Cemetery Restoration

The Marion County Historical Commission is undertaking a cemetery restoration project with the local D.A.R. - we are starting with the first rule of cemetery restoration: "Do no harm."

All restoration/preservation products that are used have been approved by the National Park Service for use on national cemeteries. All parties involved have completed video instruction to prepare them for the process.

Our guide book for cemetery restoration is A Graveyard Preservation Primer (American Association for State and Local History) by Lynette Strangstad. A Graveyard Preservation Primer has proven itself to be a time-tested resource for those who are seeking information regarding the protection and preservation of historic graveyards. It was first written to help stewards of early burial grounds responsibly and effectively preserve their graveyards. It is pretty much the accepted Bible for the subject, and it is our guidebook.


The first stone that we repaired had broken into two pieces. At one time the headstone had been repaired using ordinary concrete, which was spread across the writing on the back of the stone. Not only did it destroy the epitaph on back, but obviously the repair did not hold. Words that are visible on back are "Born St. Louis."

We cleaned the broken surfaces, and then repaired the stone with a specialized epoxy specifically for that purpose, and then clamped it to allow the repairs to set for about eighteen hours.

After the stone was repaired, we discovered that there was a top piece that was missing, and from the looks of the break, it was done long before the other breaks occurred. The only information on the stone was "Born Sep 23, 1851" and "Died Aug 8, 1877." The first letter of the name was visible, which was "W."

Doing some research, we discovered that the grave belonged to a woman - W.H. "Willie" Dennis, the wife of William D. Dennis. Her husband is buried next to her, and coincidentally his headstone was broken as well. He was born on Jan 2, 1830 and died on Jun 3, 1877.

Willie died just two months after her husband - she on August 8, he on June 3, both in 1877. Willie was 15 years old at the time of her death (just a month from her 16th birthday), and her husband William was 47.

While there is no other information about Willie Dennis, there is some information about her husband...

From the book Some Early Citizens of Marion Co, Texas, Book II by Juanita Cawthon: "Dennis, W.D. - associated with Forgotson & Ripinski in Jefferson in 1876 - Dry Goods, Boots, Shoes, Hats, etc."

From the Troy Messenger Newspaper (Troy, Alabama) Jan 7, 1875: "City and County Items - Mr. W.D. Dennis, formerly of Pike County, has removed from Douglassville, Cass County, to near Jefferson, Texas."

From the Troy Messenger Newspaper (Troy, Alabama) Jan 28, 1875: "Editorials - We were mistaken in our statement that Mr. W.D. Dennis was now living near Jefferson, Texas. He is in the city, with Messrs. A. Levy & Fergotston."

Ads in the Tri-Weekly Herald in Marshall, Texas from Dec 14, 1876 through February 24, 1877, ads for Forgotston & Ripinski's at 23 Polk St in Jefferson, Texas, feature the notice at the bottom: "W.D. Dennis is still with this house, and asks his friends to call on him for BARGAINS."

It looks like William Dennis came from Pike County, Alabama; moved to Douglasville in Cass County, Texas at some point; and then moved to Jefferson with his wife "Willie" in 1875, and they both died two years later in 1877. Since they aren't in the Marion County marriage records, they were probably married when they arrived in Jefferson, which means that William married a girl 13 years old or younger. Times were certainly different in the 1800s.

More than anything else, however, this illustrates how many interesting stories lay waiting to be discovered in an old, historic cemetery like Jefferson's Oakwood!