Scout completes Poor Farm fence project for ACA

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A 2021 article in the Weatherford Democrat caught the attention of Drew Woodliff, a Scout in local Troop 75. He was looking for a worthy project to earn his Eagle Scout badge. The article mentioned the Abandoned Cemetery Association wanted to fence an expanded area at the Poor Farm Cemetery, so he contacted the ACA, which enthusiastically embraced his offer to construct the fence.

The Parker County Poor Farm was established in 1883 after commissioners determined it would be more cost effective to have indigents raise livestock and grow crops on a farm rather than give them $3 to $10 a month. Initially, families as well as individuals resided at the farm. Convicts also supplied some of the labor. Naturally, the farm soon needed a cemetery.

For many years, the mower of the cemetery claimed there were a number of unmarked graves there. How did he know? He “witched” the area. Skeptics were brought up short when several farmers and ranchers said they, too, “witched” for pipes and old cisterns. Seems disturbed magnetic fields have something to do with it.

In late 2020, Will Pyles, who uses ground penetrating radar in his business, offered to scan the area. Before rain stopped the first effort, he had discovered 14 unmarked graves. He returned in 2021 and found 35 more, all but one where the mower had said they were located. 

That one had its own curious story. In the 1985 application for the historical marker, the late Mary Kemp noted there was one man “who did not wish to be buried with those poor people” even though he, too, lived at the farm. As he wished, he was buried several feet from the others, and Pyles found his plot.

The ACA received permission from commissioners court for the expansion, after which Woodliff served as project manager, helped with fundraising, put together the materials list, equipment needs, labor and work schedules. He went so far as to request assistance from Lowe’s, which obliged. The project was completed in April, and included a small separate plot for the man who wanted to be buried outside the cemetery.

The ACA marked the lost gravesites with “unknown” markers. While several names are known, their exact resting places are not.

You can help the ACA maintain almost 80 abandoned cemeteries in Parker County by sending a tax-deductible donation to: ACA, PO Box 61, Weatherford, TX 76086.

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