Janice Williams Loves Austin And sometimes I write about it.

October 27, 2013

The Oakwood Cemetery Tour

Filed under: Austin,Cemeteries,Genealogy — Janice @ 10:21 pm

I finally went on the Murder and Mayhem cemetery tour that goes on at Austin’s Oakwood Cemetery every Halloween. Well, actually, this was the 7th annual tour. I know you would think that I would have gone to it every year. I think I have avoided it because it reminds me of getting fired! It was 6 years ago today that I lost my radio job. The last blog post I put on my site was about the cemetery tour and how interesting it looked. That was their very first year. When I got laid off, the station deleted me from everything on their websites for the most part, but if you searched my name on Google, my station blog would still come up and that post was there. Yes, I Googled it a lot just to see how inept they were and how long they would let my blog stay available. It was there for a long time!

But I finally got to the cemetery and loved it (of course). I have NEVER even walked around Oakwood. I know that seems weird when I pull my car over for strange cemeteries all up and down the highway.

Before I went to the tour, I went to the Oakwood Annex, which is, technically, a completely different cemetery just to the east of Oakwood (Austin’s oldest cemetery). I knew there was one Cunningham relative in the Annex and I went to see if I could find his grave. I did find where his grave is supposed to be, but there is no headstone. I don’t know if there ever was a headstone. He died when he was only 21, of TB. But he had been living at the Austin State School for the past 8 years, according to the death certificate. From what I read about the school at that time, he must have been mentally retarded and that was where he needed to be in order to be cared for and educated. I believe his family lived in San Angelo at the time, and his father was sick with TB and meningitis about the time he was sent away, so I make up my own stories about what was going on in their household at the time. But poor J.V. Lewis didn’t have a grave marker, but at least I know where he is buried.

On to the tour… Tour guides in interesting costumes led the tour. Apparently the city has requested that the tour not mention ghosts or focus on anything gruesome. I’m okay with that. Instead, it was vivid storytelling by maybe 8 “actors” at gravesites, telling the story of their husband/granddaughter/self who was dead in the grave and how it happened. Some were better than others, but all were interesting.

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Our tour guide was Danny Camacho, who has several relatives buried in the cemetery and is a big activist in the Save Austin Cemeteries community. He was quite entertaining.

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This was one of the actresses telling the story from the perspective of Bertha Duesterhoeft. Her husband owned Scholtz’s Garden. If you aren’t familiar with Scholtz’s, it is the oldest continually operating business in Austin. It has been in operation since something like the 1860s and still serves great German food and beer. Apparently this owner came home from work unhappy and upset and killed himself.

The tour was fun and a walk in a cemetery is always good. There will soon be a book out about the cemetery with great pictures and stories. Just driving down the “Main Street” in the center of the cemetery is like a history lesson on Texas and Austin. Governor Hogg is also buried in Oakwood, but we didn’t get over to his grave so I would like to go see it. I did see Governor Pease’s big grave.

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