Robbie Sanders presents“Fairview Cemetery” hosted by theBastrop Public Library February 1, 2011
Beer Drinking Shower It’s hard to believe that visiting a cemetery can make you laugh. Well, here is one of my favorite markers in Fairview Cemetery. This man was a lineman and I suppose they can’tclimb poles or work on the electric lines in the rain. His prayer is for a shower so he could get off work early and go have a beer. Good Deals Bad Deals Footstone of Leo Schaefer whose nickname was “Snooks”
Fairview Cemetery Gate Good evening. I’m Robbie Sanders and I’m president of the Bastrop County Historical Society. The history of Bastrop can be discovered in our museum, or during a visit to the cemetery, revealing many clues to the history of Bastrop. For those of you who don’t know, Fairview Cemetery is on the north edge of Bastrop, on Hwy 95, just north of the intersection of Chestnut Street and Hwy 95. There are three entrances into Fairview, and this is the southern-most entrance. Today, the cemetery covers about 40 acres. The cemetery dates to 1832 when Bastrop was surveyed and laid out in compliance with Stephen F. Austin’s Mexican colonization grant. The grant required that a specific parcel of land be set aside for a graveyard.The original 1832 survey notes of surveyor Samuel Brown still exist. The notes also refer to a central square, a church and priest’s house, a slaughter house, a jail and a municipal building for a school. The streets were to run from North to South andEast to West, with the block on the extreme northeast edge of town for the cemetery. Today, the cemetery is the only recognizable landmark from the beginning of Stephen F. Austin’s “Little Colony.”
Hill topThis photograph is taken from the tallest hill looking toward Elgin. You are looking at the north (back) slope of that hill. This is the location of the earliest burials. Cemetery statuary and headstones were unavailable in the young colony and headstones would have consisted of piled up stones or wooden crosses that deteriorated long ago. Today, no one is allowed, to be buried in this area because we don’t know where any of those graves are. It is speculated that early mourners would station a lookout on the top of the hill, warning the grieving families below of approaching Indians. There were a few settlers in Bastrop before 1832 when the town was finally platted and they were already burying people here. We know from early documents, that the first two graves were on this northern slope in 1830, and were two children of Martin Wells. Since their graves are unmarked, their exact location unknown.
Iron Pen - Crescentia Augusta Fischer As I said, the oldest two graves are from 1830, but the oldest marked grave is of Crescentia Augusta Fischer who died on June 28, 1841. Her grave is surrounded by a four foot high iron pen with German script written on a wide metal cross. When I first came to Bastrop, there was much speculation about Crescentia. Some said she was a show girl, some said she was of nobility who had married a commoner and had to escape to the US to avoid the wrath of her father. But, in the late 1990’s her family’s descendants, who were still living in Germany, wrote to one of our German historians in Elgin to inquire about the location of her grave. Their letters told this story:Crescentia, her husband, and two children arrived in Galveston during the heightof a yellow fever epidemic. One child contracted the fever and died there. They came to Bastrop in an attempt to escape the fever. They came by wagon, traveling only 10 to 12 miles a day. But it was too late – Cresentia had already contracted the fever and died here 5 days after they arrived. Her husband, Dr. Fischer, stayed in Bastrop for a few years after that and taught school before moving on to Fayette Co. He wrote to her relatives in Germany to tell them what had happened and they had kept his letters and passed them down to succeeding generations. From his letters, we have also learned that Dr. Fischer was one of Bastrop’s earliest teachers. The translated inscription on the cross reads: “Here rests Dr. J. A. Fischer’s wife, Crescentia Augusta Fischer, Born Boos Von Munchen in Barvia, died here the 28 of June 1841, 34 years old. Dedicated by her brother’s-in-law Carl and Ulrich Fischer.”
