The following history was originally complied from the research of Mrs. Helen Brooks taken from the works of Mrs. Donna Williams Brown, Ambassador Fletcher Warren, Ann Phillips, and Romy Williams.
The first Anglo-American family to migrate to what is now Wolfe City, was George Williams, Sr., his wife Elizabeth Keyser Williams, and their family of at least nine children. They arrived in this area in 1844 and settled about one-half mile southwest from what is now Mt. Carmel Cemetery.
At this time, Texas was still a Republic; however,via treaty, on February 19, 1846, the transfer of power from the Republic of Texas was made to the newly-formed State of Texas. George Williams family,the Stone family and many other early settlers in this area were now officially “Texans.”
In 1850, George Williams, Sr. and his sons bought 1,000 acres of land in the vicinity of what is now Mt. Carmel. Son William Josiah got the area where Mt. Carmel is today. Tragically, in 1852, the daughter of John Williams, another of George’s sons, passed away. At that time, William Josiah, donated the burial ground for his niece. Thus, this beautiful cemetery was born in 1852 with the death of a six year old angel appropriately named Angelina.
In a series of articles titled, “A History of Northern Hunt County,” which was written and published in the Wolfe City Sun, the late Fletcher Warren, Ambassador Emeritus, listed many other earlier settlers of Wolfe City. Among them and also arriving in this area in 1844, was the family of John W. Stone. Other families included, T.E. Hill, Green W. Cox, William David Cozby, Baxter Cozby, Dr. Oliver G. Chapman, Jason Wilson, P. H. Old, William Nail, John Partlow, Abraham Warren, Matt Wilson, Samuel Norwood Maloney, John M. Tittsworth, L. P. Wolfe (for whom Wolfe City was named), J. F. Hanna, Mrs. Wilson Henderson Bethel, W.L. and R. P. Benge, Barney Westbrook, and George W. Runnion family. Many of these names are on the tombstones in the old section of the cemetery, south of the chapel. These early settlers and many others who are not on Mr. Warren’s list, were those pioneers who braved the storms of life and travel to come to this new frontier of Texas. They faced war and many hardships, but they were of sturdy, pioneer stock, and they had the determination to succeed in their goal of building a community.
Once others began using the area for the burial of their loved ones, on April 30, 1879, William Josiah Williams, affectionately known to everyone as “Uncle Billy” officially deeded three and one-half acres for public burial ground. The deed grantor was W. J. Williams. The grantees were, Alex King, W. J. Williams, W. L. Benge, L. P. Wolfe and O. W. Spradling. These men became the first Board of Trustees for the cemetery.
For many years the cemetery was called “The Williams Cemetery.” In 1883, the Methodists built Mt. Carmel Church which was a short distance north of the cemetery. In 1871, a school was built near the cemetery and it took the name of the church, Mt. Carmel School. The name, “Williams Cemetery,” was gradually replaced by that of “Mt. Carmel Cemetery,” like that of the nearby church and school.
In 1885, four more acres were purchased from Charles H. Williams, with an addtional eight acres being purchased from Mr. Williams in 1916. About 1891, an open tabernacle was erected in the southwestern part of the oldest section of the cemetery. This provided shelter for funerals, memorial services, or other functions.
With the addition of new graves came the necessity for caring for these graves and the surrounding area. At first, families worked their own grave lots or those of their neighbors. They would set aside a day in the spring to get together and everyone would work to clean and groom the grounds. It became a fellowship as they brought food the share and had their “dinner on the grounds.”
As the cemetery grew and the families of those who rested there had moved away, there were no individuals to look after the graves. So the care of the cemetery took on new responsibility, mostly being done by volunteers like A.C. Burnecke who offered “to set out plants and shrubs and to keep them watered.” Supporters were urged to pay their subscriptions to Mt. Carmel, so the Trustees could have money to make necessary improvements. In 1896, May 30 was set as “Decoration Day.”
In 1912, with very little money to maintain the cemetery, some of the ladies of Wolfe City became organized to raise donations for Mt. Carmel. The officers were: President, Mrs. W. W. J. Hanna; First Vice President, Mrs. W. F. Felty; and Second Vice President, Mrs. Ed Sharp. The group began to get momentum going by sponsoring several projects to support the cemetery. In April of 1912, they gave a dinner and netted $45.00. They made bonnets and aprons, and displayed them at W.P. Maloney’s store. Those who purchased the items were given credit on the Association’s books for their purchases. In May of the same year, the Women’s Auxiliary was organized and began to collect dues of ten cents per month. Mrs. E. G. Kennedy was of the first to take the lead with many other good ladies to take their time in helping promote the cemetery’s beauty. She served forty continuous years as treasurer of the association.
By this time, the second Sunday in May had been set for memorial Services. In 1912, the beginning of an annual pilgrimage to Mt. Carmel was begun by our forefathers and our friends. They came to bring flowers for graves of loved ones, to attend the meeting of the Cemetery Association Board, to hear a memorial program, to visit, and to have family “dinner on the grounds” underneath the lovely old oak trees still standing today.
There are similarities to then and now, a beautiful, well-kept burial ground, friends and families that gather once a year to pay tribute to the lives of those resting here, and people who love and care for the cemetery with their time, talents and money. However, there are many differences and many improvements. One notable improvement must be mentioned. In 1920, the chapel was erected. With the donations of interested members of the Mt. Carmel Cemetery Association in 1980, stained-glass windows were added. Then in 1990 the building was redecorated and pews were memorial donations at that time. In 1999, air-conditioning was added. A beautiful and much needed addition was made in 2010. The generous gift of an ebony baby grand piano was made by the Coulter Templeton family.
Improvements to the chapel and grounds continue to be made. The perpetual care provides the preservation of the graves, the maintenance of roads and entrances provide easy access to all areas of the cemetery, and the improvements made often to the chapel provide a place of beauty and comfort for families of the cemetery.
This cemetery owes its success to the early founders of our city. There have been so many individuals who have been dedicated to the welfare of the cemetery,too numerous to mention. However, we recognize the years of contributions of Robert C. (Bobby) Owens. Bobby and his staff at Owens Funeral Home maintain all record-keeping for the cemetery.
Obviously, the on-going success is attributed to all members of the current association, whose continued interest, relentless dedication and dedicated support, keeps Mt. Carmel the revered place it is today.