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Old 1840 City Cemetery On Elder St.


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Here is a short history of the site:


The area near White Oak Bayou and Buffalo Bayou may have been an obscure English settlement in the 1600s. During some excavation work done in the area, approximately 60 "Black Earth Graves" were uncovered. These were used by the English from about the 1550s to bury plague victims. After Houston was founded in 1836, the land was deeded by one of the Allen Bros. companies to the city for the sum of $750.00.


In 1840, the first city cemetery was becoming too crowded. When the land was deeded in 1840, a 2nd public cemetery, called simply "City Cemetery", was designated. The cemetery was segregated, and some of the sections were designated for blacks, gunfighters/suicides/undesirables, Odd Fellows, Masons, and some lots for sale to the highest bidder. In 1867 Houston was hit by a plague of Yellow Fever, and many victims were buried in City Cemetery. The victims included Confederate soldiers, Union soldiers, and everyday people. In the late 1800s, the cemetery was so full that a third public cemetery was designated off of Allen Parkway. The third cemetery later ended up underneath Allen Parkway Village, a public housing project (I remember when that was re-discovered!). The City Cemetery received its last interrment in 1904 and was de-certified soon afterward due to neglect. It is estimated that there are 5,000-6,000 people buried there, with 3,000 under the Elder St. location of Jefferson Davis Hospital.


Construction on the Hospital began in 1924. It seems that the Odd Fellows never used their section, and the Masons exhumed most or all of their dead prior to construction. During construction, a Mr. Super took a position over his family plot, and drove the construction foreman off with a few blasts from his shotgun. The three Super family graves are located on present day Girard St. Construction was opposed by various groups representing the interests of Confederate veterans, and they allowed construction to continue with the understanding that the hospital would be named after the President of the Confederate States of America, Jefferson Davis. Since the completion, a monument to the Confederate veterans buried there has been erected on the hospital grounds. The basement was built above ground to avoid disturbing the cemetery too much.


JDH served as a charity hospital from 1924 until 1938 when the new Jefferson Davis Hospital was built on Allen Parkway (now demolished). It has at times stood vacant, housed a venereal disease clinic, psychiatric hospital, juvenile detention ward, food stamp distribution center, Cenikor (drug & alcohol rehab), and served as records storage for the Harris County Hospital District.

Fire Department:

The fire department next door was constructed in 1968 on another section of City Cemetery. During a maintenance project in the mid-1980s, human remains were unearthed by the fire department and City Cemetery was re-discovered. There is indication that maintenance crews may have desecrated and looted some graves - taking sections of bone - before U of H archaeologists could step in.

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