Nelson BurchNelson is one of my favorite people buried in Fairview. His headstone says he was born in NY 1804 and died in Bastrop in1885. Burch arrived in the Republic of Texas about 1839 and taught school for a few years before entering into the mercantile business. By the time of the Civil War in 1861, he had become the town’s largest merchant and owned three large businesses on Bastrop’s Main St.However, during the War, Burch’s three buildings were destroyed in the fire of July1862, as well as all the businesses on both sides of Main St. At the time of the fire, all the businesses were wood frame construction and the destruction was immense. Burch immediately began rebuilding, erecting a two story brick building. That building is at the corner of Main and Chestnut. Early Bastrop historian, Molly McDowall, tried to describe Burch in her manuscript titled “A Journey Through Memory Halls.”1. Slender man of moderate height2. Forehead sloped back with curved nose and chin almost meeting.3. It was whispered he wore corsets.4. His shirt front was stiffly starched and sometimes he wore what was called a dickey – a false shirt front, often ruffled and pleated.5. His collars were extremely stiff and standing – they seemed to be supporting his ears.6. His trousers were tight and strapped underneath his shoes.7. He wore a long tailed coat of paisley pattern. He had it for many years. His wife called it his “long tail blue.” She finally cut it up, much to his sorrow, and embroidered it for a chair seat and back. Eventually it was made into a cover for a serving tray.
In the early days merchants went to New York once or twice a year tobuy goods. Mr. Burch made many trips, many of them by stage coach. On one trip he married a very beautiful, younger woman. Everyone in town wondered how she could have married him. She was gay and lively and he stiff and formal. After he died, those who remembered and spoke of him said “He was a good citizen, desiring the advancement of the interests of town and country, believing that a bright future awaited them.” Burch’s building at Chestnut and Main
Oscar Burger In regard to the fire of 1862, this is the headstone of Oscar Burger (age 15) who was the only death in the fire, and was the night watchman at the Eilers Building, which is where Baxter’s is located today. It is believed that someone tried to rob the store and thatOscar was knocked out or killed, then the fire was deliberately set to hide the evidence. The fire destroyed all the building on two blocks of Main Street.
Photograph of Cayton ErhardAnother early settler is Cayton Erhard. His parents died on the same night in Bastropin 1839. In 1841, he joined the force of 321 volunteers attached to the Texian Santa Fe Expedition. They were trying to establish trade between the Republic of Texas and Mexico when they were taken prisoner in New Mexico by Mexican forces. They were chained together and marched 90 miles across the desert without water, food or firewood. Erhard was held in prison two years before returning to Bastrop. Many of you know of him because he owned what became known as the oldest drug store in Texas. After his death, his son, and then his grandson,Harry Erhard, owned the drugstore. It was in the vacant lot in the 900 block of Main, next door to Baxters restaurant.
Erhard tombstoneErhard wrote his final wishes several years before he died. He wantedto be buried after sundown, by torchlight. He wanted a band of musicto accompany his body to the grave. Then, he wanted the cannon that was fired off every time there was a victory of the Democratic party, hauled out and fired “to announce in deep tunes of thunder, that another of Texas early settlers, a Veteran, is gone.”
Sherman Reynolds headstone Sherman Reynolds (1816-1879) was among the early settlers who contributed toour history. He came to Bastrop in 1844 and around 1848 built the steamboat “Watermoccasin” which made several trips from Bastrop to Matagorda. The boat sank near the town of Columbus in 1856. His wife, Martha Christian Reynolds, was the daughter of Thomas Christian who was killed by Indians in 1833 during the same attack where Josiah Wilbarger was scalped and lived. James P. Wallace James P. Wallace was among the group of men who served as the very first Texas Rangers, which was organized in 1835. He became known as one-eyed-Wallace after loosing an eye in an Indian skirmish.
JenkinsJohn Holland Jenkins, who at age 13, is credited with being the youngest member of Sam Houston’s army for Texas Independence. He is also author of “Recollections of Early Texas” which is now one of the state’s most widely read historical resources.
Dunbar This is the headstone of William Dunbar (1819–1855), a member of the Meir Expedition. They were imprisoned in Mexico from 1842-1843.You’ll remember that the Meir prisoners escaped at one point and were recaptured. As punishment, they were forced to draw from a jar of white and black beans. Those who drew the black beans were shot. Dunbar drew a white bean and lived. Fairview holds over 50 of these early settlers and their stories tell of great Texas and Bastrop History.
