Historic Concord Baptist Church and Cemetery
Montalba- The rolling hills of Montalba, located approximately 11 miles north of Palestine in Anderson County, is some of the most beautiful countryside in the Pineywoods. If you visit the area you will certainly understand why the brave pioneering family by the name of Fitzgerald was inspired to move into the hilly forests in the 1840s.
William A. and Joicy Fitzgerald lived in the San Augustine area for several years before moving to Anderson County. Sometime between 1844 and 1846, the Fitzgerald’s began moving into the area known today as Concord. The first record of land ownership for the Fitzgerald’s is a deed from Courtland Palmer to William A. Fitzgerald for 320 acres, dated Dec. 2, 1850. William A’s brother, Michael Robert bought 160 acres just a few weeks later on December 30, 1850. According to the 1850 census, four Fitzgerald families were recorded living in the area.
In 1856, a family by the name of Gaines moved to the area from Georgia. They had moved from South Carolina to Georgia and from Georgia to Texas. Ruben Gaines and his wife, Sarah, developed their Texas farm to include a gin, sawmill, barns, grist mill and large apple orchards. After about 15 years, Gaines decided to return to Georgia and left his property to his son Milton Pinkney Gaines, known as “Pink.” Pink’s son, Ralph Gore, lived in the Concord community where he was a successful farmer and cattle raiser.
The Hathcocks arrived in the area by 1859,from Kentucky and first settled in the Beaver Valley area. Legend has it that the family lived in a tent upon arrival, and later traded their Kentucky property plus some horses for land in Anderson County.
By the 1860s, the Clvil War had brought disruption and unrest to the area. Young men from the Concord community left to fight and several of those young men never returned.
Jim Hathcock, who had married William A’s and Joicy’s daughter, Sarah, established an iron foundry for the purpose of making guns for the Confederate soldiers. They also produced plows for those who were left behind and were unable to get supplies they needed from the North.
Concord cemetery contains the graves of three Civil War veterans. C. A. Fitzgerald served in Company 6, Thompson’s Co., Sates Regiment of the 13th Texas Infantry CSA; John J. Kearney served in Company E, Seventh Georgia Infantry CSA; and Pink Gaines served in the 13th Texas Regiment, Haw’s Brigade, Walker’s Division, but his body is buried in the Gaines Cemetery.
Joel P. Kelley was the first person to be buried in the Concord Cemetery. He was born in North Carolina in 1825 and became a Baptist preacher. Kelley brought his family to Texas in 1869. He donated the land for the cemetery just a year before his death in 1872, although it is believed that the site was in use before his burial, Kelley is the first recorded burial in Concord Cemetery.
In the general area Kelley is buried, under the holly tree and cedar trees, are a number of old, unmarked graves. Although many believe these unmarked graves belong to early settlers who moved to the Concord area, and some even believe these could be the unmarked graves of Fitzgerald’s children there are no records to support those theories. However, from the number of deaths in the community prior to the church organization and the fact that these deaths are recorded in no other cemetery, one can conclude that it is likely these are the graves of early Concord settlers.
A survey dated September 10, 1985, showed 372 marked graves, and 75 unmarked graves within Concord. The graves labeled unmarked have either concrete blocks, iron ore rocks, bricks or unreadable funeral home markers.
Oral tradition has passed along a touching story of the enormous holly tree in Concord Cemetery for many years. Legend has it, a young couple who planned to marry soon were traveling through the area camped in Concord. While camped here, the young girl became ill and died. The heartbroken young man buried his sweetheart in her wedding dress and, for a tombstone, planted a holly tree at her head.
In 1997, Marcellus Parrish requested the Texas Forestry Service to verify if the holly tree might qualify as Texas’s largest holly tree. They measured the tree and although it did not qualify as Texas largest, at the time it measured 60’ tall with a crown spread of 57’ and a stem of 110” in circumference. The largest tree measures 54’ tall, with a crown of 49’ and a stem of 132’. All reports indicate the tree is well over one hundred years old. In 2000, the holly tree was named a state champion.
By the 1880s, the community had become a thriving little town called Fitzgerald. Around 1887, C. D. Kelley and other citizens were instrumental in securing the right to establish a post office. It was kept temporarily in a grain store operated by W. H. Harding, who also acted as postmaster. It was then moved to the home of C. D. Kelley. He was postmaster in 1896. The mail was brought out from Palestine on Tuesdays and Fridays of each week for ten years. Eighteen years later, the post office of Fitzgerald was abandoned when the new mail system of the Rural Carrier was established. Ben Kennedy was the first rural carrier on the new rural route serving Concord in 1903. In 1896, Fitzgerald had at least two general stores and a flour mill. A barber shop has also been mentioned as being located there and possibly other establishments were located there as well. Legal documents were also signed in Fitzgerald.
Education was important to these pioneers and they began to establish a school, church, post office, and cemetery. The church was named Concord Baptist Church after a community in Louisiana where several of the Fitzgeralds had previously lived. The little wooden church served the community from the early 1900s until 1940 when a fire claimed the structure. A brick building was built in its place soon thereafter.
Today, few people remember the community Fitzgerald. The Concord Baptist Church is still in use to this day, and the community continues to change with the times.
- The New Handbook of Texas, Texas State Historical Society, Palestine Public Library, Palestine, TX
- Cemeteries of Anderson County., Vol. 1, Palestine Public Library, Palestine, TX
NOTE: A handful of tombstones in Concord Cemetery appear to be facing the west, as opposed to the majority of the east facing tombstones in the cemetery. Historically, Christian burials were made east to west, with the head at the western end of the grave. This mirrors the layout of Christian churches, and for much the same reason; to view the coming of Christ on Judgement Day.
The Bible makes no direct mention of the direction which Christ is expected to arrive from but does contain the following verses:
“Then the man brought me to the eastward facing gate, and I saw the Glory of God of coming.” Ezek 43:1
Our team is in the process of researching these westward facing tombstones. Much of the writing on the stones is unintelligible. There are four westward facing tombstones in Concord Cemetery. West facing tombstones are rare in historic East Texas cemeteries.