Monument dedicated for 36 individuals reinterred at Oakwood Cemetery

Oakwood Cemetery in East Austin held a memorial event honoring 36 people who were buried underneath a chapel over a century ago. The remains were found in 2016 when the city went to remodel the building.

"To the 36 souls whose bodies were unceremoniously covered by the 1914 chapel then rediscovered in 2016 and now reinterred here, I'm sorry to have troubled your rest," Arro Smith with Save Austin's Cemeteries said. "I hope you have been treated respectfully. I hope you like your new gravestone. Please now rest assured that your sacrifices propelled us 21st century folk to reexamine our past."

The remains were exhumed and reburied close to the chapel. Now, research is being done to learn more about the individuals. The city says analysis shows the people were a diverse group of African, Hispanic, European, and Asian descent.

"All mixed together in this section that was overlapping between sections that were segregated due to different ethnicities and classes," Jennifer Chenoweth, museum site coordinator with Oakwood Cemetery Chapel said.

"We're not erasing the mistakes of our past. We're honoring the importance of individual lives, individual people who had dreams at Austin's creation," Austin Mayor Kirk Watson said.

There's still work to be done to find descendants, and it's possible descendants of others buried in the cemetery could also be descendants of the 36.


"I'm really grateful that we can come together as a community to be accountable for this history, it's a really difficult history, as is most Texas history," Chenoweth said.

"We deserve to know our ancestors, and they deserve for us to acknowledge them," District 1 Council Member Natasha Harper-Madison said.