A volunteer group is finalizing plans for a short, sacred ceremony in mid-December, 97 years to the day two black men were lynched in Pilot Point.
The Denton County Community Remembrance Project has identified three meaningful locations to gather the soil on December 14, likely in late morning. Those locations include the banks of the Elm Fork of the Trinity River, beside the old city jail on Liberty Street in downtown Pilot Point, and beside the calaboose under the old Pilot Point city water tower.
Newspaper accounts from 1922 tell of two men who were taken from the Pilot Point jail on Dec. 14 and presumed lynched. In addition, newspaper reports from that era also documented Ku Klux Klan rituals at the old iron bridge over the Elm Fork.
During the group’s monthly meeting Thursday night — this time in the back room at the Bayless-Selby House — volunteer Shaun Treat outlined the soil collection plans. The group has agreed to fill three jars with layers of soil from each location on Dec. 14. One jar will remain with Pilot Point museums and another jar will circulate with the Denton County Office of History and Culture and its museums.
The third jar will be return to the Legacy Museum in Montgomery, Ala., which is providing the jars for soil collection at no cost to the group.
The Equal Justice Initiative opened both the Legacy Museum and the National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery last year. At the memorial, a beam commemorates the two Denton county men who lost their lives, along with the lives of more than 4,000 other people who were lynched between the Reconstruction and the Jim Crow eras.
But the Legacy Museum, which displays hundreds of jars of sacred soil from lynching locations around the country, has no such collection from Denton County.
The remembrance project aims to change that this year.
The families of many people who were lynched were not allowed to give their loved one a proper burial. Soil collection ceremonies have served as a solemn way to remember those who were murdered.
The Denton remembrance project plans such a solemn ceremony, including prayers and music, in downtown Pilot Point as part of the soil collection.
Volunteers have been meeting with various congregations in the past few months, trying to spread the word about the project, which includes other meaningful activities meant to bridge the racial divide and culminate in bringing home a beam from the memorial in Montgomery in the coming months.
During the meeting Thursday, the group fretted whether some congregations misunderstood their request to support the project with letters and volunteer help.
“We need your sweat and your elbows,” Treat said.
“Not money,” volunteer Beth Leggieri added.
Fellow volunteer Willie Hudspeth, who was absent Thursday, is scheduled to speak to the Denton North Church about the project at 10:45 a.m. Sunday at the Patterson-Appleton Arts Center, 400 E. Hickory St.
People interested in learning more about the project can attend that gathering, where Hudspeth will field questions, or follow the group on Facebook at facebook.com/dentoncountycommunityremembranceproject.