Roy Wilkes – Spanish American WarFairview has veterans from the War of 1812, the Battle of San Jacinto, the Texas Warfor Independence, the Spanish American War, over 60 from the Civil War, as well as veterans from World War I, World War II, the Korean Conflict, the Vietnam War, and the Persian Gulf War. Governor Sayers family plot with flags One of the Civil War veterans was former U.S. Congressman and Governor Joseph Sayers. He attended school at the Bastrop Military Institute where he received his military training.
Governor Sayers up close The Masonic Lodge has the permission to tend the Sayers family graves.Fairview is one of a few cemeteries in the state that holds the remains of a Texas Governor. The rest have been reinterred in the State Cemetery in Austin.
Kerr family plot Community leaders in Fairview include Robert Kerr, our area’s first elected black legislator. He was elected to the House of Representativesserving from 1881-1883. He was also elected as a Bastrop School trustee. In the same plot, we have Beverly and Lula Kerr who are responsible for Founding the Kerr Community Center.
Silent City of the DeadIn its earliest day, a few written sources refer to the cemetery as “The Silent City of the Dead,” but I imagine it was usually called “the burying ground… or the graveyard.” The early cemetery was unfenced. There were wild hogs, longhorns, and bears that roamed freely, and were known to startle unsuspecting visitors or even destroy recently decorated sites.Throughout the years, there have been many attempts to fence the cemetery. In the early years it was to keep out bad animals, but more recently, the fences are there to keep out bad people. Many of you may remember the horrible vandalism that occurred in 1997 where headstones were toppled over and many were completelydestroyed. The beautiful iron and stone fence you see today was built in 1998 witha grant from Texas Department of Transportation. Our local City police department locks the gates at dusk and opens them again at dawn.
Photo of Drucilla Orgain For 114 years the cemetery was operated by a cemetery association, and I love the story of how the came to be. This is a picture of Drucilla Orgain who lived on Church Street. She seemed to be the cultural and moral leaderof Bastrop. The City Aldermen (council) were responsible for the upkeep of thecemetery but evidently they couldn’t please some of the town folks. In 1881, thewomen of the town, led by Drucilla, made one of their many visits to City hall to demand that the cemetery be cleaned up. The frustrated Aldermen threw up their hands and said to the ladies, “You do it,” and the association was born. The cemetery association became known as the Bastrop Cemetery Association and lasted 114 years until the care of the cemetery was turned back over to the City in 2005. In 1884, this Association decided that the cemetery should be named. The names Aurora Hill and Fairview were submitted for a vote to the membership and, of course, we know Fairview won. So, after being called “Silent City of the Dead,” or just “graveyard” for 50 years, it was finally named Fairview in 1884.
Looking toward Hwy 95 In 1886, a special meeting of the City Aldermen was called to vote on an ordinance to set aside a part of Fairview, ( I’ll quote) “…for the burial of deceased colored people exclusively.” This section was located on the Southwest corner of the original cemetery where that land now faces Hwy 95. Of course, today, anyone can be buried anywhere in the cemetery. When you look across this historic section you may wonder why here are so many open spaces. No more burials are allowed here because there may be graves without headstones. This is just like situation on the North slope of the tallest hill. But, if you have a family plot in this area, and feel relatively certainthere is room in your plot, you may bury family members within your family’s space,but you dig at your own risk. This is the same situation in the original 20 acres of the cemetery where they have not sold lots since the early 1980’s.The African American Cemetery Association was formed in the 1940’s and tended the graves in the black section. Their association was the Fairview Cemetery Association and they operated over 50 years and also turned over their responsibilities to the city in 2005. When we applied for a historical marker for the cemetery from the Texas Historic Commission, one of the questions on the application asked if there was a specific section set aside for African Americans. If the answer was yes, that helped document the age of the cemetery and helped toward getting the historic marker. Another question on the application asked if all the graves face the same direction – East. This was a Christian tradition to face the morning sun and it continues in Fairview today.
