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The Overton Cemetery is a small cemetery located at 3229 Overton at the intersection with Leatherwood, two blocks northeast of the 3200 block of E. Illinois in Dallas County. The site was designated as a Historic Texas Cemetery in January 2004. This application is for a large Texas Historical Marker at the site. It is believed that Aaron Overton and two of his sons were among the first men to come to what is now Dallas County by 1844 and settle on the west side of the Trinity River. Aaron Overton built a grist mill, run by horse power, as he had done in Jackson County, Missouri, his previous community. This mill near Five Mile Creek was one of the earliest mills in the southern section of Dallas County.
The Overton Cemetery was near the home of William Perry Overton built in 1853-4. This land was a portion of the Dugold MacFarland Survey No. 985 of 1280 acres. MacFarland received a patent for Bounty Land from the Republic of Texas for his participation in the War with Mexico.[i] As happened many times after this war, the government was encouraging new citizens to come to this undeveloped land and John Nolen was one of the land managers. MacFarland assigned his patent to Nolen. Nolen did not find a buyer for 640 acres of this survey as it was deeded to Aaron Overton by John Nolen in 1851 for the payment of back taxes. [ii]
North Carolina native Aaron Overton (1784-1860) and two sons, Caswell C. (1816-18?/) and William Perry (1823-1903) came to the Republic of Texas in November 1844 and were among the first to settle on the west side of the Trinity River. All three of the men were issued certificates for Peters Colony land.[iii] As a single man William patented 320 acres of land near the Trinity River and Turtle Creek. Caswell found 320 acres near what is now the Wilmer/Hutchins area. Aaron’s claim was in the Kidd Springs area.[iv] After the two-month journey from Missouri, as he had done in two other locations, Aaron built a horse grist mill having a capacity of 100 bushels of wheat a day. The mill was the most important industry for the communities springing up on the west side of the Trinity. Settlers came from as far away as 100 miles to have their corn and wheat ground into flour and meal. [v] Aaron made a trip back to Missouri each fall until 1847 when he brought the rest of his family to Texas. After purchasing 640 acres of McFarland land in 1851, Aaron erected a water mill and two years later he built what was known as the Honey Springs Mill.[vi]
Aaron’s son, Missouri native William Perry Overton married Martha Ann Newton (1828-1884) also a native of Missouri in 1847. They eventually had seven children. In the spring of 1850 William left Dallas, joining the gold seekers who were traveling with ox teams to haul their supplies. When they got to El Paso Overton traded his oxen for mules and arrived in San Diego in September. He stayed in California for eighteen months before returning to Texas. When he came back to Dallas County in 1853 he traded his head right near Turtle Creek and the Trinity River to his father for the Honey Springs site where the mill was. 1866 he returned to farming on his land where he concentrated on raising Durham cattle and Berkshire hogs.[vii] The farm became known as Honey Springs.[viii]
The first home, erected by Aaron in 1851 was of logs. After William Perry traded land with his father the cabin was later enclosed with lumber in 1852-3. The timber had been hauled from Palestine in Anderson County making it one of the first frame houses in Dallas County. The Overton mill and their homestead were well known by pioneer families. During the Civil War the house served as a hospital for sick or disabled soldiers. The family was host to weary travelers and needy friends passing by. Frank James was said to have stayed in the house for seven weeks recovering from an illness. It was noted that it was one of the oldest houses in Dallas County. [ix] The feature article in the Dallas Morning News mentioned that literally hundreds of heirlooms and artifacts had been collected by the Overton ancestors from five continents! [x]
The first family member buried in the cemetery near the house on William Perry and Martha’s land was when their eight year daughter Lizzie E. Overton died in 1870. In 1873 a son, Caswell, died at the age of seventeen. Oscar Alonzo, another son died in 1880 at the age of twenty-six. Martha died in 1884. Of all the grave markers inside the fenced area, most are for Overton family members.[xi] Others are of friends and people who lived on their land. To the left of the gate to the cemetery the descendants were told that three Confederate Veterans who were being cared for in the Overton’s house died and are buried here in unmarked graves.
William Perry Overton married for the second time in 1885 to Mrs. Jessie Davis Price (1849-1928). Jessie had been born in England. Her father, Henry C. Davis (1816-1889) a native of Shirfield Hampshire, England lived with Jessie and William. Davis was killed in an accident on the Missouri Kansas Texas Railroad tracks in 1889.[xii] His death notice said he owned a large and valuable tract of land and was in independent circumstances. He had brought family heirlooms with them when they came to Texas. He was walking on the railroad track in front of the Overton’s house and did not hear the train because at seventy three he was almost totally deaf. The engineer attempted to stop the train, but Mr. Davis was hit and he rolled down the embankment. He is buried inside the fenced area of the family cemetery.[xiii]6
A respected citizen of the community was Dr. Kiaza Tsukahara (1873-1928) a medical doctor who was known as “Dr. Jap” by the black patients that he cared for - as his patients could not pronounce his name. He came to America in 1902 and attended Baylor University medical school graduating in 1906.[xiv] He, his wife, and their six children lived on Holmes Street and he later had an office in South Dallas. Dr. Tsukahara was buried in the front corner of the fenced portion of the Overton Cemetery. After more than seventy-five years, his descendants who still live in Dallas had his ashes removed from the Overton Cemetery and reburied at Grove Hill Cemetery in Dallas with others of his family in the year 2000.[xv]
Another non-family member was Ollie Leatherwood (1894-1979). Miss. Leatherwood’s family had lived on Overton land and when the rest of her family decided to leave the area Ollie choose to stay in Dallas County and moved into the house with the Overton family. In appreciation for her being there for them, the family gave her four rent houses and the rest of the land now all denoted as a cemetery. She managed the rent property for income. On the property outside the fenced area of the Overton Cemetery the small frame Overton Road Baptist Church was built on Ollie’s land. Members of the church were buried in this land behind the church.[xvi]Ollie attended the church with other neighbors. The church later moved to the northeast corner of Overton Road and Bonnie View Road. The church is now gone.
This generosity has since created a serious problem as the abandoned cemetery behind the church is a high weed, overgrown area, some with markers and some without. The property is all shown as cemetery on the Dallas Central Appraisal List.
The approximately 90 X 90 foot fenced section of the Overton Cemetery is where immediate family members are buried and is maintained by a descendant. She feels no obligation to maintain the entire area.
III. Historical/Cultural Significance
The Overton Cemetery is an important cemetery site as the Overtons were among the earliest settlers to come to the Republic of Texas and settle in the Three Forks Area of Texas. Members of this family built one of the first grist mills and kept it operating for neighbors near and far. Since 1853 their home on the wagon road was known as a place of comfort. The Overtons shared what they had with weary travelers, in the 1860s it was used as a hospital for sick and disabled soldiers. They welcomed the needy or oppressed. Jessie Davis Price Overton lived in the house until she died at the age of seventy-eight in 1928. It then became the residence of Joseph and Ruby Overton.
The cemetery site was designated as a Historic Texas Cemetery in January 2004. A large marker for all to see will tell the history of this important pioneer Dallas County family.