In the summer of 1967 I landed my first full-time job. The opportunity arose when a classmate resigned his job at Mount Olivet Cemetery, located just down the street from my northeast Fort Worth high school. He had been responsible for watering the acres of grass at the cemetery, and the tools of his trade—sprinkler heads, pipe wrenches, and joint sealant—now lay in want of new hands. He drove his own tractor and was his own supervisor, left alone to water the grass after class each day until the summer sun disappeared behind the headstones. It was a job highly coveted by the entire gang of boys who played football in the vacant lot across the road from Mount Olivet. All of us applied. Proving that in the corporate world it is not what you know but whom you know, the grounds superintendent recognized me as one of an endless stream of past neighborhood newspaper carriers. He gave me the job. It was to begin for me a lifelong interest in cemeteries.
As water streams arched over headstones and shrubs, I often walked among the names and dates, trying to imagine how they might have looked and how they had lived. Friends were at rest in Mount Olivet. Occasionally, when the grass around the gravesite of a baseball teammate browned, I lingered over his flat, brass marker, daydreaming of once again lolling in left field while Terry patrolled center. The cemetery was replete with the people and history of Fort Worth, for each stone marked a life lived and memories created, some seemingly eternal, some painfully ephemeral.
Working in the cemetery was a perfect union of my love of the outdoors and my love for history. The Fort Worth Independent School District was serious about the subject of Texas history as an element of public education. Maybe the state school board thought we might forget the Alamo, I do not know, but the people and stories of Texas never left me.
So why stop and walk through a cemetery in which none of your relatives are buried or where you know of no prominent person resting there? I suggest that the reason is that each cemetery is the same and each is different. A casual walk through a cemetery, any cemetery, provides a subtle sense of place and time, of what a town was in the past in contrast to what it is now. Cemeteries provide direct and often poignant links to our story and no other section of a town more accurately records the legacy of its citizenry. For example, one need only stroll through the Old City Cemetery in Gonzales and feel the German presence recorded there to understand that Gonzales' legacy is one of European immigrants in search of a better life in a distant and frequently dangerous land. The cemeteries of old Indianola, each with markers recording the seemingly instantaneous passing of entire families, document a populace that flirted with the catastrophic hurricanes, floods, and disease that swept the Texas coast in the late 1800s. And the huge granite mausoleums that line the streets of Oakwood Cemetery in Fort Worth stand in silent testimony to the rich trail-driving and ranching heritage that sprung from the Texas plains like prairie grasses.
In a broader sense, Texas' cemeteries reflect the entire American experience and the immense contribution that Texans made in the invention and reinvention of our nation. Texas has always been a place where big dreams and big landscapes collided to produce big legends. Texans are a pioneering people, independent, industrious, curious, bawdy, brave, proud, and occasionally outrageous. Texas is the final resting place of suffragists, industrialists, teachers, heroines, villains, and an American president. It is the home of innumerable veterans whose solitary white gravestones, scattered to every corner of the state, provide a sobering reminder of the staggering human currency paid to protect our homes and loved ones.
Researching Texas history and traveling to hundreds of cemeteries tucked away in every corner of Texas were a revelation to me—an introduction to people and places that I scarcely knew existed. Terry Jordan's book Texas Graveyards was an important source of information about cemeteries, but unlike that book, the present volume is not about the cultural significance of cemeteries, the occult mysticism that surrounds them, or a guide to deciphering the symbolism and traditions of burial. Jordan's book and similar texts were written by people who understand that side of the gravestone much better than I. Rather, this book is about the richness of humanity.
Every cemetery has a story. In some cases, the story is the cemetery itself (Cowboy Cemetery near Mercury is a great example), sometimes it is both the cemetery and those buried there (Texas State Cemetery, Austin), and sometimes it springs from remarkable people in an otherwise unremarkable cemetery.
