The following is from the application for the historical marker:
Union Cemetery is located in Fannin County, Texas, four miles north of Ravenna, Texas
on a short private road to the east of FM 1100. The cemetery is located in what is now a
sparsely populated rural area, but which was once a vibrant farming community with many
families, many of which were black families.
Union Cemetery was originally on land that was part of the Smith Plantation, a 3,000
acre plantation established near the Red River in Fannin County in 1851. The plantation was
worked by a number of slaves, and it is believed that slaves that died on the plantation were
buried at the location currently known as the Union Cemetery.
After the Civil War and emancipation, a number of Negro families settled in the area
near the cemetery and established what might be called a "freedman" community. Some of
these families came from the Smith Plantation. They began a Baptist church adjacent to the
cemetery, which they named the Siloam Baptist Church. The cornerstone of the church gives
its organization year as 1870. The new church building was built about 1/2 mile north. In 1954
the Siloam Baptist Church combined with the nearby Belfountain Baptist Church and the new
church was named the Union Baptist Church. The cemetery became known as the Union
Cemetery, although some still use the old name.
Through the decades the families of the area have remained loyal to the Union Baptist
Church even if they have moved from the rural area either into Bonham or further. An annual
homecoming is held in May which is attended by many, and many visits are made during that
time to the cemetery. There is an active cemetery association and the cemetery is well tended.
In fact, additional land was recently added to the cemetery. Burials were made in cemetery in
2013 and 2014.
Some of the other rural black cemeteries in Fannin County are no longer cared for, in
some cases because they are on private land. This cemetery is the burial place for the slaves of
the Smith Plantation, descendants of those slaves, and many other black individuals who
settled in the area. The cemetery and the Union Baptist Church are testaments to the enduring
attachment descendants of the 19th century freedman community still have. A historical marker
is appropriate for this unique place.
Union Cemetery was originally on land that was part of the Smith Plantation, a 3,000 acre
plantation established near the Red River in Fannin County in 1851. The plantation was worked
by a number of slaves, and it is believed that slaves that died at the Smith Plantation were
buried at the location currently known as the Union Cemetery.
Oral history indicates that the earliest burial was in 1861 although no marker or stone in
support has been found. The earliest recorded burial is that of Harriett Pool, wife of Jim Pool.
She has an impressive stone at the cemetery which states that she was born in 1847 and died
on October 18, 1881. 5 The 1870 census states that she was born in Alabama. At the time of her
death census records show that she had 6 children. Her husband Jim Pool died in 1889 and also
has an impressive stone. In the 1880 census they are living near a number of Pool families,
including Emma Pool Smith 1 , wife of Sam Smith, Jr. (Sam Smith’s father and Sam Smith Jr. were
slaves at the Smith Plantation. Sam Smith Jr. and Emma Smith became the owners of the
property adjacent to the Siloam Cemetery.)
Other 19th century burials are:
1892 - Isiah Dorsey died at 17 years old, son of O. D. & Lydia Dorsey
1884 - Lucinda Garrett, 1832 – 1884
1887 - Ida Smith died at 1 year old, daughter of S. S. and L. E. Smith.
1889 - Henry Smith, died at 10 years old, son of Rev. J. W. & Susan Smith
The records of known burials (176) at Union Cemetery are at the Fannin County GenWeb site,
http://txfannin.org/cemetery.php?cem_id=121 . All existing stones (118) have been
photographed, and there are web pages for each known burial. Many burials without stones
have been identified through a review of death certificates. Obituaries have been transcribed
where available, although obituaries for black citizens often were not printed. Funeral
programs have been obtained for some of the individuals buried at Union Cemetery. In
addition, there are actual photographs of 59 individuals. It is assumed that there are many
additional burials whose locations, names and dates are lost. Earlier grave markers may have
deteriorated. Death certificates were not always recorded in rural areas where no doctors
attended a death. Obituaries for black citizens in rural areas were rare, and issues of the local
newspaper for the area do not exist.
Death certificates generally give the name of the cemetery as Siloam Cemetery and then Union
Cemetery. One 1952 death certificate says Ravenna Colored Cemetery.
Among those buried at Union are 12 military veterans, including 8 veterans of World War I and
one veteran of Vietnam. At least one of the World War I veterans, Masco Anderson, served
overseas in France.
Black educators who taught in the Fannin County public schools include Ida Hill (Ravenna), Polly
Adams (Sandy), Molissia Dupree Jackson (Timber Creek and Ravenna), Fanny Williams King
(Coffee Mill and Ravenna) and Herman Smith (Fannin and Grayson County schools).
The men of some of the families who are buried at the Union Cemetery were farm laborers or
sharecroppers. However, remarkably, because of hard work and skill, there are many Negro
men buried at Union who became land owners and successful farmers. Just a few of these are
Charlie Spencer, Ben Johnson, Zac Hill, Fountain Oliphant and Sam Smith. Fountain Oliphant
bought 100 acres of land in 1877.
Church leaders buried at Union include Robert Hill, Chester Hill, Sam Smith, Jr., Jim DeHorney.
The Siloam Church was the center of the community both in religious life and social life.
This is a remote, rural African-American cemetery in northwest Fannin County, situated off
County Road 1100. The cemetery is fully fenced; three sides with barbed wire and one side
with welded wire. There is a lovely entry made of metal with the name of the cemetery in an
arch above the entry roadway. The cemetery slopes from north to south, with a creek that runs
from northwest to southwest across the cemetery. Older burials are sprinkled with newer
burials in the north half of the cemetery. The south section is entirely contemporary burials.
The western portion of the cemetery is newly acquired and is not yet fully developed. The
burials are aligned east/west. There are numerous types of grave markers. Some are home-
made. Some are stone. Some are erect and some are flat. A few are broken. There are a
number of military markers, both flat and erect. The language on the stones is all in English,
and religious insignia is Protestant. There is a mix of oak and cedar trees, some very old. There
are occasional iris beds.
The cemetery is maintained by an active cemetery association.
A historically African American community developed near this site on what had been the Smith Plantation before the Civil War and Emancipation. Families established Siloam Baptist Church in 1870 adjacent to already existing burials. According to the oral tradition, the earliest dated gravestone is for Harriett Pool (1847- 1881). The burial ground was first called Siloam Cemetery, changing its name when the church combined with Belfountain Baptist Church to form the Union Baptist Church in 1954. The Cemetery is a chronicle of area settlers, including generations of African Americans from slavery to emancipation to contributions in every aspect of society.
Directions: Drive North on FM274 3.7 miles to intersection with CR1100. Turn right onto CR1100 but bear right onto unnamed road clearly visible at the turn. Cemetery is .1 miles down that road. Note: You will pass the Union New Plot Cemetery on your left about 1.8 miles before reaching the turn off at CR1100.
More information on this cemetery is on the Fannin County GenWeb site.