Llano Cemetery is the first cemetery in Amarillo.

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It started in 1888 when the Morrow family was passing through the area and their 24-year-old daughter Lillian died. They buried her on a piece of land owned by T.B. Hattie Clisbee.  Potter County purchased the 20-acre piece of land for $400 in 1891 creating the Amarillo Cemetery, which eventually became Llano Cemetery.

In the years since, Llano has become the resting place for many families, individuals, and legends including Terry Stafford, the man famous for writing Amarillo By Morning, recorded by George Strait, and Suspicions, which was recorded by Elvis Presley

Although one of the most interesting people buried in Llano Cemetery is George Evans, a Gypsy king.   George Evans died in Amarillo in 1951 after suffering a heart attack.

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According to Joe Alonzo, Executive Director for Llano Cemetery,

He (George Evans) was buried here rather than sent back to his burial plot in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. So instead of sending the body back to Pennsyvania, going out there, they want to have just buried him here.

Many funeral homes in the area did not want to handle a Gypsy burial because of the massiveness of a Gypsy funeral.   When a Gypsy passes away, especially a king or a queen, it becomes a huge celebration with liquor, food, and many people.  It becomes an all-day event and lasts into the evening.

How does a Gypsy burial compare to a regular burial?

In a Gypsy burial, they have an open casket with their loved one.  During the funeral celebration, they will put paper on the ground and lay out all kinds of food and beverages.   Those in attendance will then put all sorts of items into the casket with their loved ones.  Most of the time it is money, coins, and jewels that go with the deceased.

I saw one where there was just a round roll wad of money stuffed in a shirt pocket, and it was so full it was about to rip that pocket. And I asked them, "what's the idea of having that money when they are buried?" And he says, "Well, that's the bribe St. Peter at the gates."

Once the casket is closed they will start lowering it into the grave and those in attendance will continue to throw money and coins on top of the casket as it is lowered.

These graves are also surrounded by a concrete vault, once the casket is lowered it is backfilled with dirt and then concrete.

Alonzo said that the Gypsy funerals he has witnessed in the past had a cement truck waiting for the service to be over, and then will fill it with concrete.

The concrete is to deter someone from coming and robbing the grave because of all the money, coins, and jewels left with their deceased loved one.

Lori Crofford
Lori Crofford
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The graves are then covered with a decorative slab and the gravestone is usually a cross.

George Evans was not the only Gypsy buried in Llano Cemetery.  His sister is buried in the cemetery as well as Joe Evans Sr.

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Frank Evans and Gypsy Queen Schike M. Evans are also buried in Llano Cemetery.

Lori Crofford
Lori Crofford
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Many of the Gypsy graves display the pictures of the deceased, however, many have been vandalized and removed over the years.

Lori Crofford
Lori Crofford
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Frank and Florence Mitchell are also buried in Llano Cemetery, Florence is the daughter of Gypsy Queen Rosie Evans.  The Gypsy queen died in Rapid City, South Dakota in a car accident and her body was brought to Amarillo and buried.

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George and Rosa Mitchell were also laid to rest in Llano Cemetery.

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You will also find markers throughout the cemetery of Gypsy babies that were laid to rest.  Some of the graves just say Gypsy baby.

When asked about the Gypsy baby graves,  Joe Alonzo said the baby was either born stillborn or died shortly after birth, and the family didn't name the child.

According to Alonzo, the families will come to visit the gravesites, (although not as much anymore).  They have called and asked for a table and chairs and families will come to clean the headstones and eat.  Once done they will clean up after themselves and will also leave food and drink at the graves for their deceased.  

Just look at the flower urns, water was left for Frank and Schike Evans.

Lori Crofford
Lori Crofford
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Llano Cemetery is just as diverse as the world and many different walks of people are laid to rest in this beautiful cemetery.  If you ever have the opportunity to visit the cemetery, it's a fascinating walk through history.  Just remember to be respectful.

Each year in the Fall, Llano Cemetery will host a Historical tour of the cemetery and talk about the pioneers and legends buried.   Although, it has passed for 2023, make sure you take advantage in 2024.    It's possible you might find your final resting place.

Llano Cemetery

Llano Cemetery is the oldest cemetery in Amarillo. It started in 1888 when the Morrow family was passing through the area and their 24-year-old daughter Lillian died. They buried her on a piece of land owned by T.B. Hattie Clisbee. Potter County purchased the 20-acre piece of land for $400 in1891 creating the Amarillo Cemetery.

That 20-acres of land were quickly filled as Amarillo grew. On November 10 1921, Judge James Nathan Browning mailed the official papers to Austin to create Llano Cemetery, and later that night died in his sleep. The Texas Legislatture approved the Llano Cemetery Association charter on November 12, 1921 the same day Judge Browning was laid to rest in Llano Cemetery.

The cemetery is 164 acres and thousands of people from different walks of life are buried in the cemetery. Famous to unknown. Rich to the poorest of poor.

Visiting the cemetery you will walk through hundreds of years of Amarillo history and the future final resting place of those currently creating Amarillo's future.

Gallery Credit: Lori Crofford/TSM Amarillo

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