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Old Waverly

The Old Waverly Cemetery

An East Texas Tale of Two Hills

By John Troesser
Illustrated with Waverly Cemetery Tombstone Art
It’s easy to reach New Waverly since it’s on the state map just off Interstate Highway 45 about 55 miles north of Houston. Much harder to find is Old Waverly, just a few miles east but not on the state map. With no town center and only a church and cemetery left (and those spaced far apart) it’s a challenge to find without a local guide.

The town of Waverly once straddled the county line, but even that fact is little help. The difference between Old Waverly and New Waverly was, of course, the arrival of the railroad in the 1880s. It’s a very familiar story in Texas. One town gets the railroad, and the other town gets forgotten. Adding insult to injury, the left-behind town is sometimes branded with the word “old.”

Back when there was a single Waverly, the town was thriving, with a youthful population freshly arrived from Alabama, Georgia and other southern states. An “institute of higher learning” was established and the town seemed to have limitless horizons. But along came the Civil War and Waverly’s antebellum hopes turned into sacrifice, immense hardship and finally “death by railroad bypass.”

Old Waverly’s fade into oblivion may be short of tragic elements, but two separate stories were enough to have it included in the late Ed Sayer’s Ghosts of Texas. When one considers the cottage industry that spooks and spirits have become in recent years, it’s an accomplishment to be included as one of the fifty-odd stories in what is considered to be the first volume written on Texas Ghosts.

The sites of the stories are several miles apart in what remains today of the dense forest that was laboriously pushed back by slave labor to plant cotton.


Soldier’s Hill

A knoll in the vicinity was once named Soldier’s Hill. It was (relative) high ground that was once occupied by Union troops although the author doesn’t mention if it was held during the war or in that unhappy period called Reconstruction. For the sake of the story, it hardly matters. Part of the land patrolled by the troops from their base camp of Soldier’s Hill included a desolate cabin – one of the first built by settlers.

The incident that occurred at the cabin has few details. One version has it that a young girl was killed there and three Federal troops may have been involved. Guilty or not, the one agreed on fact is that the three were murdered – perhaps in retaliation for the crime. Fearful of incurring the wrath of the main contingent, the killers hurriedly buried the soldiers beneath the cabin floor.

Ever since, anyone who attempted to live in the cabin was driven out by strange nocturnal sounds. A fiddle was sometimes heard playing, and men were heard coughing. On some occasions the sounds of a screaming girl were heard. The landowners built another house, although they let the older building stand. The cabin went unoccupied but its reputation grew.

If additional proof of a haunting was needed, it was provided by animals who balked at entering the now-deteriorating building. According to Sayer’s account, cats and dogs “would stand in the rain” rather than cross the cabin’s threshold.

One local newspaperwoman who attempted to spend the night in the cabin in the 1970s quitted her project early on. Her contribution to the legend was seeing a strange fog around the site, even while a stiff breeze was blowing.

In respect of the owner’s privacy, the location of the site has been kept a secret.
Sentry Hill

The second haunted site near Old Waverly was described as being just northeast of what had been the town. This spirit seems to be single and is thought to be either a Union soldier who perhaps took his duty a tad too seriously and never left his post – or a sawmill operator who perhaps took his work not seriously enough and left behind his head.

No one has fully described any detailed sightings, but there have been many “auditory” encounters – nearly all of them occurring at night. Sayers reports a local man who is drawn to the site and on one occasion brought a witness. He and his skeptical friend were exploring the site when they heard something running toward them through the underbrush. The friend was amused and as his partner ran toward their car, he (laughing) yelled: “it can stop the car’s engine!” When his friend got in the car and indeed, it didn’t start – the friend stopped laughing and together they jump-started the car, thankful to be able to escape whatever “it” was.

The story had an anticlimactic end with Sayers’ investigation coming to a halt when his guide canceled on him. He then attempted to go it alone but was bogged down in mud up to his wheel wells.

These stories are presented here not for their quality, details, or the goose-flesh factor, but mostly to provide text for their accompanying Waverly Cemetery photographs.


Waverly Cemetery TX Spanish Moss
TE photo, 2006
Historical Marker: (Walker County)
Waverly Cemetery
This cemetery is situated on the land originally purchased in 1853 by Mary M. Lewis, James E. Scott, Laura A. Scott, and Milly D. Scott. The first recorded burial was that of John Andrew Jackson (1822-1855), a pioneer settler of Waverly. Three gravestones dated 1852 indicate reinterments rather than earlier burials. Hamlin F. Lewis, John Elliot Scott, and Robert Lindsey Scott left Alabama for Texas but fell victim to cholera in 1852 and were buried along the way. Relatives of the men had their remains placed in this site in 1859.

In 1857 Waverly Institute purchased 200 acres of land which included the burial ground. Through the efforts of Henry M. Elmore (1816-1879), President of Waverly Institute Board of Trustees, twelve acres were officially set aside for cemetery use in 1873.

The town of Waverly was a cultural, educational, and religious center before the Civil War. When New Waverly was founded on the railroad in the 1880s, Waverly declined, but its cemetery remains in use. The burial ground has always been associated with the pioneer settlers of Waverly. In 1965 descendants of the settlers formed a cemetery association to maintain the site.
Waverly Cemetery TX Weeping Family
Waverly Cemetery tombstone
TE photo, 2006
Waverly Cemetery TX tombstone
TE photo, 2006
Waverly Cemetery TX,  Tombstone Angel
TE photo, 2006
Waverly Cemetery TX tombstone book
TE photo, 2006
Waverly Cemetery TX, tombstone of one died enroute
TE photo, 2006
Waverly Cemetery TX, tombstone of consort  of Thompson
TE photo, 2006
Waverly Cemetery TX tombstone with long bio
TE photo, 2006
Waverly Cemetery TX, tombstone with  column
TE photo, 2006
Waverly Cemetery TX tombstone inscription
TE photo, 2006
Waverly Cemetery TX tombstone with weeping family
TE photo, 2006
Waverly Cemetery historical marker, TX
Waverly Cemetery historical marker
TE photo, 2006

See Old Waverly, Texas | New Waverly, Texas

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Texas Ghosts | Texas Cemeteries | Texas Railroads

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