Texas Historical Designations & Markers

To date approximately 1,400 Texas cemeteries have attained the official designation of Historic Texas Cemetery. While the HTC designation does not prevent all destructive activities, the official state  recognition will  make people aware of the importance of each of these cemeteries - and in turn create respect and reverence among  the community for preserving these sacred landmarks.

How to apply for a cemetery designation and Historic Cemetery markers

Contact the Texas Historical Commission. See the Menu to the left: Cemeteries and then specific items to access.

Texas Cemetery Laws

Found under the Texas Health & Safety Code, Chapters 694-715 are laws that pertain to perpetual care, ownership, dedication, abandonment, petition for guardianship and access, among others.

The Texas State Penal Code regulates criminal mischief, desecration, graffiti and theft. Other possible regulations include the State Antiquities Code and Federal 106 Code.

An easy to use website is Cemetery Law in Texas by Donald Ray Burger, Attorney at Law.

Prevent Cemetery Vandalism

County Historical Commissions (CHC) help to lead the way in preventing cemetery vandalism. We all need to be proactive! Anticipate days when trouble is likely to occur, for example, Halloween or other evenings when community celebrations take place. Once you have identified these dates, take time to prepare using the following suggestions.

Partner with people in the community. Create a Cemetery Watch group for cemetery protection that includes CHC appointees, local law enforcement, neighbors of the cemetery, and individuals who are interested in protecting the community’s historic cemeteries.

Develop a cemetery protection plan. The plan should include contact names and phone numbers for the Cemetery Watch group and area law enforcement contacts. The plan should also include instructions on what to do when vandalism or suspicious activity occurs, along with any other information that the Cemetery Watch group members need to know.

Clean up the cemetery. You can discourage unwanted visitors simply by picking up trash, clearing fallen branches, and trimming grass and trees.

Add cemetery signage. Installing signage at the entrance of a cemetery indicates that people care for the site and that it is monitored to some degree.

Add site lighting. If power is available, install lighting to discourage vandals and late night loitering.

Take photographs. Documenting existing conditions helps determine the scope of damage if a cemetery is vandalized and also an important step in the Texas Historical Commission or the Harris County designation process.

Educate the public. Create responsible stewards of cemeteries by educating the public on the significance of historic cemeteries. Lead cemetery tours and create activities that teach young people about local history and cemetery maintenance.  

Cemetery Watch Groups

The presence of people is a simple yet effective way to keep mischief out of the cemetery. On high-risk nights, like Halloween, organize the watch group to meet at the cemetery. Whether taking shifts or spending the night, remember to bring flashlights and water. Consider dressing in layers to accommodate changes in weather.

Most importantly, never guard a cemetery alone and always notify local authorities that you will be posted at the cemetery. Be sure to follow law enforcement recommendations for reporting activity.

A cemetery watch group is an excellent way to take action against cemetery vandalism; however, there is much more to be done! Locating, documenting, and recording cemeteries in the county deed records is a critical step in cemetery preservation. To learn more about this process visit the Texas Historical Commission's cemetery preservation webpages.​

How to Save A Cemetery