Thursday, 1 November 2018

Not Just Bones

Having absolutely nothing to do with the fact that Halloween was only yesterday, today’s post comes in the form of a few sentences about cemeteries.  On all of our travels this year, Abby and I marveled over the vast number of cemeteries.  Not the big giant kind I grew up around in Galveston where we held our breaths for the drive by, or as teenagers, challenged ourselves with a sit and chat to no one in particular.  These cemeteries Abby and I would see advertised were down dirt roads that seemingly went off the side of the earth when I would peer down them trying to catch a glimpse of a graveyard, often a family plot, as suggested by the name of the cemetery.  When it was convenient, we would stop and muse over the script etched into the stones of granite or marble and the lives of people we didn’t know.  In my experience, cemeteries either fascinate a person, or absolutely don’t.

I am fascinated.  To me, cemeteries are not simply a boneyard of the forgotten, but history, alive and well.  Gravestones tell a story and conger the imagination of a time before today.  It is very much going back in time, in an instant.  There are famous cemeteries, private cemeteries, cemeteries divided by race or distinction.  Texas has MANY cemeteries and they are very big.  There is one nearby in Victoria, where (I was amazed to learn) I have several renowned buried relatives! I also learned I have relatives buried in Cuero and Austin, crazy.  Mostly however, I am intrigued with the forgotten cemeteries.

 Those are the ones that prompt me the most.  The ones that jab and make me want to probe into the lives of strangers.  Through this I have learned that foundations exist for volunteers to care for cemeteries that have long lost their patron saints.  Counties have taken on the job of caring for the history and restoration of cemeteries with the help of others who want to get involved.  That is a volunteer opportunity calling my name!  As an example, the county in which I live, Lavaca county, has a website dedicated to this subject,  A further example that can be found at that website is a cemetery in Hallettsville that I recently had a stroll through, called Hallettsville Memorial Park, also known as the Hallettsville Graveyard.   It is a bewitching story of bodies that have been moved into and from the graveyard, stones lost or displaced.  Here is an excerpt from the website:

A large number of tombstones in Lavaca County have been moved from one cemetery to another. In some cases the bodies were reinterred, but often just the marker was moved.
The Hallettsville Memorial Park has a lot of markers lying in slabs of concrete and it's believed that many of these were moved into Hallettsville from rural burial grounds in an attempt to "save" them. Similarly, a large number of markers were moved to the Hallettsville City Cemetery after it opened in 1890 from the Hallettsville Memorial Park which was poorly kept at the time. That's how some markers in the new cemetery have death dates that predate the cemetery.
There are several cases in Sammy Tise's cemetery books where a person is listed in two cemeteries. We also know of several cases where markers were moved to another county.
Please contact Regena if you can contribute to this list of displaced markers.

Last week, Abby wrote a bit about genealogy which is a subject, I myself, was lucky enough to get treated to, by a friend that essentially broke down a huge hunk of my family, on my mothers side, producing a book at the end. There is a tie between genealogy and cemeteries. The book led me to lots of interesting stories and grave sites.  I now assume, that all of the graves I visit have a story and what fun learning or imagining what they might be!  Hanging out in cemeteries is not creepy, it is educational, thought provoking and encourages creativity.  It also is a great way to get outside, not just the environment, but yourself.

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