Oakwood Cemetery was established in 1878 and grew into one the most beautiful cemeteries in the area.
Oakwood was once the site of a horse racetrack far to the south of the City of Waco and out the dirt road known as South 5th Street. The racetrack and immediate environs were the location in 1874 of Waco’s earliest agricultural fair organized by the Texas Agricultural, Horticultural, Mechanical and Industrial Association, Norman H. Conger, President.
Prior to 1878, the First Street Cemetery was Waco’s only public burying ground. By that year it’s space was gone with no possibility of adding more. Through the good offices of Mayor E. A. Sturgis and the help of interested Wacoans such as John Sleeper, the abandoned racetrack area was acquired by the city, and Oakwood began.
In 1898, under a State Charter, government of the cemetery was centered on a Board of Director elected annually on a rotating basis and serving for five years. Thirteen women were to comprise the board with an Advisory Board of six men. The 1898 Directors were Mesdames G.B. Gerald, James I. Moore, Jennie Holmes, Waller S. Baker, A. Symes, Louis Crow, Richard Coke, J.G. Fall, M.C. Hutchins, W.A. Hamilton, Julia Boggess, J.W. Weaver and Mrs. Mollie Oliver. Also active in forming the first Board were Mrs. E.J. Ashburne and Mrs. M.B. Willis.
Executive Secretaries of Oakwood include, before 1936, Mr. P.M. Ammerman and Mr. W.L. Trice. Mr. W.A. Brown assumed the post in 1936 and continued until 1961 when Lanty Saffle succeeded him. Mr. Saffle came to Oakwood in 1936 and rose to Sexton in 1940. In 1961 he became Executive Secretary. Mr. Saffle’s careful planning and management brought about new water lines, surfacing of streets, fencing of the property and acquisition of all available adjoining property with development of same. Mr. Saffle retired December 31, 1975. Mr. James E. Evans came to Oakwood Cemetery in 1968 as Sexton. He was appointed Executive Secretary in January of 1976, a position he held until his death in 2007. During his term as Executive Secretary he oversaw the modernization of equipment, computerization of records and bookkeeping, improvement of the infrastructure and the development of new sections. In October, 2013, John Hubble was appointed General Manager for Oakwood and Rosemound Cemeteries.
Since the first burial in 1878, there have been 36,587 burials in Oakwood Cemetery as of August 2011.
The oak trees bordering the central cemetery drive were donated by Waco citizens in a comprehensive beautifying program conducted in the 1940s. All monetary memorial gifts made to Oakwood Cemetery are used for the beautification of the approximately one-hundred-sixty acre sanctuary.