Olivewood Cemetery’s Grave Situation: Not Washed Down to the Bayou Yet

An organization that won guardianship of Olivewood Cemetery about a year and a half ago is trying to raise funds to hire an archeological firm to recover and rebury the longtime residents of up to 5 graves — before they’re washed away into White Oak Bayou. The cemetery sits on the boundary line between the First and Sixth Wards, hidden behind Grocers Supply and Party Boy on Studewood, just south of I-10.

Recently, the erosion appears to have picked up, leaving the potential for dozens of graves to wash away. In addition to the ravine system, the cemetery’s woes stem from runoff from nearby Grocers Supply and a downward, south-to-north slope that ferries water through the cemetery. [Community Archaeology Research Institute associate director Robert] Marcom said one goal is to channel water to nearby White Oak Bayou without having to go through the ravine system.

Olivewood became Houston’s first incorporated African-American cemetery in 1875. The grounds are a bit tough to get to, and many of the remaining headstones in the long-neglected property are nestled deep in lush beds of vegetation, reportedly including plenty of poison oak and poison ivy. Descendants of Olivewood regularly organizes cleanups of the 8-acre cemetery, but only the front quarter has been tamed so far.

Like apple pie, July 4th, and auditing the Federal Reserve, Olivewood appears to be one of those rare causes that attracts the involvement of both major political parties. Here’s our evidence:


Photo: J.R. Gonzales. Videos: Republicanchair496 and Obama Volunteer Corps

8 Comment

  • We biked over a few months ago and met a man who drives down from Spring to mow the place at his own expense.

    The cemetery is in tough shape and so much has been stolen. But it is still a great piece of history and we were glad to have met a man so knowledgeable about it.

  • I drive past here on I-10 every day to and from work and have always wondered what was in behind all that undergrowth. It seems to me that the more important long term need they would have is for an engineering firm rather than an archaeologist. Now let me see, do we know any engineers who specialize in stormwater management ….

  • I love cemetaries – the names, stories, sculptures (though I plan to be cremated) as they can be a community’s glue, and are certainly a rich source of info.
    I wish good luck to Olivewood.
    Find A Grave is a website where burial data and photos are collected. Participation there could be a good next step.

  • I see where the Republicans are interested in the preservation but see no evidence of the Democrats interest in your video. Are you just assuming Democratic involvement just as you assumed Republicans were not involved until you saw the video? I’m always amazed at the how narrow the minds are of the “open” minded left.

  • Briscoe, Are you assuming that the Obama Volunteer Corps folks are Republicans?

    A sceptical lefty could equally argue that Republicans are only interested in putting together a video slide show of the cemetary rather actually doing anything about it. I’m never amazed at the right’s ability to coopt a cause without actually doing anything for it.

  • By the way would love you to point out the place in the original post where anyone expresses amazement that Republicans were interested. My eyesight isn’t what it used to be.

  • I have recently been to this cemetery and from what I learned, there are very few people willing to put any money where there mouths are. It is in dire condition.

    And as to assuming that African-Americans and Republicans have a less than warm relationship, (Michael Steele notwithstanding) that is a very fair assumption born out by mountains of data.

  • Periodic volunteer clean ups of this cemetery and nearby College Park cemetery on W. Dallas have been going on sice at least 1992. At some point you have to just say to hell with it if the descendants of the buried are unwilling or unable to do so. Personally, I think they looked better in the tangle and overgrowth. It was kind of a Southern Gothic beauty with tumbled gravestones, hanging vines and a surreal stillness.