Who visits Dallas, Texas in the middle of July, one of the hottest months of the year?


Every five years, my husband and I take a trip out of state to celebrate our wedding anniversary. For 2018, our 15th, we chose Texas. We knew it would be boiling-lava hot but summer is always the best time for us to travel because our son can stay with his grandparents while we’re gone.

We arrived in Dallas with plans to visit at least one cemetery during our visit and ended up seeing many more. The first one was Greenwood Cemetery in the Uptown neighborhood. But it wasn’t always called that.

Greenwood Cemetery was originally called Trinity Cemetery when it opened around 1875.

Birth of Trinity Cemetery

The establishment of Trinity Cemetery began with a man who played a key role in the prominence Dallas would eventually have. But one of Alabama native William H. Gaston’s first glimpses of Dallas would be as a 20-year-old young man on the day after the fire that nearly destroyed the city in 1860.

William joined the Confederacy with three of his brothers after the outbreak of the Civil War, rising quickly among his peers to become known as the “boy captain”. After the war, Capt. Gaston did quite well with his cotton crop, making enough money to leave the farm and enter into business in Dallas. His focus was on banking and real estate.

Capt. William H. Gaston served with distinction in the Confederacy during the Civil War but had his heart set on becoming a successful businessman some day. When he died in 1927, he was buried in the cemetery he established.

A sign at the cemetery explains that the land upon which Trinity Cemetery is located on was once “part of a Republic of Texas grant called the John Grigsby League, given for service in the Battle of San Jacinto.” After some legal wrangling, Capt. Gaston acquired the land and established the cemetery along with his banking partner, Capt. W.H. Thomas. Some sources say that the first recorded burial at Trinity was a Mrs. Susan Bradford in March 1875. I found no memorial for her on Find a Grave.

Silent City of the Dead

An article in the Dallas Weekly Herald on November 13, 1884 describes the cemetery  this way:

Our reporter took an excursion over the Belt street railroad yesterday and, leaving the cars where the road turns out of the McKinney road, walked out to Trinity cemetery. This silent city of the dead is truly a beautiful location and, although it is small for so large a city as Dallas, it can be made as beautiful a cemetery as can be found in all the land. Young forest trees and cedars abound, which, if trimmed up properly and with nice shelled walks and drives winding among them, would make it a lovely spot for the repose of the dead.

Unfortunately, by 1896, the cemetery had fallen into a state of disrepair. One article even mentioned cattle grazing in it. Capt. Gaston had plunged into the business world, developing much of East Dallas and starting the State Fair, so his attention was elsewhere. The cemetery was renamed Greenwood and an association was formed to oversee its operation and upkeep.

In 1896, Trinity Cemetery became Greenwood Cemetery.

According to Find a Grave, Greenwood has close to 8,000 recorded burials but an article I found indicates there are hundreds of unmarked graves on the grounds. Originally, it consisted of 30 acres but I’m not sure what it currently is. The Uptown neighborhood that surrounds it was once farmland but is now prime real estate that’s almost completely developed.

Both Sides Buried Here

Both Union and Confederate soldiers are buried at Greenwood. There’s a special section dedicated to Union Soldiers that is cared for by a local chapter of the Sons of Union Veterans. After the Civil War, many Union veterans headed to the South for a new life. Cheap land was plentiful and business opportunities were abundant. According to one plaque I saw, about 110 Union veterans are buried at Greenwood.

One of those men was John Comley Bigger, an Ohioan who fought with the 92nd Illinois Infantry at the Battle of Chickamauga. Bigger would go on to practice law in Dallas in 1875 and was appointed the U.S. Attorney for Texas in 1882. He led two Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) chapters in Dallas. A Prohibitionist, Bigger was admired by his colleagues for his “probity and kindness of heart”. When he died in 1900, he was buried at Greenwood Cemetery.

Several Union veterans are buried at Greenwood Cemetery.

According to a plaque, there are about 250 Confederate veterans buried at Greenwood. There is no Confederate monument at Greenwood, but there is one that I mistook for one when I first saw it. The monument to Captain Samuel P. Emerson certainly looks like one but it was carved just for him.

In 1861, at age 29, Kentucky native Samuel Emerson enlisted in the Confederate Army. Under the command of General Simon Buckner, he saw action at Fort Donelson, on the Cumberland River in Tennessee. When the fort fell to federal forces under General Ulysses S. Grant in February 1862, General Buckner surrendered some 15,000 troops.

Capt. Emerson, however, escaped by swimming and wading the river. He subsequently had a number of adventures as captain of a company of Confederate scouts. He moved to Dallas after the Civil War.

Capt. Samuel Emerson had very specific ideas about what kind of monument he wanted and how his funeral should be conducted.

From reading his Find a Grave memorial, I learned that Capt. Emerson was close friends with Confederate Brigadier General William Lewis Cabell and his daughter, Mrs. Katie Cabell Currie Muse. She was not only president of the Dallas chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy but was an avid listener to Capt. Emerson’s wishes for his monument and funeral plans.

After he died on October 21, 1900, she did what she could to carry out those wishes. In his will, Emerson left $5,000 for Katie to use for his monument, which was unveiled a year after his death. Sharing the plot with Emerson are 36 other former Confederates whose graves all face south, marked by two rows of identical white stones.

At the base of Capt. Emerson’s monument are the words “Here Lies One That Was True To The Teachings Of The Old South”.

Garlington Monument

Located close to Capt. Emerson’s monument is the large monument to Moses D. Garlington and his wife, Annie Moore Garlington. I could find very little information about it. It’s my guess that it was made after Annie’s death but I’m not sure. I did not take a very good photo of it and the construction going on in the background didn’t help.

Moses Garlington came from humble means but managed to amass a fortune after coming to Dallas in 1872.

Born in Mississippi in 1835, Moses Garlington became a clerk/book-keeper in Trenton, La., where he spent 18 years. He entered the Confederate Army as second lieutenant of Company A of the 17th Louisiana Infantry, and came out as a regimental quartermaster. In 1868, he married Arkansas native Annie Moore. Over the years, they would have five children together that lived to adulthood, one having died in infancy.

The Garlingtons moved to Dallas around 1872 and Moses got involved in a business partnership with the Central Railroad. His fortunes prospered over the years through his wholesale produce business and he amassed quite a fortune, known for dealing in cash and eschewing credit of any kind. He died of malarial fever on Sept. 22, 1894.

My husband managed to get a good photo of the top of the Garlington monument. I’m not entirely sure whom these figures are meant to represent.

Eldest son William took over the business for his father. Annie would have a home with his family for the rest of her life. She died at the age of 70 of apoplexy and heart disease on April 20, 1918. I am not certain what the three figures at the top of the monument are meant to represent. Perhaps someone reading this will know.

This is just the tip of the iceberg so join me next time for more stories from Dallas’ Greenwood Cemetery.