SAN ANTONIO – Work begins Saturday to finally reveal what was once an African-American cemetery now flanked by Northern Hills Elementary School on one side and the Northern Hills subdivision on the other.
Hockley Cemetery, which was established 106 years ago by Jane Warren, a former slave who later went on to own more than 100 acres on the Northeast Side, remained hidden until a subdivision was built in the 1980s and workers came upon the graves. After that, the cemetery was forgotten once again.
Everett Fly, a landscape architect noted for his work on historic sites, had just been honored by President Barack Obama with the National Humanities Medal when he learned about the cemetery from Mike Wright, a retired U.S. Air Force major, who had done extensive research after finding the overgrown cemetery in 2014.
“It’s extremely rare in San Antonio or even in the United States,” Fly said, but Hockley Cemetery is now the third historic African-American cemetery in San Antonio's District 8.
Fly said District 8 Councilman Clayton Perry, the city’s archaeologist, the San Antonio Conservation Society and the UTSA Center for Archaeological Research all are now aware of the site’s importance.
He said the alley leading to the site has been cleared, along with paths through vegetation, to make it easier for volunteers to carry out the debris.
Fly said they’ll also have professional help from members of the Texas Nursery and Landscape Association, who will be providing vehicles and drivers to properly dispose of the debris.
Besides being on site Saturday to help, Fly said Perry has also been recruiting youth and community groups to lend a helping hand. He said they’ve also reached out to Northern Hills Elementary about producing an educational program about the significance of the site that borders their schoolyard.
Parking will be available at the school, along with refreshments and food on site.
Fly said if enough volunteers turn out, they hope to have the work done between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Saturday at the site behind the school, located at 13901 Higgins Rd.
The San Antonio African American Community Archive and Museum will have volunteers on hand as well.
George Frederick, SAAACAM president, said thanks to Wright’s curiosity about the site three years ago, “We are now able to do something that is never been done before, to uncover a hidden cemetery.”