In each cemetery listed, I searched for its story. As a result, some listings have extensive descriptions of the cemetery itself and minimal reference to the people who are at rest there. For other cemeteries, there is no description of the site itself but rather only references to those buried. Therein lies some level of what appears at first blush to be inconsistency among entries, but in fact, one finds remarkable uniformity in and among cemeteries, because each does have its own story.
Traveling across Texas and slowly walking through hundreds of cemeteries were a wonderful experience. I came away from that journey with insights previously unheld. First, the contribution made by Texas' women to the state's history, culture, and quality of life is enormous and (in my view) largely underappreciated. Texas women have been great athletes, philanthropists, civic leaders, and pioneers. Of all the lessons learned in this exercise, that was perhaps the most personally important and gratifying.
Second, the human capital cost of warfare is enormous. The rows of silent gravestones in our national cemeteries are a testament to young lives lost in defense of ideals that may be well worth that cost, but they also speak to our responsibility to ensure that warfare is an instrument of absolute last resort. Yet these gravestones also underscore the courage and commitment to comrades-in-arms that Texans have carried with them to all corners of the earth as they were called to service of this state and this nation. To those who read this book, it may seem I have a bias to military figures, particularly those Texans who have been awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. Perhaps that is the case, but to include one recipient in these pages requires inclusion of all; no one sacrifice is any greater than another, and so all of those medal recipients who could be located have been included.
The choice of the biographical sketches was made using three criteria. First, the deceased is buried in Texas in a public cemetery. Many noteworthy Texans lie at rest in family cemeteries on private property, and their gravesites are not readily accessible. Further, many other notable Texans are buried in cemeteries outside the state, and those people were excluded. The second criterion was that of verifying the actual burial site. The gravesites of many Texans whose contribution should be acknowledged herein simply could not be found. Third, the person was a significant figure in Texas history or made a substantial contribution to its broadly defined culture. Texas history, folklore, and culture directly reflect the people who settled this state, fought for its independence, settled its frontiers, trailed its cattle, educated its young, and participated in its eternally wacky politics. Yet, if it appears as though a favorite cemetery, someone you know, or a prominent Texan is missing from this book and should be found among its pages, you are probably right: No single volume can encompass this state.
My hope is that this book helps you find, visit and enjoy just a few of the many stories to be discovered in Texas' estimated thirty-five thousand graveyards. In a very real sense, producing Texas Cemeteries was a means to understanding the people who lived and died in a state that I have passionately loved my entire life. The responsibility inherent with being a native son, for me at least, required an interweaving of geography, history, and legend so that I could fully understand who I am. Somehow those of us lucky enough to have been born in Texas believe that we are different from those born somewhere else—not better, necessarily, but surely different. I always wondered why we believed that. Now I know.
Elmwood Memorial Park
Highway 277 at Twilight Trail
N 32 24.862, W 099 48.021
Jessie Kenan Wilder Jones
Jessie Jones (1882-1969) dedicated much of her public life to civic service. On a trip to Colorado with her children in the 1930s she found that there was no shady spot along the road where she could stop with her children and rest or eat lunch. Apparently, as she ate under the shade of a railroad trestle, an idea took root. At a highway beautification meeting, she proposed a project to construct roadside parks. The concept gained momentum after finding a champion in Governor Miriam Ferguson. The multitude of roadside parks that now dot the Texas landscape are the direct result of her interests. Her service to the people of Abilene continued throughout her life, and her gifts touched the lives of every citizen of that city.
FM 4, near intersection with FM 1192
N 32 26.412, W 097 41.062
Acton Cemetery has within its confines the smallest state park in all of Texas. Located in the center of this beautiful country cemetery is the gravesite of Elizabeth Crockett (1788-1860), the second wife of Alamo hero Davy Crockett. In the family plot next to her are two of her children, Matilda Porter Crockett (1823-1864) and Robert Patton Crockett (1816-1889). Mrs. Crockett received a grant of 320 acres in Hood County (although it was still part of Johnson County at the time) from the state of Texas for her husband's sacrifice at the Alamo. Their 0.006-acre gravesite is maintained by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department as a state historic site and is marked by an immense granite stone (erected in 1911) and the westward-facing statue of Elizabeth Crockett.
