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2012 Archives

In an old family cemetery, SMU professor finds his Dallas County roots


The following story ran in the Sept. 19, 2012, edition of the Dallas Morning News. Bill Bryan is a theology professor at SMU's Perkins School of Theology.

September 19, 2012

By Melissa Repko

UNIVERSITY PARK — Before the brick homes and shaded yards, the tree swings and the trimmed hedges, before there was even a town, there was a family cemetery.

Daniel Family Cemetery has existed almost as long as Texas has been a state, and its more than 90 tombstones span the changes that have occurred outside its locked gates at Airline Road and Milton Avenue.

The first burial was for Old Frank, a family slave, in 1850, and the most recent was for Robert Trammell Crow, an heir to a real estate empire, in 2011. His father, Trammell Crow, who married a Daniel descendant, is buried at the cemetery’s center, under the shade of an old tree.

Now, the 1-acre graveyard is surrounded by a residential neighborhood just blocks from Southern Methodist University. It is all that remains of the 640-acre Daniel homestead. It fades into the passing of everyday life, of neighbors pushing strollers, college students chatting on cellphones and cars passing by.

Yet, for one Daniel descendant, United Methodist minister Bill Bryan, it continues to be a fascination....

Bryan, a professor at Perkins School of Theology at Southern Methodist University, describes himself as a “storykeeper.” As a pastor, he becomes part of his congregants’ stories, participating in some of their highest and lowest moments. As a professor, he helps his students “find their own identity and calling and fulfillment,” he said. The seminary students draw family trees, mapping their lineage and noting ancestral characteristics....