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Cherokee County, Texas
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WEEPING MARY, TEXAS

"An East Texas Gem"
Cherokee County, East Texas
County Road 2907
Just off Highway 21
6.5 miles SW of Alto
18 miles S of Rusk
Just behind Caddoan Mounds State Historical Site

Population: 29

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East Texas county road behind Weeping Mary Texas
County road behind Weeping Mary leading out to Highway 21
Photo courtesy Andrew Hardaway

Weeping Mary by Bob Bowman

Few town names in East Texas attract as much curiosity as Weeping Mary, a 140-year-old Black community hidden away in the deep woods of western Cherokee County.

Located on County Road 2907, off Texas Highway 21, five miles west of Alto, Weeping Mary was first settled after the Civil War by freed slaves from neighboring plantations.....

Weeping Mary is also within walking distance of El Camino Real, also known as the King’s Highway and the Old Spanish Trail. In East Texas, the highway (now Texas Highway 21) runs from the Sabine River through Milam, San Augustine, Nacogdoches, and Alto before reaching the Neches River and continuing westward to Crockett and, eventually, San Antonio..... more

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Weeping Mary sign on Hwy 21 Texas
Weeping Mary sign on Hwy 21
Photo courtesy Andrew Hardaway

Weeping Mary

Text and Photos by Andrew Hardaway

Weeping Mary is a small, nearly all-Black community, just off Highway 21 in Cherokee County behind the Caddoan Indian Mounds Historic Site. Heading north on Texas 21 toward Alto, after a few miles take a left by the junkyard (a good place to browse for offbeat items and antiques) and the Thomas Chapel Church. The population is a mere 29 people scattered about four or five county roads off of CR-2907, aka Weeping Mary Road.

It is said that the community, which was never incorporated, was formed after the Civil War by freed slaves and named after the weeping of Mary Magdelene at the tomb of Jesus. However, local lore has it that it was named after a matriarch who formed a pact with the area's freed slaves not to sell their lands to white settlers. But when one man sold his plot of land to whites, the matriarch is said to have spent her life weeping for the loss of her community. Another legend has it that gold is buried thoroughout the community, but according to Weeping Mary resident J.L. Skinner - it is simply that: a legend. A local school opened in 1896, but closed sometime after WWII.
Weeping Mary Baptist Church steeple
The Weeping Mary Baptist Church (new church being built to the left of the current church.
Photo courtesy Andrew Hardaway
The church that was built in Weeping Mary was moved to its current location, which unfortunately is prone to flooding. Resident J.L. Skinner says that the congregation sometimes boats to the front entrance of the church when nearby Bowles Creek floods. The community has many multi-generational families, including the Skinner, Green, and Peyton families, to name a few.
The Church of Weeping Mary rusted sign, Weeping Mary, Texas
Rusted sign above the church door
Photo courtesy Andrew Hardaway
Weeping Mary Baptist Church schedule sign
Weeping Mary Baptist Church schedule sign
Photo courtesy Andrew Hardaway
St. James Chapel, Weeping Mary Texas
St. James Chapel
Photo courtesy Andrew Hardaway

The town has had its fair share of publicity with Photographer Rufus Lovett's There's Something About Weeping Mary feature in Texas Monthly in 1998, a children's murder mystery novel written by Merry Hasell Frels, entitled Simmering Secrets of Weeping Mary, and my own play and independant film entitled The Judgment of Weeping Mary which will be submitted at New York's Tribeca Film Festival in the summer of 2009.

The community does not have a store, museum, or even its own cemetery. Weeping Mary's dead are buried in the Thomas Chapel Cemetery off Highway 21 North. The community has a playground with a single swing set (which was present at the time of my first visit in July 2004 but missing in October 2005), a single park bench and a trash can. A second church is under construction right next to the old one. Even with their small population the community still supports a gospel choir.

Old house or old school house in Weeping Mary, Texas
"The old dilapidated house is thought to be the old home of community elder Mrs. Moonie Green or possibly the old abandoned schoolhouse. Mrs. Green was not available to confirm this on my October 2005 visit."
Photo courtesy Andrew Hardaway
© Andrew Hardaway, Director/Writer/Actor, NYC (formerly of San Antonio)
Editor's Note: Former San Antonian Andrew Hardaway, who now resides in New York City has written a play and Independent Film on the "East Texas Gem" of Weeping Mary, Texas. The film, entitled The Judgment of Weeping Mary will be entered in the prestigious Tribeca Film Festival in the summer of 2009. Mr. Hardaway's information on the community appears here in lieu of our normal History in a Pecan Shell.

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