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Another Way to Preserve The Past

We were all disappointed when we had to cancel our March HCAA General meeting and Jenny McWilliams’ presentation about “Locating Lost Cemeteries in the Hill Country” due to Covid-19. As Jenny wrote in the abstract for her talk, “archeologists are trained to observe the landscape and look for clues of the past. Site identification is at the very core of preservation.” I would add, not just preservation of the cemetery to prevent its destruction, but to PRESERVE THE PAST history that is connected to the person, their descendants and community.

Figure 1. The undocumented graves of Christian Bergmann and his wife, a founding family in Kendall County that arrived about 1856.

John Benedict, Francoise Wilson, Craig Mangham, and Karen Moritz and I had just started visiting some of the cemeteries to help Jenny prepare for the 3-day TAS Field School cemeteries workshop when this pandemic put a halt to travel. This time of isolation hasn’t stopped the hunt for lost cemeteries, though! It has given a few of us time to do lots of research, so we will talk to persons who are very knowledgeable about local history and genealogy, and searched online for clues that would lead us to the location of some of the lost cemeteries—it is sleuthing at its best!

In Kerr county alone there are over 50 known cemeteries and likely be ready to visit and document some of the lost cemeteries when travel restrictions lift. We have searched old newspapers, county property records, old census records, contacted another 50 or so to be discovered. So far, we have learned of two cemeteries in Kerr County that have never been documented with Texas Historical Commission or our local historic and genealogy groups.

Both are graves of single individuals on private properties. One grave is of a one- year-old child who died in 1880. When we finally determined exactly where the grave was located, I wrote to the land- owner to request access to her property. She called me and I had a lovely 30-minute conversation with this 91 year old lady. She is so eager for us to visit the grave and is anxious to learn all about her ancestors who lost this child. She wants to share that information with her descendants so they will preserve that single grave marker.

Figure 2. Undocumented African American grave of Peter Wren died 1899, son of a former slave in Kendall County.

If you enjoy looking for clues to solve mysteries, you will enjoy being part of this hunt. We need more members to help us with this work. There are 16 cemeteries in Kerr County which Jenny has asked us to find, gain access from the landowners, visit the cemetery, determine its GPS location, photograph and document inscriptions on head stones, measure the cemetery dimensions and document its condition. We will help you learn how to do these interesting tasks. Below is a link to a list of known Kerr County cemeteries. The second link is an excellent article from Texas Historical Commission about cemetery preservation.

We will have Jenny back to provide her presentation when we can resume HCAA meetings again. Until then, if you’d like to help preserve the past through these lost cemeteries, please email Terry Farley or call her at 830-496-0531.

Learn more . . .
Kerr County Historical Cemeteries
Texas Historical Commission – Cemetery Preservation

Stay healthy!
Terry Farley
, HCAA Vice President