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History of Cotton Gin Cemetery in Teague, Freestone, Texas.

Brief history of Margarette Wills, wife of George (should be William), died 1844, with her sons moved from Robertson county Tennessee to Texas. Her son James, donated the land for this cemetery and founded the community of Cotton Gin.

Cotton Gin Cemetery Freestone County, Cemeteries of Texas Submitted by Carolyn Rebuck Historical Marker: Margarette Wills, Her Slaves and her son James S.Wills is credited with the establishment of the Cotton Gin Community in 1848. According to family history Dr. Wills gave the land for the public cemetery with seperate sections for Anglo and African Americans. Though it is likely that there are earlier burials, the oldest legible gravestone in the Anglo section is that of Mary Manning, who died in 1854 at 59. The next identifiable death date is that of an infant daughter of J.W. and A. A. Story, buried in 1858. Among the Military Veterans interred here is Abraham Roland (ca.1794-1868) who fought in the War of 1812. There are at least 67 Civil War Veterans interred here, as well veterans of other major conflicts. Cotton Gin Cemetery Association Historical Dedication on 10 Jun 2000 Cotton Gin is located in the western portion of the Freestone County approximately nine miles west-north-west of Teague, Texas. It marks the exact center of Maria De Cantona League. From the north side of town, take US 84 west for seven miles to FM 1366, turn north (right) and go eight tenths of a mile to FM 1366 Spur. This will take you through the Historical Community of Cotton Gin and by turning east(right) on FM1366 Spur and traveling another seven tenths of a mile you will arrive at the Main Entrance of the Cotton Gin Cemetery established in the mid 1800's. The fenced area of the cemetery covers 5.75 acres and measures approximately 713 ft e/w X 325 ft n/s plus a 38 ft X 44 ft off set on the south side that extends to the Black Cemetery. The eight or ten tombstones remaining in this off set area are too broken or too weathered to identify and may have been there before the two cemeteries were established. The Black Cemetery also measures 713 ft. e/w and appears to be 300 + feet wide n/s with their entrance at the west end of the cemetery. Descendants of the Wills' family states that the land for both cemeteries was donated by Dr. James S. Wills and it is generally accepted as being true since he bought the Maria De Cantona League from the Richard Sparks' heirs. However an extensive three year search by Mrs. Clara King, and a number of local historians and the deed research analyst of the Oil Company that leased the Cemetery and surrounding areas were unable to find deeds or grants to prove or disprove this claim. The research covered Robertson, Limestone, and Freestone Counties which revealed only two deeds in relation to the Cotton Gin Cemeteries. One from H. F. Simmons a/w Mrs. for 1.0 acre to the White Cemetery, November 20, 1895 recorded in Volume 9, page 225 of the Deed Records of Freestone County, Texas. Freestone County was part of Robertson County up until 1848 and part of Limestone County from late 1848 to 1850. It is most likely, if Dr. Wills' grants were recorded they were destroyed by one of several Limestone County Courthouse fires, as their deed records prior to 1873 are non existent. The Freestone Wills date back to the 1700's in Robertson County, Tennessee. After the death of her husband George Wills Sr. (1844), Margarette "Mother Wills", along with her slaves and son James S. Wills came to this area in 1845. Other family members, including four other sons, came to Texas in the mid 1840's and settled in Freestone and neighboring counties. Dr. James S. Wills established the town of Cotton Gin in 1848, and it and the Cemetery get their name from the horse drawn cotton gin built by Dr. Wills, but was owned and operated by Parson Smith. The historical and once thriving town of Cotton Gin is known to be the oldest town in Freestone County. In addition to its' numerous businesses, a Masonic Lodge and three churches, Cotton Gin had a Post Office from November 1851 to June 1908. Three of the eleven Post Masters are buried at Cotton Gin. They are; Dr. James S. Wills, Thomas C. Ramsey and Joseph H. Sims. Early records of the Cotton Gin Cemetery were either lost or non existent and its exact age is uncertain as there are numerous weathered headstones that cannot be read. However, by the earliest readable death date of -- March 1854 on Mary Manning's stone we know that the white cemetery is at least 145 years old. The six early identifiable death dates are those of an infant daughter of the J.W.& A.A. Story (May 20, 1858), Seaborn J. Westbrook (March 20 1860), George Wills Jr. (March 7, 1861), Samuel N. Archibald (August 16,1862), George F. Allison (June 22, 1863), and Mother Wills (May 29, 1863). The Cemetery was last inventoried in 2005 by Nancie Sterling and Carolyn Rebuck and it revealed over 1100 marked graves. It is impossible to get an accurate count of unmarked graves but the cemetery records indicate 62 burials that have no identifying marker. Since the cemetery is at least 145 years old it is likely that many of the trees are on top of occupied grave sites. The entire cemetery is made up of 'Family Areas', and it is very difficult, if not impossible to determine which are unmarked graves and which are simply plots reserved for additional family members. There does not seem to be an 'old' or 'new' section and you will find headstones erected in 1899 and 1999 side by side. The cemetery is still in use and have a very fine Cemetery Association that meets every year on the second (2nd) Saturday in June to conduct their annual business meeting and have "Dinner on the Ground". The membership consists of 235 member 'families' of which live in 9 different states and the remaining 219 live in 79 different Texas Towns. Members and their immediate family already 'own' plots. This is not a 'closed' Cemetery Association, but due to limited space, non member burials are not encouraged. However, they are not likely to be refused and are charged a fee determined by the Association's Members. Around 1930, one of the last surviving Freeston County Civil War Veterans,Taylor Jackson Sims, (Dec 5,1846-Feb 13, 1937) compiled a list of Confederate Soldiers buried in Freestone County. Mr. Sims identified 45 of his fellow soldiers as being buried in Freestone County. This number indicates that the Cotton Gin Cemetery had more Civil War Veterans than any other Freestone County Cemetery. In recent years a number of local historians have identified an additional 22 Confederate Soldier graves in the Cotton Gin Cemetery. As of June 2005, there are a total of 73 CSA veteran markers. Veterans of all years are being identified and markers erected where they are missing or damaged stones. Abraham Roland (Abe Rolin) who served as a Private in the War of 1812 and participated in the Battle of New Orleans and served under General Jackson in the Indian Wars in Florida is one of those unmarked graves. Mr. Roland and his wife Nancy Whitley Roland are buried next to their only son, William T. Roland( A Civil War Veteran who enlisted in Capt. Moss' Company and served at Valasco). According to Alma Kin Jones (b. in 1813), the Great Great Granddaughter of Abraham and Nancy Roland, there were stones marking their graves when she was a little girl coming to the cemetery with her Grandmother, Leona Fain Roland Rivers. The 'Old Custom' of keeping all the grass out of the cemeteries resulted in severe damage to the stones as horse and plows were used to clean up. Over the years, these broken stones have disappeared piece by piece. Private efforts are in progress to repair stones whenever possible and to level those that are falling over. Among the number of deaths during the 1800(1918) Influeza Epidemic, the single most devastating to Cotton Gin and surrounding communities was that of Dr. Felix J. Traynham. Dr.Traynham, had served these communities for many years and though ill himself, he made one last call to see Mrs. John King (Permelia) another flu patient in the neighboring community of Shanks. After a very brief confinement, Dr. Traynham died on November 5, 1918, and will always be remembered for his kindness and true dedication. Mrs. King's nephew, Traynham Moore, was named after the good doctor.

Owner/SourceLoretta Love Grover - WillsRbt H & Martin&WilliamsOthers Family Book
Linked toDr, James S. Wills

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