• December 19, 2014

Area churches celebrate work on historic cemetery

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Posted: Monday, February 25, 2008 12:00 pm | Updated: 5:01 pm, Wed Aug 15, 2012.

By Don Bolding

Killeen Daily Herald

TEMPLE – About 200 people from at least eight area churches gathered at Greater Zion Temple Church of God in Christ Saturday night for the "First Annual Black History Gospel Extravaganza" with the theme "Commemoration" to celebrate work done so far on Temple's Seven Star Historical Cemetery and raise funds for a fence for the burial ground.

Bishop J.A. Tolbert of Eagle's Wings Ministries said earlier that an annual "seven star day" would be planned each year in February to coincide with Black History Month. The focus at the moment is on building a six-foot wrought-iron fence with double gates to control the vandalism that has plagued the property in years past.

The event Saturday followed a Friday dedication of flagpoles provided to the cemetery by an anonymous donor.

Saturday evening's service, filled with spiritual solos and praise teams, was also to celebrate new interest in the cemetery, which contains an estimated 480 graves of black people, including veterans from the Civil War forward. According to a survey and map project by the Temple Ward of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in July 1997, only 87 graves have legible markers.

Donald Sauls, pastor of the Greater Zion Church, gave a history of black liberation activities from bloody pre-Civil War rebellions to the present day.

Genevieve Gregg, one of the organizers of Saturday evening's activities for the Al Edwards Juneteenth USA Association's Temple Chapter 111, told the congregation, "We must identify as many of those buried there as we can. They include ancestors of local families, and some of you here tonight have information that could help."

Activities began with a dinner before the service. Temple Mayor Pro Tem Patsy Luna presented a proclamation signed by Mayor Bill Jones III.

Other members of the committee include Susan Peoples of Temple, also president of the association chapter; Sonia Simmons Wren of Killeen, who composed a poem in honor of the cemetery; Ana Pickens-Scruggs, advisor and transfer counselor at Central Texas College; and Josie Hall of Kempner.

Earlier, CTC students, families and friends made a quilt they sold for $500 for the cemetery project. Saturday night, they showed another quilt with a design honoring a "Buffalo Soldier" from the Army of the Indian Wars known to be buried on the grounds and celebrating designs on prominently displayed quilts from the slave years that pointed out the directions of the compass for slaves fleeing captivity. The quilt was made by Osage Bed & Breakfast of Kempner and Friendship House in Temple.

The cemetery had been known by several names before the chapter adopted the present name in 2005 to represent the stars in the Big Dipper and the North Star that guided escaped slaves to freedom. The Juneteenth Association dedicated a Texas Historical Marker and Historic Cemetery Medallion in 2006.

The cemetery is a 1.4-acre tract by the Union Pacific Railway tracks at the intersection of East Shell and North 14th Street in Temple. The Juneteenth Association chapter found that the land is not owned and has begun proceedings to claim it.

Al Edwards, namesake of the Juneteenth Association, is a nine-term member of the Texas House of Representatives who authored legislation making Juneteenth a state holiday in 1979. Juneteenth commemorates the day during the Civil War when word of President Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation reached Texas.

Information on contributions to the nonprofit group for the cemetery is available at (254) 721-7080 or by e-mail at pinch1395@ca.com.

Contact Don Bolding at dbolding@kdhnews.com or call (254) 501-7557

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