By Laudene Todd
Research Paper for Application for a Historical Marker
Burns Cemetery is located appoximately one mile northeast of Trenton and 15 miles southwest of Bonham in Fannin County. It lies just to the south of highway 121.
The land for Burns Cemetery was donated by William Boyd Burns, an early pioneer of the area. He was born February 21, 1821 in Marshall County, Tennessee. His wife, Margaret J. Squires Patton, was born in the same neighborhood, July 25, 1825. They were married in 1844. In 1852, upon hearing that the land in Texas was open to all people for homesteading, this couple decided to make their home in this area. They were the third family to contribute to the building of the progressive community of Trenton. Their home was a log cabin built like the other log cabins in this frontier area. The site of the home adjoined the land now used for the cemetery.
One of the first churches built in this section was on land donated by William Boyd Burns. It was erected near his home by interested people in the community. Although he never belonged to the church or any other church, he had a keen interest in it and welcomed all denominations to participate in its services. The church known as Burns Chapel continued for many years. This little building served as a school as well as a church. John W. Connelly, one of the best known ministers in the county, conducted the school as well as church services.
The Burns couple had 11 children including a stepson, John Patton, who was the first of the children to pass away. His death came in the early spring of 1877. A few months later, a daughter, Priscilla, who at 16 was teaching at Orangeville Academy, died. Both of these children were buried near the little church in what is now known as Burns Cemetery. This was the beginning of Burns Cemetery and because of its location with its gentle slopes one can view the surrounding area for several miles.
Since then one after another of his own family as well as his earliest friends and neighbors were laid to rest there. His wife preceded him to their final resting place by 12 years. She died March 3, 1895 at the age of 70. Burns died January 30, 1907 at the age of 86. His wife and seven of their children are buried in the Burns Cemetery.
In May of 1944 the trustees of the cemetery, M. C. Watkins, R. W. Reed, C. W. Hill, and W. H. Connelly purchased 5.18 acres of land from Ira and Minnie Barrett from the J. C. Moore Survey. This land joined the original Burns Cemetery on the north and west.
A tragedy occurred on the evening of December 6, 1958 that should be noted. Tommy Chesser and his four children were killed in a train accident in downtown Trenton. It was nearing the Christmas season and they were delivering a television set for his parents. Their internment was at Burns Cemetery.
In 1973, an organization was formed to see that the cemetery had funds to maintain burial grounds that would reflect the love and appreciation that the community has for those resting there. The following officers and trustees were named by the association: Spence Vincent, president; Clarence Crawford, vice-president; Henry Donaghey, treasurer; and Mamie Hogue, secretary.
Other members of the board were Tom McHolmes, Burris Barrett, Laura Butler, Eula Vae Butler and Laudene Todd. The Burns Cemetery Association started the endowment fund immediately after the organizational meeting. Every year the Sunday nearest to Memorial Day, a memorial service is held to pay tribute to the ones that are buried there. An offering is taken and a substantial amount of money is always collected for the endowment fund and for the upkeep of the cemetery.
In 1976 Mrs. Ruth Barrett Weathers gave the cemetery 6 1/2 acres of land. This is located to the north and west of the present cemetery. A county road separates the new addition from the rest of the cemetery. A chain link fence was built on the west side of the property.
In 1977, at one of the north entrances, brick pillars were erected. One of these pillars bears the inscription of the names of the first board of trustees of the association.
Some of the names of the early pioneers are found on the monuments; Aldridge, Biggerstaff, Falls, Goff, Gentry, Chadwell, Connelly, Southerland, Plott, Butler, Saunders, McCollom, Holmes, Harshaw, Williams, Smith and others. Among these pioneers was John W. Connelly, a Civil War veteran who fought for the Confederate army. He gave up teaching children in the Indian territory to fight for the south.
Another Civil War Veteran buried at Burns Cemetery is Dr. W. C. Homes. Dr. Holmes was born November 10, 1840 in Abbiville District, South Carolina. He moved with his family to Holmes County, Mississippi in 1848. There he attended country school and worked on the farm until 1854. From 1854 to 1858 he attended various academies in preparation for college. In 1858 he entered the University of Virginia Medical School.
In 1861 the call came for volunteers for the armed forces. He was mustered into the Confederate service August 10, 1861 at Memphis, Tenn. He fought in various battles, one of those being the Battle of Shiloh. He was wounded May 28, 1864 at the Battle of New Hope Church. Dr. Holmes, along with 26 other desperately wounded men were left in the hands of the enemy. All but four of the 26 died. Dr. Holmes escaped from the enemy and reached the Confederate line. Later, being retired from the service because of his wounds, he returned to the Unviersity of Virginia and his study of medicine. In 1867, he came to Pilot Grove, Texas, where he practice medicine until 1882. He then moved to the new town of Trenton which he helped establish. He retire from the practice of medicine in 1888. He died in 1924 and was buried in the Holmes family cemetery on Holmes land northeast of Trenton. In 1964, the family cemetery was moved to the Burns Cemetery.
There are a number of World War I veterans, World War II veterans and one Viet Nam veteran buried in the cemetery. Each of the graves are designated with appropriate markers.
Land for this cemetery was donated in 1876 by Tennessee native William Boyd Burns (1821-1907), whose log cabin home was located adjacent to the site. Pioneer settler of the Trenton community, he also gave nearby property for a Union church building, Burns Chapel, which served as an early schoolhouse for the surrounding rural area.
The cemetery was first used in 1877 for the burials of Burns' stepson John Patton and daughter Priscilla Burns, who at 16 was a teacher in the Orangeville Academy. Other graves include those of pioneer area settlers and prominent leaders of Trenton.
Among the Civil War veterans interred here are early physician Dr. W. C. Holmes, who fought at Shiloh, and John W. Connelly, a former teacher in the Indian Territory who became a popular local preacher.
For well over a century the Burns Cemetery has served residents of the Trenton area. The original tract has been enlarged through a donation of land the the purchase of additional property. Still in use, the cemetery serves as a historic reminder of the region's rich heritage and as the site of an annual memorial service honoring the settlers who led in the area's development.
Directions: From Trenton, go 1 mile east on SH 121, then take a gravel/paved road that veers north for .5 mile to the cemetery
Information on the Burns Cemetery is on the Fannin County GenWeb site.