Oaklawn Cemetery
(Decatur City Cemetery)
Wise County, Texas
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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 you’ll 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 cemetery’s 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 sister’s 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

(1832 – 1903)

    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.

Gose Family

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

Ball, Thomas L. - Postmaster of Decatur in 1908 and was instrumental in having established the system of rural mail delivery here. (page 240)

Beard, Campbell Burns - came to Decatur in early days of the town's rush and growth; married Ella Greathouse; left North Carolina for the West in 1873; entered grocery business in Wise County. (page 329)

Bishop, Absalom - named the "county's best friend and the Father of Decatur"; "Bishop ‘ran things' as these were related to the organization of the county and the location of the county capital." Came in 1855 to Wise County and settled on Sweetwater Creek 1804-1883 (page 222)

Brady, H.E. - County Clerk of Wise in 1908; his father, Judge W.W. Brady had held this office for a longer term than any predecessor held any other office of the County government. (page 236)

Carpenter, Jesse C., Mr. & Mrs. - he married daughter of Dr. Thomas and Mrs. Stewart, who was a pioneer physician in Wise County. Mr. Carpenter was one of the foremost citizens of Wise County and a very active and successful cattleman and business man. He died in 1893 when struck by lightning while engaged in unloading a train of cattle at Decatur. He came to Wise in 1863, she and her family in early 1856. (page 260)

Cates, Charles D., Jr. - son of Charles D. Cates, Sr. and Narcissa Cates; father died before Mrs. Cates and her four children came to Wise County in 1855 from Collin County; assisted his mother in farming three miles south of Decatur; came to Decatur in 1857 and entered his brother and brother-in-law's store, Dave Cates and P.P.R. Collom; appointed War Tax Collector in the Confederate service over ten counties; engaged in mercantile business with J.C. Carpenter after the war; general mercantile business for eight years with Cephus W. Woods at Cates & Woods; had business on his own another eight years; built toll bridge across West Fork river at old Bridgeport; built store and saw and grist mill with cotton gin attachments at one end of the bridge; laid out town of Bridgeport; discovered Bridgeport vein of coal while digging a well; married Rowena T. Hale, daughter of Capt. John W. Hale, in 1868; bought house in Decatur and all his children born here. (page 308)

Cates, D.C. (Clabe) - son of Charles D. Cates, Jr.; pioneer merchant, farmer and land owner; married Elizabeth Lindley Portwood, daughter of Eli Lindley and widow of W. H. Portwood. (page 310)

Collins, R.M. - came to Texas to Smith County, some time afterwards came to Wise; attended Sand Hill schools; a merchant at Decatur and Denton after the war; editor and proprietor of the Decatur "Post" and Denton "Monitor"; traveling correspondent for the Texas "Live Stock Journal." (page 266)

Embry, J.A., Dr. & J.M., Dr. - came to Wise County in 1871; Dr. John taught numerous schools in Decatur and from 1879-1882 conducted the large school in the building which stood on lot where the present Methodist Church (in 1908) is located; John A. Embry was a physician (page 331)

Fullingim, Jesse P. - youngest of the seventeen children of Henry Fullingim who came to Wise County from Hopkins County where his father died (page 305)

Gililland, John S. - came to Wise County in 1874; opened blacksmith and woodworking shop in Decatur (page 336)

Gose, J.C., Dr. - son of Major S.M. Gose; taught school at Gose school-house; doctor in Krum; known as "Coy". (page 317)

Gose, Joe M., Dr. - physician in Alvord; son of Major Gose; born at Catlett Creek farm in 1867. (page 319)

Gose, John G., Judge - fifth child of Major S.M. Gose; came to Wise County at six months of age; lawyer; City Attorney in 1894; real estate and loan agent; County Judge two terms; ex-officio Superintendent of County Instruction (page 317)

Gose, S.M., Major - came to Wise County in 1861 and lived in Decatur; blacksmith; justice of the Peace for twelve to fourteen years; Major and Mrs. Gose, the "parents of Methodism in Decatur"; moved four miles north of Decatur and began erection of first real school-house built north of Decatur "Gose school-house". (page 313)

Gose, W.D. - son of Major S.M. Gose; District Clerk of County 1878-1882, studied law and admitted to practice in 1882; vice-president of First National Bank. (page 316)

