Efforts underway to preserve historical cemetery in Sugar Land

HOUSTON – A push to preserve a burial site on land purchased by a freed Black man after the Civil War has garnered the attention of Fort Bend County officials.

Thompson’s Chapel is a community of a couple of roads, surrounded by New Territory, near the intersection of Highway 90 and Grand Parkway.

“My great, great grandfather, Paul Thompson, came can’t here in 1870, worked, bought this land in 1877, 100 acres,” said Eugene Howard, of the Texas NAACP.

Thompson’s Chapel is named after Paul Thompson, who initially purchased the land. The name was also given to Thompson Chapel Baptist Church in the same community.

These days, what’s considered Thompson’s Chapel is a mere fraction of what it once was.  Part of the cemetery still stands, but Howard wants to make sure county and state leaders work to preserve the sight, as a state-acknowledged historical landmark.

“They’ve built over it. We have New Territory. We have the baseball fields and one thing I don’t want to be lost in this is: my grandfather fought for people like me to be viewed as human for equality,” Howard said.

The push to preserve the historic cemetery has caught the attention of Fort Bend County officials.  Howard invited Fort Bend County Judge K.P. George, State Representative Ron Reynolds, District 27, and Brigette Smith-Lawson, Fort Bend County’s attorney, to view the site and learn about the history that’s been hiding in plain sight.

“It’s heartbreaking to me,” said George, as he toured the location for the first time. George said his objective was to learn more about the history, which includes a tree on which Black people were hanged, in hopes of educating others.

“I just want to make sure we can do something or we can do anything at all to these people’s stories are heard,” he said.

Representative Reynolds said he would work to make the cemetery a historic landmark, acknowledged by the Texas Historical Commission.

“Even though it’s not my district, I stand on the shoulders of people who are buried here,” he said.

County Attorney Smith-Lawson agreed with that legacy and said she, too, would work to preserve the space.

“As historical gravesites, the county has an interest in the that and there is a provision in law that allows for the county to maintain and upkeep these historical sites, these historical cemeteries, if it’s approved by our commissioners,” Smith-Lawson said.

Fort Bend County Commissioners are scheduled to meet Tuesday, at their regularly scheduled meeting.  A draft form of the meeting’s agenda includes an item that would call for the creation of a committee to study Thompson’s Chapel and the burial site.

A move in the right direction, Howard said.

“We have a lot of dead veterans buried in these cemeteries and I think they deserve to be honored.  We want that legacy, the bloodshed that they gave for this country, to be recognized as well.”

About the Author:

Emmy and Edward R. Murrow award-winning journalist. NOLA born and bred, though #HoustonStrong, with stops in Minnesota, New York, Massachusetts, and Connecticut in along the way.