The Descendants of Olivewood honoring family, community and history

ByBob Slovak Localish logo
Saturday, June 24, 2023
The Descendants of Olivewood
Olivewood Cemetery is Houston history, many of the souls buried there lived through slavery going on to help build Houston after Emancipation.

HOUSTON, Texas -- Nestled against White Oak Bayou near I-10 lies Olivewood Cemetery, Houston's oldest African American cemetery.

Incorporated in 1875, Olivewood's headstones suggest it's much older. "When you're in Olivewood, you're six feet from history" said Jasmine Lee, a member of the Descendants of Olivewood. "A lot of the people in Olivewood lived through slavery. Coming out of that they built communities, families and institutions we still see today."

Buried in Olivewood are some people who built Houston and have schools named after them.

Olivewood Cemetery celebrated Juneteenth with a big clean-up effort.

Descendants of Olivewood researcher Paul Jennings says "We wouldn't recognize today's Houston without the contribution of these people. Many didn't make it into the history books, but Olivewood is their history book."

In 1999, Margott Williams' grandmother died and she wanted to bury her next to her Grandfather Cain Howard Nelson Sr. When she arrived at Olivewood she couldn't locate her grandfather's gravesite.

After years of neglect, Olivewood was buried under a massive canopy of vegetation.

When Williams could not locate the owners of the cemetery, she decided to do the work herself.

"I always thought the people buried here, they deserved more respect than they were getting," Williams said.

In 2004, Williams and others formed the Descendants of Olivewood to take care of the cemetery.

Every other Saturday you can find the Descendants and other volunteers mowing the grass, cutting down bush and preserving the historic site. It is an on-going restoration that is a labor of love. Williams loves it when families come out to Olivewood looking for their family members, "to make that connection with them and see that look on their face, it's priceless, it's priceless."

For more information on restoration efforts at Olivewood and how to volunteer, click here.