FAYETTE COUNTY, TEXAS
A sampling of interesting grave markers in the Old La Grange City Cemetery
From the Fayette Heritage Museum and Archives:This burial ground dates back to the early days of La Grange and Fayette County. The oldest marked burial is for Joseph G. King who died July 30, 1840. On the 21st of May 1853, before the incorporation of La Grange and 13 years after the first burial, the "Old Cemetery" was owned by James Seaton Lester, Albert C. Horton, Joseph Shaw and P.V. Shaw. They conveyed the property to George W. Sinks, Wm. G. Webb, Charles S. Longcope, John H. Carter and F.W. Grassmeyer to hold it in trust for the citizens of La Grange as a burying ground. After the town was incorporated, and on the 3rd day of July 1854, the trustees above named, conveyed it to the city of La Grange.
In 1867 the "Yellow Fever Scourge" befell the small town of La Grange. From August to November the epidemic ran its course and left more than 200 dead, nearly one-fifth the population of the town. Many deaths went unreported; bodies rudely prepared for burial stood in piles within the cemetery fence. Mass burials took place, with 6 or 7 bodies to a grave.
By 1872, the cemetery was a wilderness of grass and weeds, cattle and hogs were frequent trespassers, monuments had been injured and graves trampled on. No one ever thought of visiting there, except to bury another "pilgrim".
On April 17, 1873, fourteen ladies met and organized the Ladies Cemetery Association. It was the first such organization chartered in Texas. These women raised money and replaced the wooden fence surrounding the site with an iron fence in 1883. Later they added a waterworks, settees, and a covered resting-place in the center of the cemetery. A sexton was hired to do additional work. The group was active until the late 1970's when the upkeep of the cemetery was turned back to the City of La Grange. The cemetery has suffered from acts of vandalism over the years.
The cemetery is divided into 2 sections. Section 1 contains lots 1 through 135; Section 2 contains lots 1 through 161. Lot numbers used are shown inside a O on the map. A map of the cemetery is located in the archives reading room.
At present the cemetery is enclosed by an iron fence and is bordered by Travis (Business Hwy 77), College, & Colorado Streets. Kathy Carter and Helen Muras recorded this cemetery in 1988 by using the cemetery index and map prepared and revised by Walter P. Freytag and M.J. von Minden in June 1975. Kathy Carter revised the report in February 1999. Additional yellow fever dates and information is taken from the States Right Democrat newspaper dated 12-6-1867, sited as "SRD" in this index. Most of the same information is found in Fayette County: Past and Present edited by M. Williams on pages 42-44. Another source cited is a news article from the La Grange Journal of May 27, 1926.
Text from Texas Historical Commission Marker:
OLD CITY CEMETERY
Used for burials by 1840, this site was deeded by J. S. Lester to trustees who conveyed it to La Grange after incorporation of the city on July 3, 1854. Fourteen townswomen on April 17, 1873, formed what was probably the first such organization in Texas when they organized the Ladies' Cemetery Association of La Grange. Mrs. L. W. Moore was the first president. Since that time, this association has maintained and administered city cemetery. Annual decoration day, started in 1874, honors those resting here including many of the pioneers who fought for Texas freedom.
A Footprints of Fayette Article:
Vandalism at the Old La Grange City Cemetery
By Carolyn Heinsohn
In today’s world, we have become numb to the daily news with its seemingly endless accounts of crime. Vandalism is a common occurrence, most of which never makes the news. However, we still consider churches and cemeteries to be sacred and off-limits to purposeful destruction. Desecration in either place raises the hackles of most people who cannot understand the mentality of perpetrators who seem to get personal gratification when they destroy what we hold most dear.
On the morning of February 20,1908, the people of La Grange were shocked to learn that their beautiful Old City Cemetery had been brutally attacked during the night while the city slept. The sexton of the cemetery telephoned the sheriff’s office that morning to report that some vandals had wrought havoc on some 30 monuments and gravestones. That preliminary count was soon increased to 67 markers and tombstones that had been turned over, broken in half or completely destroyed. One beautiful little angel marking a child’s grave was broken into multiple pieces with no hope of it ever being repaired. The obelisk tombstone for James Seaton Lester, an early citizen of La Grange who had donated the land for the cemetery, was also broken in half.