The cemetery also has several excellent examples of limestone false crypts, most of which are near the Crockett gravesite. The excellent stonework of these crypts, particularly the monolithic limestone tables that cover them, is among the finest to be found in Texas. A series of impressive oak trees surrounds these crypts, and these trees were alive with both raucous chickadees and barking squirrels on the November day that took me there.
Along the back border of the Acton Cemetery is a rock fence meticulously constructed of unmortared limestone. In several places, trees have grown through and toppled a bit of the fence, but it remains in remarkably good condition and is a monument to patient hands.
If you visit the Acton Cemetery, try to go after the first freeze of the fall. This cemetery is replete with native Texas pecan trees that produce an abundance of nuts. Walking among the markers in the cemetery, I gathered a small sack of the richest pecans imaginable.
FM 102, south of Interstate 10
N 29 42.495, W 096 28.865
Dallas Stoudenmire (1845-1882) is said to have looked the part of a lawman. At six feet four inches, he had dark brown hair, green eyes, and the long moustache characteristic of the day. His reputation as a gunfighter grew from his participation in several shoot-outs near Columbus, Texas. When he later traveled west to El Paso, Stoudenmire was hired as city marshal on April 11, 1881. His career as marshal was short, about a year, but eventful.
His reputation and ability to outshoot and outdraw anyone looking for trouble had an immediate calming influence on the town. Four days after assuming office, Stoudenmire was involved in the legendary "Four Dead in Five Seconds" shoot-out. The gunplay took the lives of an innocent bystander (accidentally shot by Stoudenmire), former city marshal George Campbell (probably shot by Stoudenmire), local ruffian John Hale (definitely shot by Stoudenmire), and Constable Gus Krempku (shot by John Hale shortly before his own demise).
But as is often the case, those who "live by the gun" eventually "die by the gun," and Stoudenmire proved no exception. During his tenure a feud developed between Stoudenmire and three brothers, George (Doc), Frank, and James Manning. On the afternoon of September 18, 1882, Stoudenmire agreed to meet in the Manning Saloon, have a drink with the brothers, and sign a peace treaty. But the situation rapidly deteriorated when Doc Manning and Stoudenmire reached for their guns. In the ensuing gunfight Stoudenmire was wounded and fell into a wrestling match in the street with Manning. During the life-or-death struggle, Jim Manning shot and killed Stoudenmire. Both James and Doc Manning went on trial for murder, and each was acquitted in separate trials.
The body of Dallas Stoudenmire was returned to Alleyton and was buried in a simple grave surrounded by an ironwork fence. The grave is just inside the gate to the cemetery along its only dirt road. A new Confederate marker, signifying his service during the Civil War, marks his gravesite.
2900 S. Hayes St.
N 35 11.097, W 101 49.913
Lee and Mary Elizabeth Gilbert Bivins
Lee Bivins (1862-1929) was born in Farmington, Grayson County. By age of twenty he had accumulated his own herd and established two general stores in Sherman. On August 18, 1882, he married his childhood sweetheart, Mary Gilbert (1862-1951). Bivins moved the family to the Panhandle in 1890 and there acquired his first ranch, the Mulberry Pasture, south of Claude.
In the 1920s Bivins was said to be the largest individual cattle owner in the world and the largest landowner west of the Mississippi. At one time he leased or owned more than a million acres of land, and Texas legend has it that he once rode a horse ninety miles from Dalhart to Amarillo without leaving his property.
Mrs. Bivins put the family money to many philanthropic uses (including the donation of the family home as a library), public charities, and support for needy families in the area. She actively supported the Amarillo Tuberculosis Association, the School Children's Relief Fund, and the American Red Cross.