Hale, John W., Capt. - came to Wise County in 1854, settled four miles north of Decatur; upon organization of the County in 1856 he was elected first sheriff; county's first surveyor; during War, chief enrolling officer and placed in preliminary charge of the post and arsenal at Decatur, from which relation he gained the title he bore; acquired considerable property holdings in Wise and adjoining counties; their daughter Rowena married Charles D. Cates of Decatur. (page 301)

Halsell, Electious - came to Wise County a year or two preceding the county organization; 1857 when Decatur was established moved to town and opened a tavern, the building occupied being the first constructed in the town; father of James Thompson Halsell, Harry H. Halsell, Oscar and Forrest Halsell, Mrs. Gus Whitehead, Mrs. D.C. Walcott, CicilyAnn Waggoner (Mrs. Daniel Waggoner), John Glenn Halsell, George W. Halsell (killed by Indians in spring of 1866, he is buried in the cemetery but Johnny King, former caretaker, said he was buried somewhere else and later moved here), W.E. Halsell, Ida Embry (wife of Dr. Jim Embry of Bowie), R.K. Halsell, and Ella Waggoner (wife of W. T. Waggoner), and Edward Halsell. Last three children were born in Wise County. (page 291)

Halsell, J.G. - son of Electious Halsell; successful cattleman; president of First National Bank of Decatur (page 293)

Hogg, John W. - son of General Joseph L. Hogg, brother of Governor of Texas, James S. Hogg; came to Wise County in 1871; served term Assessor of the county; elected sheriff; County Clerk one term; married Eva Renshaw, daughter of Dr. Wm. Renshaw; postmaster of Decatur for two terms. (page 286)

Lindly, Rufus - came in 1861 with his step-father B.W. Millholland; he was nephew of Eli Lindley; settled on Carlo Ball place one and one-half miles north of Decatur; keeper of the City Hotel in Decatur in 1908 (page 324)

Pickett, George B., Col. - County Judge two terms and five terms as representative in the legislature; author of the bill which authorized the organization of the ranger forces which tended in great part to subdue the Indians after their years of ravages. He first came to Wise County in 1854. (page 242)

Renshaw, William, Dr. - came to Wise County in 1859 to Catlett Creek bottom east of Decatur, practiced his profession, moved to Decatur in 1870 and ultimately was interested in a drug store business. (page 262)

Rucker, James C. - came to Wise County in 1855; Mexican War veteran; Confederate soldier six months, then transferred to the frontier protection guard. (page 324)

Shoemaker, A.H., Capt. - numbered among the strongest and most original of early Wise County citizens; came very early to Wise County (page 189)

Shoemaker, M.W. - came to Wise County in 1859 (page 336)

Terrell, Samuel L. - came in 1854 to Wise County near Denton Creek; was selected as one of the first County Commissioners upon organization of the county in 1856 and also elected Justice of the Peace for his precinct. Moved to Decatur and conducted a merchandise establishment and erected the first stone building in Decatur. (page 244)

Vesey, Randolph "Ran" "Old Ran" "Uncle Ran" - were his better known names; best known colored citizen of the time; popular fiddler; came to Wise County after the War; captured by Indians. (page 353)

Waggoner, Daniel - married Nancy Moore in Hopkins County and had one son, W.T. Waggoner; at age 21 (born in 1828) he came to Wise County, then in its wildest and most unsettled state; after his first wife's death he married Sicily Halsell, daughter of Electious Halsell; located two miles from Decatur, but then bought a ranch and 200 head of cattle in western Wise County in the vicinity of Cactus Hill. This small first purchase was gradually enlarged until finally the Waggoner brand became the most numerous in this section of Texas. (page 295)

Waggoner, John T. - came to Wise County in 1854 settling two miles northwest of Decatur. (page 327)

Wasson, John A. - came to Wise County in 1859; was a peace officer in Decatur as well as involved in farming and cattle driving. (page 265)

White, J.D. - came to wise County in 1856; taught school at Sand Hill; in 1858 elected Assessor and Collector of taxes for Wise County for two terms; County School Superintendent for a year after the war; County Commissioner for six years; he saw the beginning of Indian troubles as well as the end having fought in the memorable last fight which the Indians waged against the county (Huff family massacre). His wife, Mary Perrin, came with her family to Wise in 1854 and she was a pupil in the first county school. (page 175)