Down a quiet path on the outskirts of Leander is a cemetery where the family of Williamson County’s first judge lies.

The Fisk-Cashion Historic Cemetery is located in the extraterritorial jurisdiction of Liberty Hill, north of the South Fork San Gabriel River. The land was previously owned by the Cashion family before it was sold to Milestone Community Builders for home building.

Leander resident James Crabtree and his family discovered a trail leading to the cemetery while going on walks earlier this year. They saw the black fence and overgrown grass surrounding the graves and thought they were in someone’s backyard until they saw the headstone of Mary Ann Manlove Fisk.

“It’s only a half-mile from our house, so we’ve got all this suburbia growing around it,” he said. “But when you’re out there, you really feel like you’re out a long way.”

Crabtree said he went home and researched the name, as hers is the only marked grave. His research led him to Mariann Laughlin, a living descendant of Greenleaf Fisk and his wife, Mary.

Since discovering the site, Crabtree has taken on the role of caretaker and unofficial tour guide for the cemetery. He removed the overgrown brush and goes out monthly to maintain the area. Sometimes, he said, he sees people walking nearby on the trail while mowing, and when they ask about the cemetery, he is able to share the stories of who is buried there and the work he has done to preserve the cemetery.

“It’s such a neat story, and we want it to be preserved,” he said. “There are so many people in our neighborhood that don’t know it is there.”

Mariann Laughlin said she has worked the last 16 years to preserve her family’s cemetery, the nearby Fisk family cabin and the stories of her ancestors, which were passed down at annual family reunions.

When she first visited the site, after knocking door-to-door in the community for help finding the cemetery, Laughlin said she knelt down at her great-great-grandmother’s grave and that she heard Mary Ann Fisk speak to her, she said.

“It was as if she came into me and she said, ‘Do something about me. Do something about us. We want to be remembered,’” Laughlin said. “I had this warm feeling all over, and I get back to my car, ... and I got in, and I started to weep.”

Laughlin was inspired to determine who is buried in the cemetery. She began compiling information from Williamson and Bastrop counties, the Brown County Historical Museum and from her family’s oral narratives.

There are 15 graves in the cemetery, including those of Mary Ann Manlove Fisk, Greenleaf Fisk’s first wife; Avarilla Perkins Manlove, Mary Ann’s mother; James Bartholomew “Bat” Manlove, Mary Ann’s father; Margaret Jane Manlove Lane Fisk—Greenleaf Fisk’s second wife—and her baby; Sarah Anne Fisk, a daughter of Greenleaf and Mary Ann; Margaret Jane Fisk, a daughter of Greenleaf and Mary Ann; a girl who died of a snakebite; a family of five settlers; and two male ranch hands who died in a shootout.

She is planning to add cenotaphs to each of the graves as a remembrance of who is buried. In the future, she said she hopes to see the cemetery and cabin site turned into a park with historical tours and picnic areas.

The park’s future—how it will be developed and preserved—now lies in the hands of the city of Liberty Hill. The site is also next to the Milestone Community Builders’ new Larkspur Park subdivision. The homebuilders have worked with Laughlin to preserve the history and donated the current fence surrounding the gravesites and another fence around the cabin site.

Laughlin said that each time she has started to give up hope on her dream to preserve the family’s history, new people, such as Crabtree, have joined her mission. She called it a “16-year overnight success” and said she feels her ancestors are determined to have something done.

“All of a sudden, there is new life that is breathed into my dream,” she said.