The Princeton Cemetery Association was established on February 16, 1895, with the purchase of a three-acre tract of land that was to become The Princeton Cemetery. It was a triangle-shaped plot bordered by the Railroad on the east, the school on the north, and just out of the Tickey Creek flood plane on the west. The original trustees of the association, S. H. Housman, W. A. Harrelson, and Almarine Wilson purchased the tract for twenty dollars per acre from George A. Wilson, and immediately began laying out the "new" cemetery.
The Design Plan for the new cemetery was relatively simple. It called for a Main Street on the north entering off of what was then Front Street (Yorkshire Drive) and running in front of a Pavillion and "Hitching Area" until it intersected a Central Avenue, which divided the cemetery in two at the time. The acreage was then divided into four large blocks. Each Block was divided into numbered lots with twelve burial spaces on each lot. Alley space was provided between each lot for access of the horse-drawn equipment of the era.
The first recorded burial was made in 1895, and was that of an eleven-year-old boy located in Block 1, Lot 9. Several other burials are recorded that same year, and lot sales were increasing. Large families were common in those days, and a twelve-space lot made a nice "Family Plot".
Trustee Almarine Wilson was also a local businessman. He also owned other property adjacent to the cemetery, and which was later added to the cemetery. On July 5, 1910, he purchased the Princeton Independent School District property on the north side of the cemetery at Public Auction. He received an irregular-shaped 91/100th-acre tract for the sum of two hundred dollars. With this tract added to his other holdings, Mr. Wilson owned all the property north and east of the cemetery bordered by First Street, Front Street, and the Railroad right of way.
During this same period in history, the Independent Order of Odd Fellows lodge was a prominent organization in many communities, including Princeton, Texas. The IOOF was a civic service oriented group, not unlike the Lions Club, Noino Club, and other service clubs still in existence. Among the other projects that the IOOF took on was the organization and maintenance of their local cemeteries in many Collin County communities. With this in mind, on December 12,1912, Princeton Lodge No. 209, of the IOOF purchased two tracts of land from Almarine Wilson for the purpose of establishing a Cemetery. The tracts were adjacent to the existing cemetery on the north and east sides. They were purchased at a cost of one dollar and other considerations. The "other considerations" were that the property be used for cemetery purposes and platted and sold off in lots. The proceeds of sales were to be appropriated, first, to the expense of surveying, platting, and beautifying the cemetery, and second, to the payment of the indebtedness due upon the lodge building. The last condition of sale was that if Princeton Lodge No. 209 should ever become defunct, the unsold lots in these tracts would revert back to Almarine Wilson. After agreeing to these conditions, the Lodge began their work on the cemetery. On October 9, 1913, a plat was filed with the County Clerk for the new IOOF Cemetery of Princeton, Texas. The plat included the property received from Almarine Wilson plus the existing cemetery, which was included for maintenance purposes.
The IOOF Lodge platted and developed Blocks five, six, and seven in the cemetery. Central Avenue was extended through the new addition for access. They continued selling lots and maintaining the cemetery for fourteen years. Sadly, though, the Lodge began to decline. On January 11, 1926, the Trustees of Princeton Lodge No. 209 of the IOOF sold their property holdings to Almarine Wilson to settle their outstanding debt. For the sum of three thousand, one hundred dollars, Wilson purchased all of the Lodge's unsold cemetery property and the Lodge Building located in downtown Princeton. At this time, the cemetery was, again, placed under the authority of the Trustees of the Princeton Cemetery Association. However, it would continue to be known as the IOOF Cemetery for a number of years to come.
Almarine Wilson lived only two years after purchasing the Lodge's portion of the cemetery. He passed away in 1928, at the age of seventy-two. The cemetery property passed to his heirs, who continued to sell lots in the former IOOF Blocks for another twenty years. Block 8 was platted out the property purchased from Princeton ISD in 1910. Then, on May 26, 1948, the heirs of Almarine Wilson and wife, Nancy E. Wilson, both deceased, for the sum of nine dollars (transfer fee) and as a memorial gift in honor of their parents, sold/donated all of the remaining unsold cemetery lots still in their possession to the Princeton Cemetery Association. A total of forty-eight lots were included in this generous gift.
The Princeton Cemetery Association operates today as a non-profit organization with an eight-member, elected Board of Trustees. The By-Laws, voted by the membership, govern the operation of the Cemetery. Funding is derived from the annual dues of the members, gifts and donations, and the interest earned on the Endowment Fund.
Information compiled by Larry Abbott from public records.
From Hwy 380 in Princeton, go north on Yorkshire Dr. approximately one quarter mile from Hwy 380 on the left.
Princeton Cemetery Association is a non-profit organization chartered in 1967. If anyone would like to help in the upkeep and preservation of the cemetery, donations may be sent to P.O. Box 684, Princeton, Texas 75407.