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Juneteenth celebrated at historic cemetery

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  • At the conclusion of a ceremony in recognition of Juneteenth last Monday, a rose was placed at every grave. Courtesy Photo
    At the conclusion of a ceremony in recognition of Juneteenth last Monday, a rose was placed at every grave. Courtesy Photo
  • Juneteenth celebrated at historic cemetery
    A crowd gathered at the historic cemetery on Old Medina Highway to honor Juneteenth. Research by Historical Commission Vice-Chair Raymond V. Carter, Jr. has shown a few of those buried were freedmen and a freedwoman, former slaves. Courtesy Photo
  • Juneteenth celebrated at historic cemetery
    A hand-carved tombstone marks the resting place of a child at the Bertha Tryon/ Hendrick Arnold Cemetery. Courtesy Photo

A lively crowd gathered Monday morning at the Bertha Tryon/Hendrick Arnold Cemetery to celebrate the first anniversary of Juneteenth becoming a federal holiday.

The Frontier Times Museum, the Bandera County Historical Commission and the Arthur Nagel Community Clinic hosted a ceremony to commemorate the day in 1865 when Texas slaves were finally notified that they had been emancipated by proclamation given by President Abraham Lincoln in 1863.

The San Antonio Mass Choir under the direction of Dr. James W. Wilcox traveled from San Antonio to sing a selection of spirituals including the Black National Anthem, Lift Every Voice and Sing.

In her opening remarks, museum director Rebecca Norton pointed out the traditional African-American holiday unique to those from Texas is now an American holiday in which all Americans can hold in reverence.

Larry Jackson did the traditional reading of the Emancipation Proclamation and added the reading of Order Number Three given by Union Major General Gordon Granger on June 19, 1865, in Galveston, which informed enslaved Texans of their freedom, the last of the southern slaves to find out they were indeed free.

Joined by his wife, Suzanne, Larry placed a wreath on the gates of the cemetery while a Juneteenth flag flew above with the United States flag.

The ceremony concluded with the reading of the names of those that are known to be buried in the cemetery by Chuck Lutke, Executive Director of the Arthur Nagel Community Clinic.

Research by Historical Commission Vice-Chair Raymond V. Carter, Jr. has shown a few of those buried were freedmen and a freedwoman, former slaves.

Attendees were then given red roses to place on each of the graves.

“This was our first Juneteenth celebration. We are so pleased with the wonderful turn-out and how lovely the ceremony was,” said Norton. “Several of the attendees volunteered to help organize next year’s event, and the Mass Choir expressed interest in coming back to sing again. It’s so important to honor this momentous day in our nation’s history and to recognize this cemetery as part of the historical fabric of our community. Chuck Lutke and I are looking forward to making this an annual event that can grow every year.”