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Oakwood Cemetery

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Oakwood Cemetery is owned and maintained by the City of Tyler Parks and Recreation Department. For more information, contact (903) 531-1207.

Oakwood Cemetery

Located at the corner of North Palace at Oakwood Street

Oakwood Cemetery consists of 20 acres and has more than 2,000 inscribed tombstones. There are 231 graves of the unknown confederate soldiers, plus 70 marked Confederate graves, as well as one Union soldier's grave. This cemetery was originally known as Lollar's Cemetery and City Cemetery. Several years ago a fire destroyed all of the burial records as well as the ownership documents.

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Written by an Oakwood Committee Member.

Oakwood cemetery is situated on land initially gifted to Isaac Lollar by a Board of Land Commissioners of the County of Bastrop grant on July 5, 1841. On August 12, 1844, James C. Hill, a surveyor from Nacogdoches, did a survey for Isaac Lollar of 640 acres of land, on which later the public square was laid out.

Smith county, with Tyler as the county seat, was created by the First Legislature of the State of Texas on April 11, 1846. On October 2, 1846, Isaac Lollar sold to his brother, John Lollar of Smith County, the 640 acres of land. On September 22, 1849, John Lollar conveyed to John Madison Patterson 345 acres. It was stipulated that five acres in the southwest corner be reserved for a cemetery. The cemetery was first called “Lollar’s Cemetery.”

As time went on, the cemetery was later known as “City Cemetery.” No further expansions were made until the late 1930s. Today the cemetery contains 19.5 acres and has over 2,000 marked graves. Many grave markers have been lost over the years. The oldest marker currently is that of four-year-old P. M. Scott, who died in 1852.

During the War Between the States, when several thousand men were in training near Tyler, many soldiers died from measles, pneumonia and other diseases. In order to have a burial place for the soldiers, the City set aside a 300 square feet plot. This plot became known as the Soldiers’ Plot. There are 231 unknown Confederate Soldiers buried in the Soldiers’ Plot. Besides these soldiers, there are approximately 80 other marked graves buried in Oakwood, plus veterans from many other wars. There are a few Union Soldiers and sailors buried in the cemetery as well.

After first securing the deed for the Soldiers’ Plot, the Mollie Moore Davis Chapter 217 of the United Daughters of the Confederacy began caring for the sacred spot. Decoration Day (later to become Memorial Day) was always observed. Members, their families and friends met at the cemetery for a memorial service and children scattered flowers on all of the soldiers’ graves.

The Mollie Moore Davis Chapter of the UDC saved money and bought the Confederate Monument. It was unveiled on July 9, 1909. All records state that it was a gala day in Tyler. Stores closed and the UDC sponsored a public lunch on the east side of the square. At 2 p.m., a parade to the cemetery began. Approximately 5,000 people gathered in the cemetery for this important occasion. Choirs from the churches in Tyler sang and after the program, children dressed in white once again scattered flowers over the soldiers’ graves.

There is no knowledge of when the first Jewish settlers came to Tyler. But we do know that in the 1880s, there were sufficient numbers to begin holding worship services. In 1887 the Congregation Beth-El was chartered and shortly after bought a large plot in the cemetery to bury their dead. This plot is fenced off from the rest of Oakwood, as Jewish custom requires separation of Jewish and non-Jewish graves.

In the 1930s, Works Progress Administration labor was used to erect the stone fence around Oakwood and pave the driveways. The strip adjacent to North Palace Avenue was filled and leveled. For many years this section was used as a Black Cemetery. In 1997, a marker was erected to mark approximately 100 Black graves, the majority of which were most likely slaves.

In 1997, the Oakwood Cemetery Restoration Committee made up of members of the Mollie Moore Davis Chapter, plus interested residents of Tyler was formed and began working to restore Oakwood Cemetery. The Mayor of Tyler turned the Committee into a City Committee, and they have worked with the Tyler Parks and Recreation Department ever since, meeting every month. 

The City started a Perpetual Care Trust Fund for the cemetery. Since 1997, this fund has been used for multiple projects. Some projects include a new fence along the railroad tracks, new gates (donated by Rodeick Metal Service, Inc.), resurfacing all driveways, installing an irrigation system and flower beds, installing a new Oakwood sign by the gate on Palace Avenue, installing a new flag pole with lighting and planting 36 new trees.

Oakwood Cemetery has been designated a Historic Texas Cemetery by the Texas Historical Commission in Austin with visible plaques in every entrance to the cemetery.

There are hundreds of broken markers in the cemetery. To restore these, the Oakwood Cemetery Restoration Committee created Spirits of Oakwood, an annual walking history tour through the cemetery. Money raised during this event is used to repair the markers.