades, and the cemetery became an unattractive resting place for the deceased.
The Grandview Association was established as a 501(c)(3) organization in 2018 with the intent to eventually take possession and control of the Grandview Cemetery. Later that year, the Bryan City Council adopted a resolution that granted the city possession and control until the Grandview Association can take responsibility for the cemetery. Since that time, the City of Bryan has made several improvements to the cemetery, including constructing a new paved entrance and clearing overgrown brush and debris.