The Sowers Cemetery Association celebrated 150th anniversary of the cemetery on Saturday, June 9.
Beneath the shade of oak trees, some headstones are worn down, fading into the foliage; and other monuments towered overhead, as roughly 150 people gathered to hear a series of speakers bring Irving’s past to life.
Gary Westerman, funeral director at Brown’s Memorial Funeral Home, has been visiting the Sowers Cemetery for over 40 years.
“This used to be the cultural and social center of what was Sowers, Texas,” Westerman said.
In 1848, Edmund D. Sowers settled in what is now part of Irving to build a farming and ranching community. Raising cattle and picking cotton were the primary means of making a living. The cemetery was established in 1868 when the first deaths occurred in Sowers. By 1884, the town’s population had grown to 75, and a schoolhouse, general store, and other community buildings had been built near the cemetery.
“My mother and father are buried here, that’s my connection,” Gerald Farris, Sowers Cemetery Association President said. He first became involved in restoring the cemetery five years ago. “At that time, I couldn’t participate very much because I was on the city council, but when I got off the council things really got going.”
Farris found the cemetery had fallen into a state of disrepair and focused on the poor condition of the fence to motivate renewal efforts.
“[Repairing the fence] became our torch, our rallying point,” Farris said. “Although it was a financial strain, everyone agreed it really needed to be done.”
He led efforts to clear overgrowth, remove trees crowding the property, and straighten and uncover headstones.
“My heavy involvement started about eighteen months ago,” Farris said. “The AMBUCS have done a lot of volunteer work. We’ve gotten some great volunteer work from the Rotary Club, and other folks coming out here individually. Hopefully, as time goes on, we’ll be able to get more volunteers to help out with some of the more detailed work.”
Kathy Price Bongfeldt spoke at the anniversary celebration to commemorate her family’s history and connection to the cemetery.
“I’m here to honor my family that is buried here, and the founders of the Sowers community,” Kathy Price Bongfeldt said. “I have four generations going back to my great grandfather, Porter Baley, buried here.” Her grandparents, mother, and an aunt are buried in the cemetery as well.
Sowers Cemetery received recognition in June 1973 when Mayor Dean Matkin placed the city’s first historical marker at the site. June’s 150th anniversary celebration of the cemetery then also marked the 45th anniversary of Irving’s first historical marker.
Written by Andrew Orozco