GRANBURY — Abandoned communities and cemeteries are all over the nation’s landscape — if you know where to look.

In historic records, some are documented as places that have “vanished.”

One area community that vanished about 80 years ago is known as The Colony, which was about four miles west of Granbury in the direction of Tolar. It was a settlement established in the late 1800s by blacks who were former slaves. 

A school and a church building that had been used by the residents of The Colony are no longer there, but the cemetery remains. 

Colony Road leads from U.S. Highway 377 to the cemetery, which is on what became the J.R. Black Ranch — Hood County’s largest ranch.

The Colony’s grave markers include “Little” Jefferson Edwards (who died in 1871), along with “Little” Pearly Edwards, plus three others with the Edwards name. There are nine Fosters buried there, including Henry “Uncle Doc.” The most prominent name, Hightower, can be found on no fewer than 17 graves.

The exact number of graves is unknown because some of them are unmarked. In an article written by Candace Ord Manroe for Granbury! magazine in 1984, it was estimated there are 75 and 100 people buried there. That story was based on an interview she did with R.D. Edwards.

Manroe’s story indicated that the final residents — R.D. Edwards and his brothers, Daniel and David McCormick — left The Colony in 1939. 

“Simon Hightower and his family received their last name from a former (slave) owner who was a Hightower,” Manroe wrote.

Her story explained that “After the Civil War and emancipation of slaves, carpetbaggers began a campaign to register the former slaves to vote. They promised each registered former slave 40 acres and a mule. In Hood County, whatever land actually was awarded lay in the area which was to become known as The Colony.”

Times got tougher through the Great Depression years (1929-1933) and other circumstances changed, so residents of The Colony moved away in search of jobs that could provide an adequate living.

“Some went to Fort Worth, some moved to Granbury, and a number of them went to California (migrant crop workers),” said Karen Nace, a past president of the Hood County Historical Society and current director of the Hood County Jail Museum. “The school burned down, as I understand it.”

She said that it is estimated that at one point there were as many as 40 families living in The Colony.

There are some questions about the name itself, according to Nace.

“In school records, it was called Mount Zion,” said Nace, who retired a few years ago after working as administrative assistant for former Hood County Judge Andy Rash. “Talking to old-timers, it had nothing to do with the Mount Zion area. But (some) called it the Hightower school at Mount Zion.”

Nace said that another example in Hood County of how precise names can be changed over the years is the Painter Branch Creek, which somehow came to be known in county records as “Panther” Branch.

A sign placed on the gate at The Colony labels it as “Mount Pleasant Cemetery,” which is still another name it was known by, along with Pleasant Chapel Cemetery and Hightower Cemetery, according to cemetery records found online.

Nace said that she suspects there was actually another old cemetery — with graves of exclusively white people — was a few miles away, right outside of Tolar.

“It just raises the question, was it always called the Colony, and I don’t think it was,” Nace said. “It’s kind of something I’m still looking into. I do believe history, when it can be, should be as accurate as possible.”

Juneteenth celebrations had been held at The Colony before dying out decades ago, but the tradition was brought back in 1998, “by white newcomers to Granbury,” Manroe wrote.

STILL MEANINGFUL

The absence of structures and of course those who built them does not mean the site is no longer meaningful.

Joe Perkins, a 63-year-old black man who owns and operates Perkins Concrete in Granbury, began his volunteer work taking care of The Colony in 1997.

Perkins, who moved to Granbury with his family in 1954, said the Juneteenth get-togethers came to an end again about 10 years ago because attendance was shrinking.

“I’ve often thought about doing (Juneteenth celebrations there) again,” said Perkins, who late brother Johnny Perkins was a star college football player at Abilene Christian and Ranger College who played wide receiver for the NFL’s New York Giants. 

It’s obvious that, to Perkins, The Colony remains an important part of local history. His 35-year-old son, Joseph, also helps him whenever mowing or repair work is needed.

Joe is president of The Colony Cemetery Committee and Joseph is vice president. Joe’s daughters, Keisha and Kayla, also help with the upkeep.

As Perkins noted, the peace and quiet at a country cemetery is striking.

“I love it,” Perkins said. “That’s freedom for us, because it’s peaceful. When we go into a cemetery and shut the gate behind us, it’s peaceful.”

Sadly, in 2010 that work included having to repair some inexplicable vandalism.

The existence of separate cemeteries for blacks and whites such as The Colony and Erath County’s Mount Olive, as just two area examples, is a reminder of the racism behind that segregated era.

But Perkins indicated that he has moved past thinking about such wrongdoing, and focuses on other things now — such as the eternal hereafter.

“That stuff doesn’t bother me anymore,” Perkins said. “We’re just here for a minute. People need to wake up. We’re all going to answer to one man.”

‘WE WERE TIGHT’

A white resident of Granbury named Larry Goin, who was a former police sergeant and a Sheriff’s Office chief deputy, helped with the maintenance of the cemetery from the start of when Perkins took over the duties from longtime caretaker R.D. Edwards. 

Goin died at age 67 in 2010, and — as he had requested — was buried in The Colony Cemetery. 

Nace said that Goin is the only white person buried there.

“He and Joe were good friends,” Nace explained. “He worked with The Colony Cemetery Association. Larry had a great affinity for the work he did there, and said he wanted to be buried there.”

The friendship between Perkins and Goin serves as one bright example of how people can look past skin color and build friendships built on common respect.

“I’m still close friends with his family — his wife and his daughter,” Perkins said. “Me and Larry got it going. We were tight.”

Concerning Goin’s death, Perkins said, “That took a big bite out of me. He was nice to everybody.”