Reading about history and hearing the tales may educate you . . . they may even entertain you. But, staring down at the final resting place of those who lived through historic events and times touches something inside in a way that’s hard to deny.
That’s how I feel whenever I take the time to pull off the road and stroll through an old community cemetery that presents itself along the way.
Some are cloaked in shadows cast by towering oaks, pine or cypress, while others are barren of all but tall weeds growing between broken bits of granite, marble and concrete. But, despite their varied appearances these old cemeteries share a solemnness, and an almost deafening quiet as you gingerly make your way from marker to marker to read a snippet or two about a total stranger.
The old cemetery in Montgomery is where the remains of several hometown boys from the Civil War rest. Their markers note the company in which they served as members of the Texas Cavalry – CSA. A small Confederate flag adds a touch of color to each grave. One of those is Zacharia Landrum, 1839-1868, Pvt. 17th Brigade – Texas Militia, Confederate States of America.
Nearby is the tombstone of Owen Shannon. An attachment, green with age given by the Daughters of the American Revolution, honor a man who fought for American independence and spent the later years of his life building a Republic and a nation. A second marker on grave reads, “Citizen of the Republic of Texas.” What a statement.
In the old Magnolia cemetery is the headstone of R.T. Smith, 20th Texas Infantry, born July 16, 1840, died September 10, 1927. Buried nearby is Robert Chandler Smith, U.S. Navy, a veteran of World War II, Korea and Vietnam. Shared dedication to their country and patriotism in life, and now neighbors in death in a small town northwest of Houston.
Perched on a hill in Round Top, off of Highway 290 between Giddings and Brenham, the cemetery at the historic Bethlehem Lutheran Church overlooks a peaceful scene of green pastures and rolling hills. The property is surrounded by walls of native stone neatly stacked in long rows, and rough, aged wooden gates. Select plots are accented with wrought iron fence rusting with age and weathering. Here lies the body of Charles T. Bauer, Co. 1 – 5th Texas Cavalry – CSA, 1830-1869. A native son of Round Top.
Similar cemeteries from Galveston to Amarillo are filled with tales of belief in a cause, bravery and the willingness to fight the good fight. They are time capsules that offer a glimpse into the lives of those Texans who preceded us in life, and who now claim a small plot of Lone Star turf for their own in death.
The Texas Travelin’ Man is Michael Baxter