Grave issues come to head
Jon Nielsen, Special to the EDN
The bottom of Manervia Bell’s worn headstone reads: Gone but not forgotten. It’s a touching tribute, but for many years dense overgrowth threatened to erase the cemetery from memory.
Bell is buried alongside about 200 former slaves, servants, sharecroppers and regular working class black people on a patch of land segregated from Hughes Cemetery. For years, St. Mary’s cemetery was a little-known graveyard resting under a canopy of elms, oaks and pecan trees between Avalon and Italy. It had nearly long been forgotten — tended only by a few of the dead’s descendants — until an out-of-town rancher’s dirt road upended the serenity.