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Kathy Beazley
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Photo courtesy of Rachel Hill Jeff and Hanna Hill, founders of Little Egypt

At McCree Cemetery on June 3, a very special acknowledgement of heritage and legacy will take place, as the cemetery honors Little Egypt, a freedman community whose members are buried in the cemetery and whose descendants, the Hill family, are among us today.

Everyone is invited to participate as the McCree Cemetery Association hosts a Little Egypt Cemetery Stroll and Clean-up event on June 3 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at McCree Cemetery, located at 9934 Audelia Road in Dallas. Free to attend, the public is invited to come and help, and to learn about an important part of Dallas’s legacy. Everyone is encouraged to bring their own work gloves, and equipment to help will be provided by the McCree Cemetery Association.

Community of Little Egypt Honored

Situated on the hilltop of what was then a vast prairie in a farming community 10 miles from the limits of early Dallas, McCree Cemetery was founded in 1866 when Mahulda Bonner McCree granted roughly 1.5 acres to William McCullough and James E. Jackson for its establishment. Another one acre of land was added to the cemetery in 1896 when Jeff Hill (the founder of Egypt, also known as “Little Egypt,” an African-American freedman community), George John and Monroe Parker purchased land from J.E. Griffin to create a beautiful burial area for Black residents.

On May 20, a historical marker honoring the Little Egypt community was installed at the Paul Dyer Administration Complex, the location where Little Egypt community once stood.

Members of the Hill family will be present at McCree Cemetery on June 3 to share stories of the legacy of their family, a group that was instrumental in settling Little Egypt.

Rachel Hill-Rasbatt, a member of the Hill family and organizer of the Hill Family Reunion, has done extensive work on her family’s history and is glad to share that information about one of Dallas’s founding communities at McCree Cemetery.

“As Toni Morrison once wrote, ‘Our ancestors are an ever widening circle of hope,’” said Rachel Hill-Rasbatt. “The journey to know more about my Hill Heritage has been a soul changing experience.”

History and Heritage

The June 3 event is one of the many important events that will be held at McCree Cemetery as the preservation and revitalization of this important landmark continues. The event is sponsored by the Plano Conservancy for Historic Preservation, Inc.; Versar, Inc.; and The McCree Cemetery Association.

For nearly 100 years, McCree Cemetery served as a burial site for the surrounding hamlets of Audelia, Rodgers, and Egypt. Listed in 2018 as a City of Dallas landmark, the property is recognized under seven of ten possible historic designation criteria, including the historical development, ethnic heritage and cultural characteristics of the city. There are two distinct sides to the cemetery, one for Anglo burials and one for African American burials. Preservation and restoration work on McCree Cemetery in 2015 located 158 markers and monuments on the site bearing the names of Peters Colonists, early settlers, freedmen and war veterans.

McCree Cemetery’s eastern tract was one of two used by the Egypt community. Jeff Hill, the nephew of two of Egypt’s founders John (Jeff) and Hanna Hill, is buried here. The property once included a church, the Cemetery Chapel Methodist Episcopal Church South and later the Rogers Baptist Church (1931-1939).

The western side of McCree Cemetery includes the oldest known burial in the cemetery, which belongs to John Henry Jones, who died in 1862 from wounds received during the Civil War. The last burial was Margaret Elizabeth Dockins, who passed away in 1982. Family names of the Anglo settlers buried at the cemetery include Jackson, Prigmore, McCullough, Griffin, Crosby and Goforth.

Many veterans are also buried in McCree Cemetery, including those that fought in the Battle of 1812, Mexican American War, Civil War, the World Wars and other conflicts.

Heavily vandalized in the 1950s and in subsequent years, the cemetery is now protected by a tall fence. Nearby development beginning in the 1960s marked the end of McCree Cemetery’s rural location along with the razing of the nearby Egypt community.

McCree Cemetery today comprises 2.6 acres of native species of prairie vegetation and its beautiful hilltop location in the middle of what is now a modern mix of residential homes and commercial properties.

Preserving the Legacy of McCree Cemetery

In 2018, McCree Cemetery was listed as a City of Dallas historic landmark and, in 2019, documentation of the cemetery was done by drone and a landscape clean-up. In 2021, headstone cleaning commenced and in 2023, the cemetery continues to hold events that help Dallas honor and learn its history.

“It’s wonderful to welcome people back to the cemetery to learn about the history of some of Dallas’ earliest settlers,” said Robin Moss Norcross, president of the McCree Cemetery Association Board of Directors.

Norcross, along with other McCree Cemetery Association board members, is intent on sharing the cemetery’s vast and diverse history.

“This is a special and significant place for many reasons,” Norcross said. “The people here represent the beginnings of the community we enjoy today in Lake Highlands, and it’s important to understand their stories.”

Visit McCreeCemetery.org to learn more, or to contribute your own memories of McCree, or information about family members buried there.

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