HISTORY OF HAWKINS CEMETERY, TARRANT COUNTY, TEXAS
Dianne Chance, November, 2015
Hawkins Cemetery was named for Harvey Hawkins, a pioneer settler, born in 1804 who came to Texas from Tennessee. He first settled in Rusk County, Texas where he married Mary Ann Elizabeth Elliott Hitt Turner in 1848. This was the third marriage for them both. Sometime later they migrated to an area that would later become known as Tarrant County. In 1856 Harvey Hawkins’s name appeared on a tax list as owner of 160 acres. Tarrant County records show a survey of 160 acres made for Harvey Hawkins in 1857[i] and a Settler’s Claim/Certificate of Settlement was filed in February, 1858.[ii] A preemption land grant was issued to Hawkins for 160 acres in Tarrant County by Sam Houston, Governor of the State of Texas in January, 1860.[iii] This property was and is still known as the Harvey Hawkins Survey in southeast Tarrant County.
Hawkins Cemetery began as a family burial plot located in the center of the property where the Hawkins couple and their children are buried. According to legend a slave girl named Poly Penn was the first to be buried in the cemetery several yards south of the Hawkins family plot. No gravestone has been found but her grave location is shown as ‘Poly Penn Col’ on the oldest maps of the cemetery. The oldest marked grave in Hawkins Cemetery is that of Mary Ann Elizabeth Hawkins who died in 1868. Her husband, Harvey Hawkins was buried near her in 1869 while they still owned the land. A son, Charles Harvey Hawkins was buried between Harvey and Mary about 1881. Jason Bryant Little, another settler married Rebekah, a daughter of Mary Hawkins and migrated by wagon train from East Texas to the area about 1845. The Little’s home later became a stage coach stop on the Star Mail Route from Johnson Station, Texas to Fort Worth. When the Civil War erupted Jason Little enlisted to fight for the Confederate States of America and fought with Confederate troops in in Vicksburg. He sustained serious injuries and after two years he returned home to his wife and children. Sometime later he started an elementary school to provide education for his own and other children of the community.iv Jason and Rebekah are buried at Hawkins Cemetery along with other members of the Hawkins and Little families. Little Elementary School and Little Road in Arlington are both named for Jason B. Little.
George W. Kee later owned the property around and including the cemetery. In 1890 Kee sold the one and one-half acre cemetery to members of the community for fifty dollars for use as a public burying place as found in deed records of Tarrant County, Texas in 1895. v An 1895 map of the area southeast of Fort Worth designated the cemetery, “Hawkins Graveyard”.vi The Key family is buried near the Hawkins family on the ridge in the northern section of the cemetery. The Edwards and Tunnell families later acquired portions of the Hawkins Survey and deeded an additional 11/12 acre to the cemetery in 1919.vii
In the late 1800’s the surrounding area became known as the Tate Springs community. Gravestones in the cemetery record the life-span of early settlers in the area whose names now designate local streets and roads such as Little, Hawkins and Sublett. The men of the community dug graves by hand with picks and shovels. Graves were always dug early on the day of the burial so as not to leave a grave open overnight. Relatives and members of the community gathered with picnic lunches once or twice each year to clean the graves. These gatherings became planning meetings and in time a small board of trustees was named to oversee operations. Trustees volunteered their time and labor to maintain the cemetery and keep records of burials. Maps were created and updated. Burial plots were free to the community. Written records of meetings began in 1949. A meeting was held on October3, 1949 at the cemetery for the purpose of forming the Hawkins Cemetery Association and to elect officers for the same. viii The then current group of trustees resigned (H. T. Brannon, R. C. Williamson, A. K. Busbee, T. W. Maxwell, and C. V. Tunnell). A new board of four members was elected (Delmer Hiett, Brian Lotspeich, Ira A. Williams and Mabel Cole). Mrs Cole served as secretary/treasurer and she along with her husband Floyd Cole volunteered countless hours during the next 35 years marking grave sites, updating maps and records and investing donations in a small fund used for upkeep. Carl L. Ferguson, Norman “Bud” Busbee and other volunteers donated many hours of work and materials to add a cattle guard, culverts, fencing, gates, and driveways. They placed markers and created and updated maps. Mr. Ferguson, the Ira and Charles Williams families and others donated the use of pick-up trucks, tractors, mowers, and tools to remove debris, level graves, and mow when needed.
