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Oaklawn is located just northeast of Decatur. You turn north off the Hwy 380 bypass on the first exit west of FM 51. Follow the signs on Cemetery Road for a little over a mile and youll come to the brick entry gate on the right side of the road. There's a second gate just to the north of the brick gate, and also an iron arch sign gate further down the road to the north.
At about forty
acres and over 5,000 headstones, Oaklawn is by far the largest cemetery in Wise County.
There is a Board of
Directors of the Decatur Cemetery Association that oversees the operation for both Sand Hill
and Oaklawn Cemeteries.
There's a Historical Marker just inside the brick entrace gate. The text follows:
Oak Lawn Cemetery
Oak Lawn Cemetery was officially established in 1878 when William T. Perry deeded property to R.M. Collins, the mayor of Decatur, for a public burial ground for area residents. At that time however, at least one marked grave, that of Eli Lindley (d. 1867) existed, indicating that a private cemetery has first been established here. Other marked graves dating as early as 1857 are believed to have been relocated to this site after the public cemeterys founding.
The city of Decatur managed the cemetery between 1878 and 1928. During that time, local residents C. and Caroline Harmon generously donated land to the city on four occasions to enlarge the cemetery property. In 1928, in response to the recent formation of a cemetery association by E.P. Gibson, W.P. Thurmond and T.J. Dillehay, the city ceased its management of Oak Lawn. Between 1928 and 1986, the Cemetery Association maintained the burial ground, which was again enlarged in 1947 and 1960. In 1986, after the dissolution of the Association, the city of Decatur resumed responsibility for the graveyard.
Now consisting of over forty acres of property, Oak Lawn Cemetery is the final resting place of over 3,700 area residents.
First Burial - Two Theories
(On historical Marker)
The first person buried in the cemetery was Eli Lindley although several others with earlier death dates may have been moved here from Sand Hill Cemetery which was the first cemetery in Wise County. Eli Lindley owned 48,000 acres in Jack, Hopkins and Wise Counties. His land one and a half miles north of Decatur was known as the Carlo Ball place, and his sister, Mrs. B.W. Millholland, lived on the land and took care of it for him. When he came to Decatur in April of 1867 he caught pneumonia and died at his sisters house. They walked and carried his casket from her house to the grave location in the cemetery (Block 3, Lot 42).
(New Research by Alton Cook)
While researching the genealogy of his Cook and Millhollon ancestors at the Wise County Historical Museum, Alton Cook, now of New Orleans, found some old newspaper articles and other evidence showing that Mrs. Bat Millhollon was the first person buried in the cemetery. She was allegedly poisoned by her slaves and was buried on the east side of the cemetery in 1855. (unmarked grave - Block 4, Lot 21) Click here to read his paper, complete with footnotes, supporting newspaper articles and an aerial map of the cemetery.
The Randolph Vesey Texas Historical Marker
is in Block 8, Lot 12.
Randolph (Uncle Ran) Vesey
Born a slave near Savannah, GA, Randolph Vesey was body servant to Confederate General William Lewis Cabell during the Civil War, in 1868, while living on the Montague - Wise County line, Vesey was captured by Indians and taken to Kansas. Black scout Brit Johnson ransomed Vesey with horses contributed by friends in Texas. A natural musician, Vesey often played the violin at dances in the area. He married Missouri (Zoe) Light and had two children.
The Marker Below is in Block 3, Lot 24
and is not a Texas Historical Marker.
This stone marks no grief and no graves. It proudly remembers our pioneer forebears who in 1861 homesteaded land ten miles northeast of the place:
Stephen Mathus Gose (1824 1877) and
Mary Frances Gerking Gose (1831 1911)
and their children,
Martha Ann Gose Harding, Henrietta Gose Perrin, William David Gose, James Caughey Gose, John Gerking Gose, Mary Frances Gose Waggoner, Margaret Ellen Gose Harvey, Joseph Martin Gose, Stephen Mathus Gose, and Cora Nettie Gose Sellars.
Their lives, their character, and their courage inspire us to live our own lives in the ennobling manner in which they lived theirs.
Dedicated on June 3, 1990 by their living descendants.
There's 2 Gazebos in the cemetery. One is in the southeast corner. (Block 105, Lot 1), and the other is in Block 1-N, Lot 9.
The Waggoner mausoleum is in Block 3, Lot 40, and close to it in Lots 39 and 40, is the fenced area of the Electious Halsell family.
There's a water tank in this same area, and north of the brick entry gate and next to the road is Block IOOF (International Order of Odd Fellows) part of the cemetery.
Two intersting headstone pictures are below. The first one has the date 'Shot and Died', and the second one has the date 'Killed By Jene White'.
Early Pioneers Buried in Oaklawn Cemetery
The following excerpts came from
Pioneer History of Wise County - by Cliff D. Cates, 1907