Providing a window into Arlington’s past.

An Overview of the Cemetery

by James W. Dunlop

Arlington Cemetery is located on Mary Street at the intersection of East Mitchell Street near downtown Arlington, Tarrant County, Texas, on a 10.09-acre tract in the John Huitt Survey (Abstract No. 703). The cemetery has been in use for almost 120 years and contains graves of many of the early settlers who migrated to Texas during the 1800s.

The present boundaries of the cemetery encompass several old cemeteries: the original “Old Cemetery” of Arlington (1), the W.W. McNatt Cemetery Addition (2) (later purchased by the Arlington Cemetery Society (3)), the original Masonic Cemetery (4), and intervening portions of the “City Cemetery”. (5)

All these cemeteries, as well as the adjacent Parkdale Cemetery, are located in the south part of the former Willis W. McNatt farm. (6) The earliest one – the Old Cemetery – has marked graves dating back to 1875 and numerous graves in the 1870s and 1880s. (7)

The W.W. McNatt Cemetery Addition, platted in 1896 by Willis W. McNatt for the purpose of selling “lots for burial,” was Block 10 of W.W. McNatt’s Third Addition to Arlington, also platted in 1896 by W.W. McNatt and his wife. Both additions are based on an 1895 survey by J.J. Goodfellow which shows the location of the Old Cemetery as well as the Swann Family Cemetery which is incorporated into the W.W. McNatt Cemetery Addition. (8)

Willis W. McNatt, along with his wife Dianna and eight children, moved to Tarrant County from Arkansas in 1872 and purchased a farm near the community of Hayterville, a predecessor community to Arlington. In Hayterville, he built a mercantile store (located a mile east of present downtown Arlington) and the first saloon. By 1890, he was a prosperous businessman and large landowner. (9) The 1895 survey shows his residence to be located at the northwest corner of the McNatt farm and two existing cemeteries (Old Cemetery and the Swann Family Cemetery) in the southeast corner.

In 1899, the W.W. McNatt Cemetery Addition was purchased for $100 by the Arlington Cemetery Society, whose Executive Committee at that time was composed of Mrs. Mattie Gill, chairman, Mrs. W.H. McKinley, and Mrs. George Lampee. (10)

The Arlington Cemetery Association was incorporated on April 19, 1923 and received a fifty-year charter. Incorporators were Thomas Spruance, N.L. Davis and Tom Cravens. (11) Annual dues were paid to provide funds for operational costs. (12)

Mrs. Carrie Ditto was president for over thirty years. After her death in 1946, the organization became inactive and attempts to reorganize and revive it failed. (13)

By 1952, the cemetery had assumed its present boundaries and was known as “City Cemetery” of Arlington, according to a survey made by J.E. Pike.

The Arlington Cemetery Association’s charter expired in 1973, and the cemetery’s ownership was unclear until 1992 when the Arlington City Council assumed ownership, authorized a new survey, and replatted the cemetery as Arlington Cemetery Lot 1. (14)

In 1992, the cemetery had 1830 graves, most with readable markers. Many of the stones are tall, typical of styles used prior to 1900.

The three oldest marked graves in the cemetery have bois d’arc (wooden) markers (family unknown).

The oldest legible grave marker (see at left) is in the Cooper plot at the grave of baby M.L. (Mattie Luna) Cooper (1-28-1874 to 6-3-1875).

The earliest birth dates on grave markers are Herman R. Lowe who was born in 1802; Clarence J. Archer, 1803; and Mary Pilant, 1807.(15)

The Masonic portion (referred to as “the original Masonic Cemetery” in the 1952 survey) contains 43 graves, with death dates ranging from 1912 to 1919. All the grave markers – including those for women – have Masonic emblems.

Early settlers from Arlington and surrounding areas are buried in the cemetery. They include merchants, farmers, homemakers, ranchers, doctors, preachers, elected officials and other necessary community occupations, as well as several Confederate soldiers.

Arlington public servants buried in the cemetery include seven former postmasters and eleven former mayors. The mayors are M.J. Brinson, 1881-1884; George M. Finger, 1884-1885; Emmet E. Rankin, 1885; William C. Weeks, 1900-1902; Thomas B. Collins, 1902-1904; T.G. Bailey, 1904-1906; W.H. Davis, 1909-1910; Preston F. McKee, 1914-1915; William H. Rose, 1919-1923; Will. G. Hiett, 1923-1925, 1927-1931 and Harold E. Patterson, 1983-1987.(16)

The cemetery has no perpetual care arrangement. The Arlington Cemetery Society and the Arlington Cemetery Association, which succeeded it, performed maintenance from 1896 until the late 1940s. Thereafter, cemetery care was provided by concerned citizens and family members. In recent years, the City of Arlington Parks and Recreation Department has assumed responsibility for grass mowing and trash removal. The Optimist Club of Arlington sponsors Heritage Day at the cemetery annually on December 7, at which time they set up markers, pick up leaves and repair the roads.

The cemetery is bounded by Mary Street on the west, a six-foot wooden fence on the south, and a six-foot cyclone fence on the east. On the north, a road separates it from the Parkdale Cemetery.

The historic Arlington Cemetery has been in use for about 120 years and is the burial site for citizens who, through the years, contributed to the development of Arlington. From its oldest marked grave in 1875 to its latest in 1992 (17), it continues to serve the community and fulfill the purpose for which it was established.

  1. Tarrant County Deed Records, Vol. 106, p. 7
  2. Tarrant County Deed Records, Vol. 106, p. 8
  3. Tarrant County Deed Records, Vol. 116, p. 441
  4. Survey by J.E. Pike, February 13, 1952
  5. Ibid
  6. Tarrant County Deed Records, Vol. 106, p. 7
  7. Inventory of graves in the Arlington Cemetery by J.W. and Mary Dunlop, January 1992
  8. Tarrant County Deed Records, Vol. 106, pp. 7 – 8
  9. Oral interviews with Evelyn M. Spears (granddaughter of W.W. McNatt) and Jeane Smith (great granddaughter of W.W. McNatt); Arista Joyner, Arlington, Texas; Birthplace of the Metroplex, Arlington Bicentennial/Centennial Celebration Committee, 1976.
  10. Tarrant County Deed Records, Vol. 116, p. 441
  11. Arlington Cemetery Association Charter; letter from Pete Dickerson, July 30, 1949
  12. Arlington News, May 1, 1949
  13. Ibid; Dickerson letter
  14. Arlington Property Plats, Cabinet B, Slide 707, November 19, 1992
  15. Inventory of graves
  16. Ibid.; Arlington City Records
  17. Bertha L. Ward, died April 13, 1992