As the area population grew, friends and supporters of Hawkins Cemetery passed away and families of the Tate Springs Community scattered. In the late 1960s Hawkins Cemetery was taken into the city limits of Arlington, Texas. Developers built homes on adjoining properties on three sides of the cemetery. Volunteers and donations diminished while burials and demand for better maintenance increased in the urban setting. Hired workers took over mowing and dirt work and beautification became a priority. In May, 1979 acquired an additional 0.71 acre of land on the west side of the cemetery donated by Harvey Properties Company. ix The newly acquired land afforded much-needed access to the cemetery from the west. Once a small community cemetery, Hawkins was now joined on three sides by residences and on the west by U.S. Highway 287. The new land was surveyed and mapped. In order to cover the rising costs of maintenance trustees requested all who had burials or space reservations to donate a small fee per space each year for upkeep. Secretary/treasurer Mabel Cole resigned in 1984 and Neita Horton was elected as the new secretary/treasurer with Dianne Chance as assistant. Floyd Cole resigned as trustee in 1985. Board members Norman Busbee, Charles Williams, Helen Williams, Carl Ferguson, and Billy Horton renewed efforts toward a goal of perpetual care. Later on, Connie Burleson, great, great granddaughter of Harvey Hawkins was elected as Historian.
Many original gravestones were hand-carved red sandstone. Some were misplaced or lost over time and were replaced by more permanent markers. The original sandstone marker for Harvey Hawkins was lost and original stones for M. (Mary) Hawkins and C. (Charles) Hawkins gradually deteriorated. In recent years these three stones were replaced with granite markers by Betty Bridgewater and Connie Burleson, descendants of the Hawkins family. Some original stones remain with the names Turner and Brooks which mark the graves of other children of the Hawkins.
In December, 1988 the Hawkins Cemetery Association was incorporated with the State of Texas and by-laws were created. A stone entrance, landscaping and driveway improvements were added in 1988. Board meetings were held regularly but work days and open meetings were discontinued due to poor attendance. Shrubbery, concrete benches, curbs, signs, flagpole, iron fencing, and gates have been added over time. In 2011 a stone marker surrounded by antique iron fencing was erected in memory of Poly Penn.
Since 1984 board members Billy and Neita Horton have volunteered much of their time to mark graves, maintain records and maps, invest donations, oversee maintenance, and make improvements. Since donations diminished it became necessary to charge a fee for space reservations. Burial spaces are still available in 2015. Hawkins Cemetery now has a website: www.hawkinscemetery.com Twelve members now serve on the board of directors of Hawkins Cemetery Association and meet quarterly. The goals of the association are to protect monuments of the departed, to preserve the rich history and maintain the beauty of the cemetery, and to provide a final resting place for anyone wishing to be buried there. Records are currently kept by Dianne Chance at the Hawkins Cemetery Association office on Norwood Lane in Arlington, Texas.
Connie Burleson, great, great granddaughter of Harvey Hawkins and her mother, Betty Hawkins Bridgewater provided the history of the Hawkins family. In October, 2015 Hawkins Cemetery, Tarrant County was recorded as a Historic Texas Cemetery by the Texas Historical Commission.
Survey, Platt and Field Information:
[ii] Settler’s Claim/Certificate of Settlement No. 52, Harvey Hawkins 160 acres, State of Texas, Tarrant County Preemption Book H, Page 132, February 20, 1857
[iii] Land Grant to Harvey Hawkins, Tarrant County, Abstract No. 729, Dist. Robertson 3rd, File 4061, Patent No. 388, Vol. 28, State of Texas, January 24, 1860
iv Story of Jason Bryant Little, 1832-1911, Dedication of Jason B. Little School, November, 1992
v Record of Deed Filings, Tarrant Co., George W. Kee deeded 1890 to Cemetery, recorded 1895, Vol. 104, page 451 & R.L. Edwards and Others to Cemetery, deeded and recorded 1919, Vol. 552, Page 577
vi 1895 map of area southeast of Fort Worth, Tarrant Co., Texas
vii Legal record of first meeting of Board of Trustees of Hawkins Cemetery Association, October 3, 1949