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Agency

Texas Historical Commission

Abstract

The search for the 1830s Sarahville de Viesca cemetery took place in Falls County, Texas, located about 10 km southwest of Marlin, Texas (Appendix A). The project was sponsored by the Summerlee Foundation of Dallas. One of the foundation’s purposes is to investigate and preserve Texas history. In 2006 the foundation purchased land that contained the Sarahville de Viesca site and a cemetery called Bull Hill to preserve these sites and make them available for research. As part of this mission, the Summerlee Foundation asked the Texas Historical Commission (THC) to investigate the Bull Hill cemetery (41FA86). The THC investigated the cemetery from 2008 into 2011, under the direction of Dr. James Bruseth, then director of the Archeology Division of the THC.

The Bull Hill cemetery was the burial place for former enslaved workers at the nearby Jones Plantation and for the descendants of the enslaved workers. During the recordation process, information was found that indicated the 1837 burial site of James Coryell, a Texas Ranger stationed at the settlement, was located immediately south of the Bull Hill cemetery. In 2010 the burial site was found a few meters south of the cemetery, and excavation of the grave took place later that year and again in 2011 by the THC.

The project reported in this document is an effort to search for additional graves associated with the 1830s Sarahville community around the location of the Coryell burial site. Fieldwork for the project took place from August 22 to 24, 2019. The project area was a .0676 ha area around the Coryell gravesite. The effort was directed by Principal Investigator James Bruseth, and assisted by staff of the THC, including Bradford Jones, Rebecca Shelton, and Arlo McKee. Additional help was given by THC Commissioner John Crain, Dallas resident Gwyneth Gravelle, and Summerlee Foundation President Gary Smith. A total of 98 person- hours of time were spend on the fieldwork.

The working hypothesis for the project was that Coryell was buried at this location because it was the cemetery for the nearby settlement of Sarahville de Viesca (1834-1838) capital of the Roberston Colony of Texas. Specifically, the goal was to investigate shallow surface depressions around the Coryell grave to see if grave shafts could be found beneath them. Three depressions were selected, and .75 cm by 1.5 m units were placed over each depression and excavated to about 30 cm. Grave shafts were found in two of the three units, confirming that Coryell’s grave was part of a larger burial complex. The excavations in the three units did not recover any artifacts. Records and photographs are curated at the THC.

The results indicate that the Sarahville de Viesca town cemetery was indeed located here. When the Jones Plantation was established in the area in 1850, the enslaved workers at the plantation were allowed to continue using the Sarahville cemetery as their burial place. The cemetery became known by the name Bull Hill.

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