Johnson Blair Cherry
Johnson Blair Cherry (1901-1966) began his football-coaching career in Ranger after graduating from Texas Christian University in 1924. In 1930 Cherry took the job as head coach at Amarillo High School, where his teams won four state championships in seven years. Cherry was hired at the University of Texas in 1937 and served as first assistant on the Longhorn staff for ten years. When Dana X. Bible retired after the 1946 season, Cherry was named head coach. In Cherry's four years at Texas, he had one Southwest Conference championship and an overall record of 32-10-1. Cherry was voted into the Texas Sports Hall of Fame in 1966.
Thomas E. Creek
Lance Corporal Thomas E. Creek (1950-1969) was a member of Company I, Third Battalion, Ninth Marines, Third Marine Division. Near Cam Lo, Vietnam, on February 13, 1969, his rifle squad was providing security for a convoy when a mine detonated, destroying one of the vehicles and halting the others. When a grenade landed between Creek and several companions, he fell on it and saved the lives of his fellow Marines. For his gallant sacrifice, Thomas Creek was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.
Cal Farley (1895-1967) settled in Amarillo in 1923 after service in World War I. A gifted athlete and a savvy businessman, Farley began his business career upon acquiring a rundown tire shop that he built into a lucrative business. In January 1934 he helped found the Maverick Club, an organized sports program with a goal of providing boys a place for exercise and learning. In 1939 he founded Cal Farley's Boys Ranch and soon devoted his full attention to helping homeless and delinquent boys.
Farley was a district governor of Rotary International and is in the Panhandle Sports Hall of Fame. He was named Outstanding Citizen of Texas and given the Veterans of Foreign Wars Silver Citizenship Medal, the Bronze Keystone Award of the Boys Clubs of America, an honorary doctor of humanities degree from Texas Technological College (now Texas Tech University) in 1963.
Dutch Mantell (1881-1941) was born Alfred Albert Joe de Re la Gardiur, in Diekirch, Luxembourg. Although he began his sports career as a prizefighter, he took up wrestling and became a champion in the sport. He became an American citizen in 1906 and for the next six years toured the nation as a wrestler.
From 1913 to 1915 he was a cast member of Hollywood's Keystone Cops. In 1925 Mantell made Amarillo his permanent home, and there he helped promote the Wun-Stop-Duzzit tire business, which belonged to his close friend Cal Farley. Mantell was the inspiration for Farley's Flying Dutchman trademark. Although he was a tough--often mean--competitor in the ring, outside the ropes Dutch Mantell was generous and kind to a fault. Much of his fortune was handed over to those in need. After his death, his estate was split between two organizations he had helped build--the Maverick Club in Amarillo and Cal Farley's Boys Ranch.
Austin A. Meredith
Austin A. Meredith (1891-1963) was one of Texas' most influential water conservationists. As early as 1926, Meredith recognized the need for a water storage reservoir on the Canadian River as a reliable water source for the Panhandle and South Plains areas. Largely as a result of his work, in 1953 the Texas Legislature created the Canadian River Municipal Water Authority. On July 1, 1962, Meredith joined U.S. Secretary of the Interior Stewart Udall in officially beginning construction of the Sanford Dam on the Canadian River. After his death, Congress named the reservoir formed by the dam "Lake Meredith."
Bascom Nolley Timmons
Bascom Timmons (1890-1987) was born in Collin County, Texas. He developed an interest in politics and national affairs at an early age and was writing newspaper articles by age 18. At the 1912 Democratic National Convention he represented the Washington Post and was the youngest reporter in attendance. Timmons established his own Washington news bureau in the mid-1920s and soon had nationwide distribution of his news reports. Timmons wrote three biographies: Garner of Texas (1948), Portrait of an American: Charles Gates Dawes (1953), and Jesse H. Jones: The Man and the Statesman (1956). Timmons was a lifelong animal lover and had 125 of his cats buried in a cat cemetery in Washington, D.C.