BRAZOS COUNTY, TEXAS — If you look past the overgrown cacti and relentless brush not far from the corner of Kuder Road and Pitts, you may see remnants of loved ones' past. If you aren't looking, you'll be sure to miss it.
Once a major cemetery for the now extinct farming community of Canaan in the Brazos Valley, Canaan Cemetery is almost unrecognizable to many who may have visited generations prior.
The local Come and Take it Chapter of Daughters of the American Revolution has taken it upon themselves to preserve history, even in places many may have forgotten existed.
Even though it may look abandoned to most, the sacred ground is not far from the minds of many.
While many stories belonging to those whose final resting place is Canaan Cemetery in Brazos County have been preserved over the years, some are still yet to be discovered.
"It's personal. I wanted to bring my boys and I wanted to show them this is where our family began in Texas. I am so excited to see some of the graves and uncover some of the things here," Shellie Greene, a Dallas man who has relatives buried at Canaan Cemetery said Saturday morning.
Giving a history lesson to his boys during the drive from Dallas to Bryan, Shellie Greene the 4th hopes a trip to Brazos County is just as memorable for them as it is for him.
"You don't know where you are going unless you know where you have been," Greene added.
For Greene, family history does just that, which has helped him find inspiration in life during a difficult time.
"And I thought about...Wow...If I am connected to people who owned land 2 or 3 years after slavery was over...If I am connected to people who traveled from North Carolina to Alabama to Texas and who established families after slavery...who learned to read and write...who learned to vote...I am connected to great people and there's nothing in life I can't overcome," Greene added.
Greene says each time he visits, it's normally when he's stuck and looking for answers within his family tree. He used Saturday morning as a great opportunity along with countless others to assist in uncovering loved ones' pasts.
"I really want to see my second great grandparent's grave. My second great grandfather Chester Greene was born Marion County Alabama and traveled with his plantation here to Rust County Texas, he made it from Rust County, Texas to Marlin, to Bryan and started a family with my second great grandmother and they parented eight children here in this community of Canaan. They went to church here in Canaan, lived in the Edge community and he is buried here. His wife my second great grandmother Isabella Mosley Pierce Greene Durhan was 3-times a single mother in the late 1800s... wow, what kind so strength she has. I would love to find her grave here," Greene said.
He did find it.
"He told me (his son) Isabella Greene was this way and I found her! This is my second great grandmother. Born a slave here in Brazos County," he said as he shares a photo on his phone of his loved one beside their headstone.
Sometimes preserving history means clearing trees and removing debris so that once hidden graves can now be seen.
Uncovering hidden stories is part of what the local chapter of Daughters of the American Revolution is currently doing as they help restore Canaan Cemetery.
Promoting historic preservation and education, Raschelle Black with Daughters of the American Revolution says seeing people uncover their family tree is moving.
"It's a blessing to see a joy in their faces. They haven't seen these headstones in so long or if they have been overgrown or never seen in potentially. It brings a joy to your heart to see that," Raschelle Black, Historic Preservation Chapter Chair of the Come and Take it DAR chapter said.
Black says the first burial at the predominately African American cemetery is from 1882 and the latest from 2003. They aim for one Saturday a month to help clean up Canaan, a site that spans 6 acres and is noticeably overgrown by cacti and trees.
"Families of those buried here deserve the respect to be able to come out and lay flowers to visit their loved ones and we want to be able to give that to this community," Black said. "This project here is to get the community involved," she added.
Black says at least 30 individuals that are buried in the cemetery have served their country. She wants to also uncover them and give respect to them and their families. "This project here is to get the community involved," Black said.
Black also says they are unable to find the deed to the land. The site isn't maintained by the county or city, although a couple of family members of relatives buried at Canaan try to mow where they can.
Outside of Greene and his boys, missionaries, A&M students and community members were all present in Saturday's clean up efforts. The next scheduled clean up date is April 17th.