It is estimated that there are roughly 50,000 cemeteries in Texas. These range from single, isolated and often unmarked graves to expansive cemeteries spanning hundreds of acres and reaching up to hundreds-of-thousands of burials. Many of these cemeteries are endangered due to lack of historic context and knowledge of their presence or exact location. Efforts to identify, locate, protect and preserve these endangered cemeteries remains a goal of the THC and our many partners around the state.
Cemeteries are among the most valuable of historic resources. They are reminders of various settlement patterns, such as villages, rural communities, urban centers, and ghost towns. Cemeteries can reveal information about historic events, religions, lifestyles, and genealogy.
Names on gravemarkers serve as a directory of early residents and reflect the ethnic diversity and unique population of an area. Cultural influence in gravemarker design, cemetery decoration, and landscaping contribute to the complete narrative of Texas history. Established in large part for the benefit of the living, cemeteries perpetuate the memories of the deceased, giving a place character and definition.
Unfortunately, historic cemeteries do not necessarily remain permanent reminders of our heritage. They are subject to long-term deterioration from natural forces such as weathering and uncontrolled vegetation. Neglect accelerates and compounds the process. Development activities and construction projects are also a threat to these precious resources. Vandalism and theft continue to plague both rural and urban burial grounds across the nation.
Historic cemeteries across Texas are threatened by development, uncontrolled vegetation, vandalism, and theft. Their survival is constantly threatened by expanding urban areas, removal of headstones, theft of objects, neglect, and lack of fences to keep cattle from toppling headstones. If not recorded and cared for, these reminders of early settlements could be lost forever. The Cemetery Preservation Program offers technical assistance to assist concerned citizens and local and regional organizations with their cemetery preservation efforts and administers the Historic Texas Cemetery (HTC) designation process.
With this webpage, the Texas Historical Commission (THC) presents information to aid in the preservation of the state’s historic cemeteries (download pdf). However, this information alone is not enough to protect them; preservation starts with you. Individuals and groups interested in saving these irreplaceable cultural resources of Texas’ heritage are the driving force in long-term preservation.
Historic Texas Cemetery designations