By Dana Goolsby
Happy Hollow- Deep within the first county in Texas lies hidden and practically forgotten burial grounds. The earth of Houston County holds many brave settlers who called East Texas home, soldiers who fought historic battles, and the descendants of area residents who left their mark on the Lone Star State. Just about a mile and a half from the caution light in Latexo, on US Hwy 287, Milligan Cemetery, can be found in the curve of a red dirt road (Houston County Road 1825) which loops around three sides of the cemetery, perched on top of a rocky, red clay-covered-hill in the Happy Hollow Community.
Early East Texas settlers in the Happy Hollow area established the Ephesus Community and used the site as a burial ground. Also known as the Millican Cemetery, the Milligan Cemetery is believed to have been established as early as 1840. However, the first marked grave only dates back to 1869, and is that of infant Ella Wall. An earlier grave stone for a female by the name of Sterlin existed until the late 20th century when it was destroyed by vandals. The next four graves were Millicans/Milligans.
Milligan Cemetery is located on the John A. Goolsby survey. The property was once owned by George Washington Marshall who is also buried at Milligan, bought the property from a “Buck Mayes and then gave the property to his daughter Georga Marshall Goolsby. Walter Jackson Patton later purchased the site and donated the burial ground and adjacent road to the community.
Due to the location of the burial ground on a rocky hill covered with red clay the site required much labor from the community in order to maintain the burial plots. For many years the plots were mounded. Today, descendants and friends of those buried in Milligan Cemetery now hold regular work days to care for the cemetery.
A stroll through the old cemetery on top of the rocky, clay-covered-hill will reveal graves marked by rocks, rather than tombstones. Some graves are marked by homemade crosses and other markers. Eroding mounds can still be seen, but only slightly.
Milligan Cemetery is an important landmark in Houston County. It is the final resting place of early Texas settlers, military veterans, and generations of area residents. In June of 2006, the cemetery received a Texas Cemetery medallion and plaque. The presentation was part of the annual Milligan Cemetery Homecoming and over 100 people attended.