Monday, May 23, 2022

Mitchell: Preserving history for future generations

The Denton County Office of History and Culture is currently working on an application to have the Macedonia-Champion Cemetery in Lewisville designated as a Historic Texas Cemetery by the Texas Historical Commission.

You will remember the many wonderful volunteers, organizations and businesses who came together on Martin Luther King Jr. Day to help organize a cleanup of this historic black cemetery.

The cemetery, located next to the Huffines dealership off Stemmons Freeway, was formerly known as Mount Olive Cemetery and was deeded in 1899 as a cemetery for African American residents in Lewisville.

The first burial at Macedonia-Champion was for George McKenzie in May 1880 before the Mount Olive Baptist Church purchased property to build a new church and maintain the cemetery. The church later merged with the Macedonia Baptist Church, which established their church in 1885. The cemetery then became known as the Macedonia Cemetery. The church moved their building into a pasture in 1914 on the property of one of the early founding families of Lewisville, the Hembrys.

The Hembrys, McKenzies, Brothertons, Crafts and Champions were among the names associated with former slaves and their families who moved to the area following the abolishment of slavery in 1865 and all but the Hembrys have family members buried at the cemetery.

The Hembry family had their own cemetery in Lewisville, the Fox-Hembry Cemetery off Mill Street not far from Lewisville Lake. In fact, the same community members have planned a cleanup of this historic black cemetery on March 19 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. It is located off North Mill Street just before the railroad tracks on a gravel road known as Whitmore Lane.

John Hembry later sold some of the property off Stemmons Freeway to the Huffines family, who built an auto dealership next to the cemetery. The Macedonia Baptist Church, now known as Macedonia Ministries, relocated, grew and later built their current facility in 1988 at the corner of South Mill and McKenzie streets.

The Champion Cemetery originated after James Champion bought 80 acres on the Elm Fork of the Trinity River in Lewisville in 1881. Years later in 1953, the Champion Cemetery was relocated when the U.S. government began working to create the Garza-Little Elm Dam and Reservoir, which eventually would form Lewisville Lake. The cemetery with 51 graves was moved in December 1953 to property next to the Macedonia Cemetery.

Now known as the Macedonia-Champion Cemetery, both sections remain active with 122 graves in the Champion portion and 96 memorials in the Macedonia parcel.

Upon the approval of the Historic Texas Cemetery designation this year, our Office of History and Culture team will apply in 2023 for the Texas State Historical Marker. Work has also begun on requesting a roadway sign from the Texas Department of Transportation to make this historic cemetery more easily found by residents and passersby.

It is important to preserve our history across Denton County, not only so that we can learn about the history of our great county but also to preserve it for future generations to discover.

I am so thankful for the many volunteers who have worked to create opportunities for individuals to become involved with the cleanups at both cemeteries and to help preserve this valuable history. Together, we can achieve so much more when we are #DentonCountyStrong.

Connect With Us: Be sure and connect with Denton County on Facebook at www.facebook.com/DentonCountyTX and on Twitter @DentonCountyTX. You can also follow me at www.facebook.com/DentonCountyCommissionerBobbieMitchell

If you have any questions or comments, please let me hear from you. My email is [email protected] and my office number is 972-434-4780.

CTG Staff
The Cross Timbers Gazette News Department

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