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Skeleton mystery unearthed in west Houston may be solved

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Human remains were found back in August by construction crews working on a project near the intersection of Detering and Memorial. Forensic investigators say the bones they found are older than were previously thought.

They aren't prehistoric remains like those found in the path of a toll road in west Harris County, but they are old, and they are believed to have been once laid to rest in what was once considered the 'country' -- an area which has since been redeveloped for a second time.

Construction is underway now. But in August, during demolition of a condo complex, work stopped when part of a skeleton was unearthed. The medical examiner's office examined the bones, concluding they were probably from an old cemetery in the area. Preservation Houston believes it knows which one -- Crooms Cemetery named for Felix Crooms.

"His family was buried on this land," explained David Bush with Preservation Houston. "He and his wife buried here and at least one of their children. There's still a record of it. It's Crooms Street."

That past is vanishing. Where bulldozers are at work is believed to be the Crooms family plot, which grew into a community resting place -- a small African-American cemetery, where a lot of members of St. Luke's Missionary Baptist Church were buried. The church was founded a century ago.

"They didn't have a baptismal. They used to walk down the street about a mile and baptize in the bayou," said Pastor Mark Davis. "That's how we all got started."

The last burial was in 1937. The cemetery was not in perpetual care. The land was later sold, eventually becoming prime property for development. No one knows what happened to the headstones. Apparently not all the bodies, if any, were removed.

Life and growth go on atop the past, and that saddens this pastor.

"You have families whose loved ones are lying in Crooms Cemetery and now they can't go and leave remembrance of them," said Pastor Davis.

A representative of the development company putting in the new condo project said the company had conducted an archeological survey, but it revealed no cemetery.

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