On Saturday morning, April 12, 2014, sixteen members and friends of the Sandy Cemetery Association met at the Sandy Cemetery at 8:00 a.m. for the annual spring work day. With rakes, hoes, loppers, shovels, and some heavy equipment, these loyal and caring volunteers fell to work raking leaves and hoeing weeds, scraping and cleaning the metal gates for fresh paint, clearing brush and pruning trees, and righting and re-stabilizing tombstones, many of which date back to some of the earliest settlers of Fannin County.
The Sandy Cemetery is one of the oldest in the county, and it has always been maintained by folks dedicated to its care and preservation. The work days date back to at least the past century with friends and family members in the community working hard, reminiscing, and resting under the old oak trees near some of the oldest plots. Many now still remember hot August “cemetery homecomings” with fellowship, remembrance, and fine food spread out on flat bed trailers under those same oak trees. Parents and grandparents led their children and grandchildren around, teaching them where not to step (out of respect and reverence for those whose remains lay there) and explaining to them their relationship to their beloved family members whose headstones marked not just their deaths, but also their lives. In loving conversations of who these people were and what their lives meant, they were remembered and a timeless oral tradition was maintained.
Times have changed. The work is still done by volunteers, but now the annual meetings, where most of the fund-raising is accomplished, are held the first Sunday in October in the air-conditioned Fellowship Hall of the Sandy Baptist Church north of Ravenna, Texas. In 2009 the Sandy Cemetery Association achieved 501(c)13 status and donations for the cemetery as a whole are now tax-deductible. The biggest expense is the cost of mowing, which is contracted out. Depending on the weather, the cemetery needs it about twice a month during the growing season.
The biggest threats to the cemetery are wild hogs, gophers, and fire ants. A low electric fence is keeping the hogs out now, but it is a temporary, high-maintenance solution until enough money can be raised to build a better fence around the entire property. Right now, the cost is prohibitive.
The Sandy Cemetery Association receives all its income from donations. Anyone interested in helping maintain the cemetery can send donations to Matt Curry, President; Sandy Cemetery Association; 2052 CR 2040; Ravenna, TX 75476. To be placed on the mailing list or to receive e-mail notifications, contact Jane Alvizo, Secretary; 1027 CR 1555; Bonham, TX 75418; e-mail her at email@example.com; or call 903-505-0118 and leave a message.
There is now an excellent free genealogy site on the web with current information for all cemeteries in Fannin County at http://www.txfannin.org. Information provided for each cemetery includes, if available, photos of the existing tombstones, and obituaries, other photos, death records, and notes. The site also features a way to enter a surname and link to all interments in the entire county with that same surname.
In many of the county’s older cemeteries, wooden markers have disappeared, graves have been lost, and families can no longer find the final resting places of their ancestors. The upkeep of a cemetery depends on generation after generation valuing its preservation. Young people made up a significant part of Saturday’s work crew at Sandy. It was good to see their commitment to the importance of continuing the care that has so lovingly been given in the past. The work of all involved was greatly appreciated.