In addition to Sheriff William Loessin, Ben Harigel, the editor of the La Grange Journal, was also called to the scene. In a book that he later wrote on his recollections of important events in the community, Harigel stated that almost every man and woman in town were gathered at the cemetery that morning, and had the culprit been known at that moment the law could not have protected him against the wrath of the citizens. People were demanding help and a solution, so Sheriff Loessin searched through the cemetery for any possible clues. Wherever there was a footprint, he poured Plaster of Paris into it for a mold, adding a small sign with the words, “Do Not Disturb” to keep the curious from damaging potential evidence.
It was obvious to everyone at the cemetery that there were several railway cars, commonly termed “boarding cars” used by the bridge and building crew of a railroad company, sitting on a siding next to the old cemetery. Then the clues started coming together for the sheriff when he recalled that a citizen had called him a few days prior to the vandalism to report that the cook in the kitchen of the crew’s car was throwing empty cans into the street, to which Loessin had acted promptly to correct the situation. He then announced, “It may be that one of the bunch of the railway workers did the work!”
Several days had passed when a self-appointed committee circulated a petition among the citizens, asking to create a monetary fund that would be given to the officer who made an arrest. Of course, that task fell to the sheriff, who along with Constable Lee Smith, had been quietly working to gather evidence. Once Sheriff Loessin felt that he had all the evidence he needed, he arrested James Harkins, a 30-year old member of the railroad bridge gang, charging him with the crime.
Upon arrest, Harkins confessed that “he was angered at having to remove the debris from the street – the tin cans – and that on the night when he committed the act of desecration, he was drunk. When he neared his destination – the boarding cars – he thought of what the city had ‘done to him’ and let his wrath out on the grave markers. He quit turning them over after he became exhausted. Then he calmly went to his bunk and slept without dreaming.”
However, when the case came to trial, Harkens refuted his confession and denied his guilt. District Attorney Sam C Lowrey persisted with the interrogation until Harkens got caught up in his lies, and the culprit became a subject for indictment for perjury as well as his initial crime. He was found guilty and sentenced to serve four years in the penitentiary.
Workers employed at the O.E. Stolz Marble and Granite Works of La Grange repaired the grave stones to the best of their ability, although some were too damaged to fix. Flat stones that were broken were placed on concrete slabs on the ground, obelisks were lifted back into place and cemented together, including the one for James Seaton Lester, and other ornamentation was replaced. However, some of the beautiful works of art like the little angel were gone forever. The repair work somewhat reconciled the people of La Grange, but their beautiful cemetery would never look the same after that shameless act of desecration.
Comparing several archival photographs of the damage to the present-day cemetery, it is evident that the vandalized section of the cemetery encompasses an area including two rows of lots alongside College Street extending from E. Colorado Street almost to E. Travis Street. The terrible damage can still be seen today, especially at those graves with nothing left but a monument base to indicate a burial.
How sad it is to see that tombstones and beautiful monuments that were lovingly placed on the graves of loved ones, hopefully for perpetuity, were destroyed in a moment in time by someone whose rage blocked out his sensibilities. His actions are forever “written in stone”.
Harigel, Ben F. Leaflets from the Book of Life, La Grange Journal; March 1946
Weimar Mercury. Feb 29, 1908; pp. 2 & 8
29 Feb 1908, page 2
LaGrange, Feb. 20. The citizens of this quiet little city were shocked this morning when the sexton of the two pretty cemeteries telephoned to the sheriff's office that some vandals had entered the old cemetery during the night and wrought havoc to some thirty of the pretty monuments and gravestones. What the motive could have been is a mystery, unless it was to create the great indignation that now exists.
The scene at the cemetery really beggars description. The vandals were not satisfied with merely toppling over a few monuments, but continued in their work until some very costly statues and stones were not only turned over, but demolished as well. The damage will run high into the thousands.
Subscriptions are being taken to raise funds to apprehend the culprits.
29 Feb 1908, page 8
LaGrange, Feb. 22. Since the vandalism in the cemetery last Thursday night, when sixty seven graves were desecrated, tombstones toppled over and many broken, City Marshal Will Loessin and Constable Lee Smith have been especially active in their efforts to locate the guilty party. This morning Marshal Loessin, upon complaint made to Justice Ledbetter's court, arrested one James Harkins, charging him with the crime. Harkins is about 30 years of age and had been working here with a bridge gang.
