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Oakwood Cemetery Houses History of the Area

March 8, 2011


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David Evans serves as superintendent of Oakwood Cemetery, meeting with grieving families as they lay their loved ones to rest, ensuring that the grounds are well manicured, and overseeing the day-to-day business of a still very-active cemetery. But he also serves as a historian, proudly pointing out that while this plot of land houses the dead, a trip through the grounds can make history come alive.

Governors, college presidents, soft-drink makers, inventors, eccentrics--they can all be found at rest on the grounds of Oakwood Cemetery. There are even many lesser known families buried there whose names anyone who navigates the streets of Waco will recognize. There's Bagby's, Kultgen's, and more. And there may be no one more qualified to take care of these grounds, and talk about their history, than Evans. He lives in a house just off the grounds, which sit two blocks east of LaSalle. It's a house he knows well.

His father, James, served Oakwood from the 1960s until his death a few years back. And with that, his son David heeded the call to come back home, and care for the grounds he grew up on. His reverence for the land and the people at rest there are evident.

Evans took me on a tour of the cemetery that has been a major part of his life, smiling as he thought about the lives of the individuals who now populate it. An appropriate place to start our tour over the next few weeks is at the marker of a Scottish man named Neil, born in 1787. An early settler and surveyor, he fought off and lost family members to Indians. He settled in an untamed area and was the initial push behind making McLennan County, which adorns his name, what it is today.

Neil Mclennan is but one recognizable name of many in Oakwood Cemetery. We'll look at a different aspect of this historical piece of ground weekly in the coming month. Next week, Evans will introduce us to the governors who were laid to rest there. For KWBU News, I'm Derek Smith.

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