Galveston’s first burial ground designated exclusively for African Americans was established in 1911 by a group of African American citizens who organized themselves as the Rosewood Cemetery Association. The association purchased the land from the Joe Levy Family and 86 shares were divided among 26 shareholders. Churches, associations, societies, and individuals, including the Wright Cuney Lodge, purchased the shares. The first person buried was Robert Bailey on February 1, 1912, and the last burial was Frank Boyer on June 29, 1944. 411 graves are listed in records as being located at Rosewood. Today, markers exist for only around 20. The last known burial date is listed as 1944.
Rosewood Cemetery was donated to Galveston Historical Foundation in 2006 by John and Judy Saracco and is a project of GHF’s African American Heritage Committee. In 2011 the site received a subject marker from the Texas Historical Commission.
TEXAS HISTORICAL COMMISSION MARKER
Historic Texas Cemetery
Texas Historical Commission
On January 30, 1911, a group of African American Galvestonians formed the Rosewood Cemetery Association. The citizens purchased more than eight acres from the Joe Levy Family near the beach, just west of the termination of Seawall Boulevard. Prior to the establishment of Rosewood Cemetery, African American citizens were prevented from interring their dead at most of the city’s cemeteries.
Individuals, churches and organizations, such as the Norris Wright Cuney Lodge No. 63 of the Colored Knights of Pythias, purchased shares in the association. Association minutes indicate that individual plots were sold for $10 each, with an additional $2 grave digging charge; plots for the burial of children cost $6.50. The first interment was that of Robert Bailey, an infant who died on February 1, 1912. The cemetery was utilized into the 1940’s, although most of the identified burials date from 1914 and 1915. The last known burial occurred in June 1944, when Frank Boyer was interred.
In 1951, the city of Galveston began acquiring undeveloped portions of the cemetery for the extension of the Seawall west of 61st St. This construction blocked the natural outlet of Green’s Bayou and created flooding in the cemetery and may have contributed to a reduction in its use. Beginning in the late 1950’s, the land on which the cemetery sat was gradually sold to developers, and by the late 1990’s, Rosewood had disappeared from many city maps. In 2006, just over one acre of the original cemetery property was donated to the Galveston Historical Foundation, in an effort to preserve what was left of this important site.
ABOUT GALVESTON HISTORICAL FOUNDATION
GHF was formed as the Galveston Historical Society in 1871 and merged with a new organization formed in 1954 as a non-profit entity devoted to historic preservation and history in Galveston County. Over the last sixty years, GHF has expanded its mission to encompass community redevelopment, historic preservation advocacy, maritime preservation, coastal resiliency and stewardship of historic properties. GHF embraces a broader vision of history and architecture that encompasses advancements in environmental and natural sciences and their intersection with historic buildings and coastal life, and conceives of history as an engaging story of individual lives and experiences on Galveston Island from the 19th century to the present day.