Over 550 markers in the Old La Grange City Cemetery have been photographed by Stacy Sneed and transcribed by Connie and Stacy Sneed. Trish Machala also helped with some of the transcriptions:
In Memory of Rachel Parsons
July 17 1799[1792?] - June 1852
Memory of Elender Murchison
Henry F. Jurgens
April 3 1856 - Nov 21 1914
28 Jan 1851 - 4 Apr 1950
In Memory of Henry Holste
Born at Hamburg, Germany
Died March 25 1866 aged 56 years
Daughter of H.F. & J. Jurgens
Jan 30 1890 - Nov 3 1890
In Memory of Louisa (Holste)
Wife of Henry Holste
Born at Bloomberg, Germany
Died May 20 1883 Age 65 years
In Memory of Charles (Holste)
son of Henry and Louisa Holste
Died Nov. 6, 1868 aged 22 years
Hermes Lot Marker
9/23/1838 - 9/13/1867
1/3/1881 - 1/12/1940
12/5/1866 - 9/13/1867
3/11/1873 - 1/19/1876
12/28/1876 - 5/28/1880
Dr. William Hermes
1/12/1823 - 4/12/1922
10/17/1842 - 1/10/1932
Rochine Kunigunde Meyenberg
Born 1828 Died 1867
March 17 1863 -Sept 8 1867
June 25 1855 - Sept. 13, 1867
Feb. 11, 1861 - Oct. 16, 1867
Son of F.C. & Selma Streithoff
2/11/1861 - 6/18/1899 aged one year, 4 months, 9 days
Sept. 3, 1853 -Sept.11, 1864
Infant son of L. & Meta Walter
Born & Died Nov. 12, 1887
"Gone so soon"
Elizabeth (Walter) 5/1/1825 - 9/11/1867
August (Walter) 12/9/1817 - 8/15/1880
"Walter" was on the bottom of the headstone, not shown in picture
In Memory of James Sayre Wooley
6/15/1816 - 11/12/1845
1842 - 1874
P. Carl J. von Rosenberg
10/12/1794 - 10/19/1866
"A soldier of Waterloo, A pioneer of Texas"
9/5/1865 - 11/22/1866
Henry Stuedemann 3/30/1839 - 11/15/1887
Emma Stuedemann (wife) 10/24/1840 - 12/24/1887
Baby Ann Lee
Daughter of Ed & Erie Stuedemann
1/15/1905 - 9/9/1905
"A little bud of love to bloom with God above"
4/20/1841 - 9/11/1867
Anna M. A. Pauli
wife of G. Paul
7/5/1840 - 9/9/1862
1/28/1809 - 11/29/1898
Anton B. Frede
7/25/1802 - 5/10/1851
Louisa Marla Fink
6/16/1855 - 10/11 1856
Memory of Francis Joseph Frede
2/13/1808 - 1/4/1851
Otto Frances Fink
11/14/1856 - 8/27/1857
3/26/1850 - 7/25/1884
August H. Frede
son of B & A Frede
8/3/1860 - died at La Grange 7/14/1880
In memory of our father John Fink 2/25/1818 - 8/6/1876
10/31/1832 - 9/12/1867
In memory of Phebe wife of Ebenezer S. Woolley
3/19/1810 - 11 Jan 1840
5/12/1838 - 9/7/1868
2/3/1837 - 9/7/1867
9/11/1826 - 9/7/1867
Mary wife of Thomas Carter
Died in La Grange Fayette County Texas
12/23/1852 aged 33 years
"She lives in Heaven"
1/22/1882 - 1/23/1882
infant child of Mr. and Mrs. H.C. Klockmann
Feb. 26 1886
12/25/1882 - 5/2/1889
10/6/1827 - 8/31/1869
Carl G. Klockmann
8/11/1854 - 10/19/1867
Andenken des Heinrich Brandes
5/12/1816 - 12/22/1873
Carl A. Hunger 5/18/1840 - 6/17/1884
Augusta Hunger 8/17/1853 - 5/2/1932
9/16/1870 - July 1873
1/11/1848 - 8/21/1873
Anna C. Tell
May 4, 1819 - Jan 12, 1892
Otto August Hunger
10/9/1875 - 8/25/1960
Louise E. Wicke
Born in La Grange Dec. 4, 1868
Died 10 Apr 1895 in Florence, Colo.
Clara Belle Cearnal
5/28/1893 - 11/19/1894
See more markers in the Old La Grange City Cemetery 1 2 3 4 5 6
Ladies' Cemetery Association of La Grange