History of Clark Cemetery

Clark Cemetery Main Entrance Gate with Memorial Pillars

The Clark Cemetery main entrance gate, donated by Jessie Margaret (McAnally) Cumming, was dedicated in a ribbon cutting ceremony with Sharon (Cumming) Hobart as a youth cutting the ribbon in 1949. The entrance has pillars and plaques memorializing Bob and Herb Cumming, uncles of Mrs. Hobart, who gave their lives in service to their country during World War II. The Clark Cemetery Texas Historic Cemetery Marker, seen through the entrance, was dedicated with a formal ceremony (see History>Cemetery Historic Marker) on October 12, 2013. The U.S. and Texas flags, seen on the right over the right pillar in the background, were a gift from Craig and Kimberly Boretsky and were installed in 2013. Clark Cemetery has been in continual existence for over 160 years and is the burial site for many Parker County pioneers. See our History site (www.clarkcemeteryhistory) for more history of the area.

An Historic Texas Cemetery in Parker County

Clark Cemetery has been in continuous existence for over 160 years serving as the private burial ground for family descendants of some of the earliest pioneer settlers of Parker County. It has a rich heritage that is indelibly linked to the development of this part of Texas and with the families who came here bringing their tenacity and bravery to tame what was then a harsh, dangerous part of Texas. We want to protect and preserve the heritage and the Cemetery of these people. Clark Cemetery’s history is closely linked with the settlement of eastern Parker County. Oral and partially written history from many reliable family sources was carried down to the grandparents of Wayne Clark, Ronnie Clark, Duard Ruland, and Melvin Woody, to mention just a few. That history tells of the grounds now known as Clark Cemetery being a common burial ground for pioneers. It was used by those passing through in covered wagons and settlers at a time after Texas became a Republic. Sixty-five unknown graves have been located at Clark Cemetery using 21st Century ground penetrating radar technology. Many of the oldest ones had only non-engraved native stones to mark the burial site. Some of the older marked headstones are no longer legible.

An Early Settler Burial Ground

Anzaline Barker Godfrey's 1859 Headstone

Anzaline Barker Godfrey’s 1859 Headstone

Many early settlers came through the area in wagon trains and camped on the Clear Fork of the Trinity River. One such group was struck by illness and buried their dead at the grounds now called Clark Cemetery near where they camped. The headstones — marked and unmarked — bear testimony to the long history of Clark Cemetery. The oldest known headstone that is still readable at Clark Cemetery is that of Anzaline Barker Godfrey. She was the first wife of John W. Godfrey and was a daughter of Joseph Barker and Margaret Hopper. She was born in Lafayette County, Missouri on January 10, 1831 and died in Parker County, Texas on February 4, 1859. John and Anzaline were married June 17, 1849 in Lafayette County, Missouri,  according descendant, the late Don Godfrey of California.

John Godfrey’s Second Marriage

After Anzaline’s death, John married Mary Henderson Lafferty on August 21 1860. Mary finished raising the children of John and Anzaline and became a preacher’s wife. John Godfrey was a Methodist minister at the church known as “Godfrey Chapel” just a few miles from Clark Cemetery on the Upper Denton Road. John died on August 5, 1897. He was born in Knox County, Tennessee on August 2, 1825. Mary was born in Independence County, Arkansas on February 9, 1828. She was the daughter of Jacob Binks Lafferty and Sarah Miller Lafferty. Mary’s sister, Margaret Miller Lafferty, was married to John Criswell. Mary, with her sister and their two brothers John Annis Lafferty and Lorenzo Dow Carnahan Lafferty, went to Parker County, Texas in 1858 along with John Criswell and a caravan of other Criswells. There, the two sisters settled. Mary married John Godfrey, then a widower, and raised his son William J. “Bill” Godfrey, according to a descendant Donald Godfrey and to Mary Josefina Lafferty Wilson, a descendant of John Annis Lafferty (born 1838), brother of Mary Henderson Lafferty.

John and Mary Godfrey Portrait

Photo of a very large hand sketched portrait of John W. Godfrey and second wife Mary Henderson Lafferty Godfrey.

Beginnings Go Back to 1854

Other settlers at Clark Cemetery include Daniel Kutch born December 4, 1807 and died June 15, 1874, and Henry Ward, born 1828 and died in 1897. Thomas C. Clark was born January 12, 1868 and died January 23, 1894. Several of the families connected with Clark Cemetery are related either directly or through marriage to these earliest settlers, The roots go back to a time when the area was sparsely settled. Godfrey’s Chapel Methodist Church had its beginning west of Springtown, Texas. There in 1854, John Godfrey joined with a group of Christian believers in establishing public services and became a member of an organized pioneer church in an area where Indians were still openly raiding white settlements. According to the History of Parker County and the Double Log Cabin (p. 15), Pleasant Tackett established the Methodist Church in Goshen in 1854 and then went on to establish the First Methodist Church of Weatherford in 1857. (See A Tale of Two Schools). The little Methodist Church at Goshen was the first established in the territory now known as Parker County in 1854. John Godfrey and a little Chapel that bore his name became intertwined in the history of Clark Cemetery through many of the early settlers and congregation members that were the backbone of the settlement of this part of Northeastern Parker County. According to, A Tale of Two Schools, Godfrey’s Chapel church was organized in 1871.

