About Olivewood Cemetery – History & Location

Olivewood Cemetery, in Houston, Texas, lies near a bend in White Oak Bayou, along the rail line to Chaney Junction, where the First and Sixth wards meet just northwest of downtown. The 6-acre (24,000 m2) cemetery is an historic resting place for many freed slaves and some of Houston’s earliest black residents.

About

In 1875, the land, which had previously been used for slave burials, was purchased by Richard Brock, Houston’s first black alderman. It opened as a cemetery for black Methodists in 1877. When Olivewood was platted, it was the first African-Americans burial ground within the Houston city limits.

Many 19th century influential African-Americans were buried in the cemetery, including Reverend Elias Dibble, first minister of Trinity United Methodist Church; Reverend Wade H. Logan, also a minister of the church; and James Kyle, a blacksmith; as well as Richard Brock.

The cemetery includes more than 700 family plots around a graceful, elliptical drive that originated at an ornate entry gate. It contains graves of both the well-to-do and those who died in poverty; therefore, the grave markers run the gamut from elaborate Victorian monuments to simple, handmade headstones. Burials at Olivewood Cemetery continued through the 1960s.

Olivewood Cemetery sign
In 2003, after decades of neglect and abandonment, the “Descendants of Olivewood,” a nonprofit organization, was established to take guardianship of the cemetery, “to provide care and to protect its historical significance.”

Olivewood was designated an Historic Texas Cemetery. By 2010 water and vandals threatened to damage graves in a portion of the cemetery.

By 2013, a digital database for the cemetery has been created (many memorials created through using the death certificates found at www.familysearch.org) consisting mostly of the years 1910-1940 and can be found at www.findagrave.com (link listed below). This database has about 3,800 memorials and can be searched by using first and or last names.

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