In the late 1800's and early 1900's the cemetery was on the south side of the Bear Creek Methodist Episcopal Church. The land was given by Henry Cousins Harless and Maston Crawford Robinson. H. C. Harless gave 3 acres and M. C. Robinson gave 1 1/2 acres. At the present time the cemetery occupies only 1 1/4 acres. Both men are buried in the cemetery as well as many of their family members.
The members of the church and friends in the community went to Jefferson, Texas, in ox-drawn wagons, and brought back all of the lumber needed to build the church in one trip. The trip took about three months. From 1881 to 1891, the church was in the Forney Circuit of the North Texas Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church South. The church disbanded in 1902. In the fall of 1907, C. F. Jones and W. F. Billingsby bought the building for its lumber and built two houses in Copeville.
W. P. Harris’s first wife Margaret J. (Harless) Harris and their infant daughter, Mary Lou Harris, were the first to be buried in the cemetery in 1873. H. C. Harless’s son Uriah Christopher Harless was a Confederate Soldier and was buried in the cemetery in 1907.
There were several ministers who served for short terms of one to four years. Dr. James L. Brockman was a physician and also served as a minister of the church. His wife Mary A. Brockman was buried in the cemetery in 1891 and he was buried next to her in 1903.
The church and cemetery were located in what was originally known as the Empire Community. A boarding school and dormitory were built, near where the cemetery is located, by members of the Masonic Lodge. The school burned down in 1914, was rebuilt, and burned again in 1929. The Masonic Lodge moved to Nevada but kept the Empire name. Now, the cemetery and the Masonic Lodge are the only evidences of the Empire Community. Several Masons and Woodmen of the World are buried in the cemetery.
There are a about 186 known burials in the cemetery. Many are original settlers of the community. Some graves are not marked, some have only field stones or bois d'arc posts and many of the markers have deteriorated or have been damaged over the years. We know of three Civil War Veterans: T. P. Yeager, Dr. J. L. Brockman and U. C. Harless. The last known burials were Elizabeth Yeager and Riley A. Turner in 1925, and Henry S. Puckett in 1927.
Through the many years different groups of people have taken the responsibility for keeping the cemetery clean. Members of the Empire Masonic Lodge have cleaned it. Family members related to the people who are buried there have cleaned it when they could, including Waymon Turner and his grandnephew Brandon. In the spring of 2000, Boy Scout Shane Busby (as part of earning his Eagle Scout Award) organized his troop to clean the cemetery. We are grateful to members of the Collin County Sheriff's S.C.O.R.E. program, which also cleaned and mowed the cemetery from time to time. Since 2004, the Bear Creek Cemetery Foundation has been attempting both to maintain and improve the cemetery.
If you have anything to add to this history, either pictures or stories, please contact us.