Godfrey’s Chapel: A Church Nearer to Home

The photo image of a portrait shown above, owned by Jean McAnally Morris, has a handwritten identification, of the picture by Jean’s father, Thomas Owen McAnally, on the back of the portrait original. This portrait was hanging in the J. R. McAnally homestead deeded to the McAnally family from John William Godfrey.  Craig and Kimberly (Woody) Boretsky photographed the portrait at the home of Jean McAnally Morris.

John Godfrey Headstone

Rev. John W. Godfrey’s Headstone

John Godfrey wanted a church nearer to his home and succeeded in obtaining three acres of land in 1874 from James Edward and Eliza Ann (Dobbs) Clark. The deed read: “for use as a church, parsonage, school or burial ground.” John and settlers erected a small building at that location and used it for nine years as a place of worship. The plot was to be used as the Clarks had stipulated in their deed. They deeded it for all time to go to the Methodist Episcopal Church South and to trustees John W. Godfrey, for whom the church was named, W. J.  Godfrey (John’s son) and E. W. Sliger.

Godfrey's Chapel

Photo of Godfrey’s Chapel in Weatherford Democrat Newspaper probably circa 1920.

Consecrated Grounds

A portion of this plot was part of the grounds that later became known as Clark Cemetery, although it had been a community cemetery without a name for at least a decade before that time.  The small congregation later decided to move the building to a place more accessible to a county road. In 1883, W. M. Dobbs and N. A. Dobbs gave 1½ acres nine miles northeast of Weatherford, Texas on the Upper Denton Road where the church moved. The members were Rev. Tackett and wife, Samuel Leonard, Dr. T.O. Ellis, John H. Price and wife Harriet, Joshua Barker and wife, Rev. Godfrey and wife, and Mrs. Francis. Later, this church served as a funeral chapel and school house. A monument was erected on May 21, 1972 in tribute to the Goshen Methodist Church.

Chapel Building Moved

 

Godfrey's Chapel Place Marker

Godfrey’s Chapel Location Marker on Upper Denton Road in Parker County

The small Godfrey’s Chapel building was moved from the Clark land to the Dobbs granted land, the congregation grew and the building was enlarged almost twice its size. Part of the land where Godfrey’s Chapel previously had been located later became known as Clark Cemetery. This land owned by Jim Clark and Henry Ward was still being used as a community cemetery. Around 1880, Mr. Clark donated land on the North and Mr. Ward donated land on the South as a permanent cemetery — no legal arrangement — just a gentleman’s agreement.

An Active Community Church

Jesse Margaret McAnally Cumming remembered John Godfrey and said, as a child, she sat at his feet listening intently at his stories. The Godfrey Chapel Church was the center of activities in the community. The Church had a revival each year in August under a brush arbor with straw on the ground. These meetings lasted for 10 days up to a full two weeks.  There were two services each day. Everyone rescheduled their work so as to be able to attend as many services as possible. People came from miles around to attend those meetings. Godfrey’s Chapel partially burned once but was saved.

“Grandma” Mary Godfrey (Mary Henderson Lafferty Godfrey) and her sister “Grandma” Margaret Kutch Ward and Mrs. Ola Sharpe, granddaughter of John Godfrey, were prominent in the early congregation. Early families in the church were Godfrey, Dobbs, Kutch, Ward, Barker, Hayes, Lafferty, Coker, McAnally, Sharpe, Burns, Murphy, Howell, and Cumming.

The small Godfrey’s Chapel building was moved from the Clark land to the Dobbs granted land, the congregation grew and the building was enlarged almost twice its size. Part of the land where Godfrey’s Chapel previously had been located later became known as Clark Cemetery. This land owned by Jim Clark and Henry Ward was still being used as a community cemetery. Around 1880, Mr. Clark donated land on the North and Mr. Ward donated land on the South as a permanent cemetery — no legal arrangement — just a gentleman’s agreement. Jesse Margaret McAnally Cumming remembered John Godfrey and said, as a child, she sat at his feet listening intently at his stories. The Godfrey Chapel Church was the center of activities in the community. The Church had a revival each year in August under a brush arbor with straw on the ground. The meeting lasted for 10 days to a full two weeks.

