Historic African-American cemetery near Crosby damaged by driver in truck

HARRIS COUNTY, Texas – An African-American cemetery near Crosby was heavily damaged early Sunday when a pickup truck barreled through the property. As word of the damage spread, members of the community gathered to survey the deep ruts in the grass and the trail of broken headstones.

"My husband is over there,” said Melody Fontenot, executive director of the cemetery’s board. “I have a brother, grandmother. I have lots of people in the graveyard.”

The truck plowed through the Barrett Station Evergreen Cemetery, cracking graves, knocking over headstones and flattening signs. The cemetery was established in 1928 by the founding members of the community.

"That's during a time when they had lamp lights," said Willie Barrett Goodlow.

The names of Goodlow’s father and grandfather are on a sign listing the members of the community who originally established the cemetery.

“My stomach has been so nervous since this happened. I said, 'Oh my goodness, could they not find something else to do?'" said Goodlow.

After plowing over the graves, the driver of the pickup also smashed through the fence of a neighboring property. A woman who lives on the property told KPRC she was  shocked.

“Had you ever seen the truck before in the area? Was it a guest or a friend or anybody?” asked KPRC’s Robert Arnold.

“I never seen them,” said Jessica Sanchez.

For many, the cemetery is not simply a final resting place for loved ones, but represents a connection to their community’s heritage.

"The newcomers are coming in and it's just a bunch of concrete stones sticking up out of the ground, but to us, it's our history," said Emmanuel Jackson.

Volunteers came out to try to clean up some of the mess, as county workers began repairing damaged road signs.

"This is where I grew up. This is all my relatives out here," said Roger Barnaba. “Disgusts me. It's horrible.”

Fontenot said for decades the cemetery has been maintained through donations and volunteer work. She worries whether the board will be able to raise the money needed to make full repairs.

“We have very little funds that come in for this kind of thing and now we have this happen," said Fontenot.

Officials with the Harris County Sheriff’s Office said a report on the incident is not yet complete.

The Sheriff’s Office declined to release the driver’s name until a report is complete, but did state the man was cited for driving without a license and failure to maintain a single lane of traffic. Sheriff’s officials also said the driver of truck had insurance.