Water pumpUntil 1907 there was no water available in the cemetery. Residents had to haul water by horseback or wagon in whatever container they could find. Once a year, on Decoration Day, barrels of water were placed at convenient locations by the association members, but there was nothing available other times of the year. The old hand pump is located in the old part of the cemetery and its 110 foot deep well was dug in early 1907. The water pump worked until the 1960’s. This well was the only water supply in the cemetery until 1943 when water lines from Bastrop were connected to the cemetery, making water available throughout.
Headstones are just like houses, they reflect the popular architectural styles of their time. In Fairview you can find a variety of stylesfrom early Texas markers with no embellishment to markers from the Victorian era that have mourning drapes and tassels or even large ornate statuary, as well as Art Deco markers. This Art Deco marker is from 1933.
Some of the markers have symbols or emblems thattell if the deceased was a Mason, Woodsman of the World, Odd Fellow, or a Knights of Pythias. This one represents The Masons This is the Eastern Star Odd Felows
Woodsman of the world Joined forever in death as in lifeThe Head of Household has fallen
Eye of God This beautiful emblem is the Eye of God within a triangle. The triangle stands for the Trinity. But times are changing. When you enter the cemetery through the South Entrance, the land on the right side of the road is eight acres that was donated to the cemetery by Dr. J. Gordon Bryson in 1947.It’s been over 60 years but it’s still called “the new” section by locals. In this section you can still see traditional and religious designs in headstones, but it is also where we see changing or current trends in headstones. Today, it’s not uncommon for a headstone to reflect the hobby or interest of the deceased.
The City recently purchased land along Hwy 95 for future expansion of the cemetery. It’s not open for burials yet, but when it does open, we’ll probably have another trend: Maybe we’ll have holograms of ourselves or talking headstones. Gazebo The Historical Society undertook a major fundraising project to restore and renovate the cemetery during 2005. With the help of the City, the County, and lots of community support, projects included the new stone gazebo,new roads, electricity, the Historical Marker from the Texas Historic Commission, the restoration of the Kerr family grave site, and enhancement of the area known as the War Babies. At the completion of these projects, the cemeterywas turned back over to the city who now operates it again for the first time since 1881.
War Babies Angel When I came to Bastrop in 1982, there was a section in the cemetery that had agrouping of gnarled, rusted crosses, but with no names. They looked like they had been placed there by the funeral home. As the years went by, the number of crosses became smaller and smaller, until one day, they were all gone. They were probably in the way of the maintenance equipment. I learned that the area was sometimes referred to as “the soldier’s children” or the “War Babies.” After investigation, Bobby Jenkins put me on the right track. I called Bobby’s elderly aunt who lived in Houston. She worked at Hasler Brothers Funeral Home during the time these children were buried. She gave me the full story. As part of the cemetery restoration, we bought the War Babies Guardian Angel and subject marker. I’d like to read the dedication to you: “During World War II, over 300,000 troops were trained seven miles north of Bastrop at Camp Swift. Many women moved to Bastrop for a few months to be near their soldier one last time before his deployment overseas. Some of these women, upon the death of a child, had no money for burial. Assistance was provided by the owners of Hasler Brothers Funeral Home who bought fabric at the local Five & Dime store to line small wooden coffins and purchased doll clothes for the deceased infants. The children were buried free of charge in this area of Fairview. When the mothers returned to their homes in distant towns and States, the graves were forgotten. It is believed there are at least 16 “War Babies” in unmarked graves. Their names are unknown.”
The Bastrop County Historical Society has placed small crosses where the children are thought to be buried. It is speculated that thisarea may have been reserved for children long before the war even began. The strange thing is that people bring flowers to this guardian angel. At first, the flowers were only in the angel’s arms or at her base. But now, some unknown person, or persons, places flowers at each one of the children’s crosses. In Fairview you can find laughter, touching stories of pioneers, war heroes, and the every day citizen whose lives have been a part of the fine history of our town. Thank you.