Area Settler Family’s Meeting Place 

There were two services each day. Everyone rescheduled their work so as to be able to attend as many services as possible. People came from miles around to attend those meetings. Godfrey Chapel partially burned once but was saved. “Grandma” Mary Godfrey (Mary Henderson Lafferty  Godfrey) and her sister “Grandma” Margaret Kutch Ward and Mrs. Ola Sharpe, granddaughter of John Godfrey, were prominent in the early congregation. Early families in the church were Godfrey, Dobbs, Kutch, Ward, Barker, Hayes, Lafferty, Coker, McAnally, Sharpe, Burns, Murphy, Howell, and Cumming.

Today there is a stone marker that marks the spot where the Godfrey’s Chapel building stood and served the community for so many years. Now, after more than 140 years, remnants of the original Godfrey’s Chapel building serve as a barn on a ranch less than 2 miles from the original location.

Godfrey's Chapel Remnant is a Barn

Godfrey’s Chapel still stands after over 150 years.


Clark Cemetery Association Formed and Land Added

In about 1945, the Clark Cemetery Association was formed. It elected a group of trustees to collect funds and care for the cemetery. The first trustees were W. H. “Buddy” Clark, Troy Clark, Jim Ruland, and Fred Sharpe.

In 1953, the Clark Cemetery Association trustees obtained a deed from the land owners for the cemetery grounds property. Descendants Will Clark, son of Jim Clark, and his wife deeded the land owned by the Clarks. Other land had been owned by Henry Ward and acquired by the Rulands. Charlie  Ruland and his wife deeded the land that previously had been owned by the Wards. Five years later, the trustees purchased an acre adjoining the property on the West, making the grounds slightly over three contiguous acres.

Endowment Fund Established

The original Clark Cemetery Association trustees established a formal endowment fund in the late 1940s and it continues right up to today. At present, the Association continues to provide for the maintenance of the grounds and the fund with current Trustees Wayne Clark, Ronnie Clark, Sam Cotter, Dave Cumming, Kimberly (Woody) Boretsky, Kenny and Duard Ruland, and Melvin and Sheila Woody. In recent years, since an Ad Hoc Committee was formed in 2010 to investigate improvements and seek new donations, the Association has made many improvements to the Clark Cemetery grounds as well as obtaining a 501(c)(13) designation with the IRS as a non-profit cemetery organization. The Association also pursued and obtained recognition from the Texas Historical Commission as an official Texas Historic Cemetery. It went on to obtain a Historic Marker which was installed and dedicated formally in October 2013. Among improvements made were the installation of a Map Kiosk , a Prayer Garden with bench and altar, a flag pole and flags in the center of the Cemetery. The Pavilion and restrooms were remodeled with concrete pad and stonework and door improvements. A great many more small improvements have were made starting in 2011 and continuing up to the present. Most of these activities were recorded in our Association Newsletters; read past newsletters to track the improvements over the past several years.  Due to  unselfish and generous family members and donors, the Association made a number of major improvements during the years from 2011 to 2013. Each generation has provided and continues to provide the leaders and volunteers needed to keep its commitment to the Cemetery.

Dedication of the Main Entrance

In 1949, a 10-year old Sharon Ann Cumming (now Hobart), cut the ribbon on a new entrance to Clark Cemetery. A high arch with a sign and two stone pillars greeted those entering. Previously, Mrs. S. E. Jessie Margaret (McAnally) Cumming headed a beautification committee for Clark Cemetery. She also was a trustee for the Cemetery. She commissioned rock work to be done on the entrance gate that included memorial stone engravings in honor of her sons, Herbert Winfield and Robert Bruce Cumming who gave their lives, along with countless others, to fight tyranny during World War II. There are many other memorials at Clark Cemetery provided in the markers for family members and memories of those interred here.

Today, our Texas Historic Cemetery Marker greets those entering through the stone and metal arch main entrance to Clark Cemetery. Flags wave over the Cemetery in homage to the war veterans interred in its grounds as well as the pioneers and settlers who are the ancestors of the families today who continue to come to Clark Cemetery.

Clark Entrance with Memorial Plaques

The main gate was dedicated with memorials in 1949.

Carrying Down the Traditions of Ancestors

Today, the descendants of the settlers of this part of Parker County, Texas carry down the tradition that is Clark Cemetery and seek to complete the stipulation of the original Clark deed to perpetually care for the grounds that are Clark Cemetery, its heritage, and the heritage of the families connected to it through their tenacious ancestors.

Read More on Our History Site

Our companion site, www.clarkcemeteryhistory.org, is a continuing work in progress to provide historical references for the people and the community surrounding Clark Cemetery including veterans of wars throughout its history, community leaders, and just plain folks. Help us carry on the tradition of our forbears by supporting Clark Cemetery through your family connections, attendance at the Clark Cemetery Association Annual Meetings, volunteering to maintain and improve the grounds, and donating to maintain its small endowment fund.