By BRIAN SMITH
WILLOW PARK — The first historical marker honoring a black cemetery in Parker County was unveiled Saturday morning.
Lawson Daniel Gratz (Gratts), a Buffalo Soldier who served during the Civil War and former Annetta resident, was honored with the marker at Willow Springs cemetery. More than 125 family members and members of both the East Parker County Genealogy and Historical Society and Parker County Historical Commission were on hand for the unveiling.
Parker County Judge Mark Riley said Gratz “truly dedicated his life to the area.”
Harold Lawrence with the Parker County Historical Commission, said the marker is an important tribute to African Americans in the county. He also said work was underway to ensure the Mount Pleasant Colored School in Weatherford would receive a marker within the next two years or so.
Willow Park Mayor Richard Neverdousky said all Buffalo Soldiers were known for their courage and patriotism, so it was only fitting such a marker was unveiled by Helen Eldredge Gratts, the family matriarch. In honor of the event, members of the Dallas County Buffalo Soldier re-enactor group were on hand to honor their fallen brother.
Gratz’s great-grandson and family spokesman Josef Gratts began looking into Lawson Gratz’s history many years ago. The work was slow but he found out many interesting things: Lawson Gratz was born a slave in 1836. He, along with thousands of former slaves, decided to join the Union Army for a chance at a better life. He volunteered for service after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed and was assigned to the 114th United States Colored Troops. While many black soldiers did not see action, the 114th was different and fought in many battles, including Richmond, City Point and Hatcher Run. Because of his ability to read and write and work with everyone, he was promoted to sergeant before a year.