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Historic Black Cemetery Sheds Light on Hidden History

REGINA is an advocate, writer, Emmy Award-Winning Producer and 2nd great-granddaughter of the oldest unsolved murder mystery in U.S. history

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Still Separated, Even In Death!

African Americans had to have their own separate place to be buried until just about 70 years ago. One such cemetery is on FM 565 in the Old Winfree area of Chambers County, however, no sign identifies its existence. The sign for “Walter Brown Cemetery” has been long torn down by thieves to try to hide its existence among new development and homes that share a fence line with the cemetery. Nevertheless, the fence line is the cemetery. If the cemetery is not preserved and documented accurately, more property will be lost to development.

Historic African-American Cemetery Still In Operation

Walter Brown Cemetery is one of the only historic African-American cemeteries still in operation in the state of Texas, and the burial place of more than 200 people including African American Vets of WWI, WWII, Vietnam, the Civil War, and the descendants of slaves and sharecroppers and others dated back to the 1800’s. Graves are so old that as the years progress, a lot have slid down into the reservoir, others have been lost in the wooded area of the 16 acre cemetery.

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Hidden Secret Un-erased

One of the courageous Black Texan’s who is interred at Walter Brown Cemetery is Amanda Chambers Gailes (March 3, 186? – August 25, 1958) a former slave, my great-grandmother and daughter of Texas Icon General Thomas Jefferson Chambers that was kept a secret and out of the history books, because she was Black. Not to be included as a family namesake of Chambers County. Only an in legible homemade burial plaque marks her existence.

General Thomas Jefferson Chambers was assassinated in his house in chamber’s county. The county that was named after him. He had an affair (some say married) with his black servant, Harriet Jackson, my distant grandmother. Some say she was raped. Harriet became pregnant with his baby at the same time his 30-year-old younger wife was pregnant. That baby is Amanda Gailes who is buried alongside her daughter Pricilla and son-in-law, Walter Brown, in the Walter Brown Cemetery.

Chambers County Historical Commission will soon recognize my great-grandmother, Amanda Chambers Gailes, with a memorial on her grave along with the Texas Historic Commission who is still trying to get the cemetery’s exact location placed on the state and national registers of historic places so that the cemetery is preserved and documented accurately. And to recognize the names of the soldiers buried there and heroic stories of others. Legal matters are also in pursuit for theft of land.

It’s important to know this cemetery is here. They are our loved ones, they are our history. Just like Black History is not just a month, it’s the history of an entire race of people. Historic Black Cemeteries and Black History are important because they provide a spotlight on long-forgotten and ignored African-American history and the greater truth to be seen.

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Almost 200-Year-Old Unsolved Murder Mystery

I recently learned about the history of my grandfather’s cemetery and my great-grandmother’s namesake a year ago. My grandfather’s cemetery and my great-grandmother are also connected to the oldest cold-case in American history, cloaked in the shroud of darkness of murder and mystery surrounding my 2nd great-grandfather, General Thomas Jefferson Chambers. My grandfather’s cemetery is also one of the most haunted cemeteries in Texas. It has been said that late at night the spirit of a man can be seen wandering the grounds of the old cemetery. Is this one of the tormented souls angry about the homes built on top of them like the Black Hope Curse Haunting a few miles away, or my grandfather himself, angry about some of the babies that are underneath the homes? Sometimes the dead have a story to tell, and I’m determined to tell their story.

© 2021 Regina Romain

Comments

Regina Romain (author) from Texas on April 02, 2021:

Exactly. Thanks for sharing.

Regina Romain (author) from Texas on April 02, 2021:

Thank you. It's time to change history.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on March 28, 2021:

I hope that this cemetery gets the historical designation and can be saved and preserved. Your family history is like so many others during the days of slavery. We live in Harris County, not far from Chambers County.

MG Singh from UAE on March 28, 2021:

This is so disgusting. This is part of the sad history of race relations in America. Nice article.

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