WEEPING MARY, TEXAS. Weeping Mary is just off State Highway 21 and eighteen miles west of Rusk in southern Cherokee County. The community was probably first settled soon after the Civil War by freed slaves from neighboring plantations. It is said to have been named for Mary Magdalene’s weeping at the tomb of Jesus. Alternately, variations of a local legend state that a black woman named Mary wept from the devastating loss of her land to a white man or that the woman, after making a pact with the area’s freedmen that no one would sell their land to the white settlers, wept over the loss of the community when that promise was broken. Residents established a Baptist church. A local school for black children was operation by 1896, when it had enrollment of forty. In the 1930s Weeping Mary had a school and a few houses. The school was closed around the time of World War II, but in 1990 a church and a few scattered houses still remained in the area. The population was forty in 2000.
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Texas is full of memorable town names — Blanket, Stagecoach, Domino and Paint Rock, to list just a few. Each has at least one tale behind it, and All Things Considered host Melissa Block has been telling some of them as part of the series Deep In the Heart Of (A Transforming) Texas.
One of them is Weeping Mary, an unincorporated town in rural east Texas. It was established as a “freedom colony” with land given to former slaves after the Civil War.
Photographer O. Rufus Lovett started photographing the residents of Weeping Mary in 1994. There are a few stories as to how the town got its name, but one tends to stick.
“There was a lady named Mary who lived there and folklore has it, anyway, that a white man wanted to purchase her land. And she did not want to sell it to a white man,” Lovett says.
The man in question persuaded a black man to purchase the land for him instead.