Association charts new path for annual Cemetery Homecoming
By Dana Delgado
After hosting a reverent annual event for years that centered primarily on remembrance and attracted mainly family reunions, the Liberty Hill Cemetery Association (LHCA) is making a major shift for its 67th Annual Homecoming this year under a new banner – Celebration of Life, Family, and Community.
“There’s been a need for a change for a while and we finally came together,” said Kathy Canady, manager of the Liberty Hill Cemetery Association. “With the passing of some of our old timers, some of the connections have been lost so we want to bring in people from throughout the community especially the newcomers, pay tribute to our heritage, and nurture that small town Liberty Hill spirit.”
First of all, the event is being moved from the first Sunday in June to the first Sunday in May which this year falls on May 5, rain or shine.
This marks the first time the celebration has been changed since the first Homecoming Day was held in 1952 with attendance reaching 1,000 over the years but diminishing in recent years. The May date was set to avoid the uncomfortable heat of the summer and to attract more visitors.
The second major change is making the event a community-wide celebration with a more festival-like format. A host of activities including children’s face painting and balloon art along with music by Cade Baccus and the Sawdust Stompers and Rick Boen and Texas Mud will be provided.
In addition, noted local historian Gary Spivey and his daughter, Kandice Spivey Wright, will have historical pictures on display of “old Liberty Hill”. Books of area interest, including The Culture of the Shin Oak Ridge Folk by J. Gordon Bryson and Recollections of Judge C.L. Chance by Joseph E. Chance, will be available for purchase. Also scheduled is a silent auction, which will offer a variety of special items for bidding to raise funds to support the LHCA.
As in previous years, a roll-call of all those who have died in the preceding year will be announced. Kenneth Cousins will lead the roll call by reading the names of those departed.
Ken Roberts will be the guest speaker relating local stories from his critically acclaimed new book, The Cedar Choppers.
Finally, barbecue by Mopsie will be available at $15 a plate.
Gates are always open, but activities get underway at 11:30 a.m. with live music, children’s face-painting and balloon art, barbecue, the silent auction, and the pictorial history displays. The roll call and guest speaker begin at 1 p.m. Activities wind down by 2:30 p.m. but guests are welcome to stay and appreciate the history, honor their loved ones, and enjoy the peace and natural beauty of the cemetery.
Nestled in a somewhat natural habitat and surrounded by dense woods, the cemetery is home to a variety of birds and diverse wildlife and lined with shaded paths for relaxed walks and exploration of Liberty Hill’s history. It is so peaceful that in the morning, a chorus of songbirds welcomes the day as seen but unheard vehicles whiz by in the distance on State Hwy 29.
According to a historical narrative by Fay Bryson Richardson on libertyhillcemetery.com, the cemetery was established on March 20, 1875, when Liberty Hill pioneer John Bryson and his wife Amelia saw the need and sought to secure a community burial ground for their family and people of the community. Three and one-half acres of their land were deeded for this purpose and recorded in Williamson County on August 11, 1875.
As the community grew, the cemetery expanded over the years with additional donated plots and purchases of adjoining parcels. Growth, however, posed new problems including maintenance.
To address the problem of maintenance, a Cemetery Association was established in 1913 by a group of ladies from the community. By year’s end and with the assistance of the entire town, the group had raised nearly $1,500, but interest and funding gradually waned over the years. In 1950, the Liberty Hill Cemetery Association was formed with Dr. J. Gordon Bryson of Bastrop, grandson of John T., named first president. Incorporation followed in 1953 under C.L. Chance’s leadership as first president. Through the efforts of countless, the well-maintained Liberty Hill Cemetery has served as a tranquil final resting place for so many who helped shape, influence, and build this area into a unique place to live.
Among the myriad of distinguished Liberty Hill pioneers buried in the cemetery are numerous members of the Bryson family including John T. Bryson (1818-1894)) and his wife Amelia (1817-1897).
“The cemetery is like a neighborhood,” said Canady. “There is just so much history here.”
The Liberty Hill Cemetery is located at 16101 State Hwy 29 West in Liberty Hill. For more information call (512) 778-6792 or visit their website at libertyhillcemetery.com.