Newly Discovered Cemetery Gets New Life

Camptown Cemetery Historical Marker Revealed, 22 March 2014
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BRENHAM - The vacant lot at the end of Mangrum Street in Brenham...isn't a vacant lot.

It's a landmark.

Camptown cemetery is now on the registry of historic places. That means that the area must be protected from commercial development.

"It's been here we think since we think about 1840. We know that we have slaves buried here, we have veterans buried here. And we have many of the early residents of the old Washington County who made wonderful contributions to the development of this area," Buffalo Soldier Eddie Harrison said.

It's been hidden underneath dense brush for at least half a century.

"What is this? Who were these people? What has happened? why are they gone?"

Charles Swenson is a Registered Nurse by profession, but he's dedicated himself to researching Camptown's history for over a year. He's also on the crew that's clearing the area so archaeologists can use ground-penetrating sonar to find all the graves.

"Coming out here, asking the questions, putting in the time and the effort to continue this work. More question marks arise."

The area was a designated flood plain, so many of the makeshift grave markers that slaves used have long since washed away. Not surprising, considering they oftentimes could only afford to place shells or overturned bottles atop a grave to remember the location.

"[Mangrum Street] has graves, all these homes have graves...," Brenham Heritage Museum Archaeologist Bob Wishoff said of the land surrounding the gravesite.

Archaeologists say the find is overwhelming. Phase 1...clearing the brush...will take at least three years. They've had plenty of help so far, but they could always use more for this big project.

Camptown got its name from the Union Army encampment on the site during the Civil War.