History, memories surround Ft. Parker Memorial Park

Located just west of Groesbeck, in Limestone County, this historic cemetery originated while Freestone County was still part of Limestone. I have deep roots here where many of my mother’s family and ancestors are buried. A large, impressive monument remembering the Indian massacre and its victims is located on a circle drive in the middle of the well-kept grounds to greet you. 
If you haven’t visited this historic place it's well worth a trip to see. This is the resting place of early settlers and many Limestone County officials, including my friends Judge Fountain Kirby and Judge Norton Fox, and many former sheriffs, including my mother’s great-grandfather Anthony Sharp who served as confederate sheriff.
Peggy and I attended a memorial service here in May l997 along with many local dignitaries. Guest speaker historian Ray Walter’s speech was published in the Groesbeck Journal and was quite interesting. Personally, I always wondered how and why the massacre victims were buried here instead of at the fort which is some distance away. 
Fort Parker Memorial Park is one of the oldest cemeteries in Central Texas, originally called Lewisville, for the community of Lewisville approximately one mile away (named for J.J. Lewis who is buried in this cemetery.)
One often asks how did the cemetery begin? After the excitement of the Fort Parker massacre on May 19, 1836, was over a few of the remaining friends were buried with the victims near the fort, owing to their grief and fear of the return of the Indians that the graves were not dug very deep. The Indians came back, dug up the bodies, and held a war dance over them. 
When the soldiers came from Fort Houston, near Palestine, they carried the bodies to a distant hill that was covered by an oak grove and buried them all in one grave as the sun was slowly sinking in the west.
If you should be on the historic hilltop with massive oaks in the background, the sun slowly sinking over the distant horizon, sadness fills you. A picture arises in your mind of the Parker colony in the state of Illinois. You can imagine their decision of coming to a new country where they could worship as they thought best. 
The scene arises in your mind of the hustle and confusion that goes with the preparation of a long journey. They traveled slowly during the week, but on the Lord’s Day would camp, let their livestock rest, and held services led by Elder John Parker, who was leading them into the promised land. 
After services they visited each other and made plans for the future with confidence. But all these hopes and joys ended on the 19th of May 1836. What prompted the attack is still a mystery, though many historians accuse the settlers of counterfeiting and horse-stealing. 
A suit was filed in Harris County, Texas. However, the fort was not burned but deteriorated. After the lapse of a few years the remaining families of the Parker Colony returned to their claims and wrote to friends back home to come and help settle this new country.
Mr. Ray Walters gave some of the history of the cemetery, which is lengthy so I will not try to present it all at this time. Mr. Walters tells of a stroll along the walks in the old part of the cemetery. 
Graves of the first buried here – among these is Benjamin Usry, a half-brother to Cynthia Ann Parker and Silas Bates, who was 18 at the time – spent the night in the fort and was hewing logs for a cabin when he learned of the massacre and stayed faithful in the upkeep of the cemetery. 
He told of the monument over Charlotte Sharp being brought to Texas from Missouri in an oxcart in l855. 

 

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