Janice Williams Loves Austin And sometimes I write about it.

May 14, 2013

Columbus’ City Cemetery

Filed under: Cemeteries,Genealogy,Taphophilia — Janice @ 2:14 pm

I’m going to put more of my cemetery adventures into my blog for safekeeping until I get around to creating another place for them. I need a place for the NARRATIVE of my cemetery visits. If there were a transcript of all my thoughts as I walk through a cemetery it would be a multivolume set. I don’t think, “Oh, that’s a pretty tombstone.” It’s more like, “Hey, that’s a Kuyper, didn’t I see a Kuyper on the other side of the cemetery? Is that a German name? Did this community have a lot of Germans? I don’t see any other names that are German. And she was born in 1810. I bet she came here when it was a Republic, I’m going to have to look that up. Oh, she had 3 children die in infancy, how sad is that? But she had a long life and there’s at least two of her children buried nearby so that’s good…” and it goes on and on and on. Then, if I have any chance at all to investigate further, it gets bigger and more all encompassing. Let’s take the City Cemetery of Columbus, Texas, as an example.

I won’t even go into why I was in Columbus on Friday, but I was and I took a spin through the little Southern town and spied an old-fashioned hamburger stand. They didn’t have car hops, but they did have a drive-through so I decided that was excuse enough for a chocolate malt. In the world I live in, sitting in a car for hours negates all calories from chocolate malts. I circled the block to get back to the malt shop, but didn’t go far enough so I drove up the main road and was going to make a U-turn somewhere. Cars turned into the post office and I started to follow them, but it kind of looked like a bottleneck so I went on up to the next drive/street and turned in, ready to turn right around and come back. And what did I see?

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Yes, I think it is a gift I have to stumble upon old cemeteries. There were even beautiful wildflowers, lots of birds and butterflies, and cute birdhouses out front:

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Columbus is a really old town, one of the oldest in Texas, and there were some unique, beautiful old graves. Maybe I’ll get back to them someday. These are the ones I’ll concentrate on today:

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I noticed them because of this one:

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I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a military headstone for a woman outside of a military cemetery. And I also assume that this woman was in the military in World War II since she would have been in her 20s in the 1940s. That seemed unusual and rare, too. It doesn’t specify what she did or when she served.  I went over and saw that it was a family plot so I took pictures all the way down the row of the Woods family.

At home today, I went to one of my favorite sites, Find a Grave, and looked these graves up and was surprised to see there was no photos of these gravestones there. It seems that almost every cemetery has been photographed over and over except maybe for the newest graves, but not this cemetery. It looks like I’m going to have to put every picture I just snapped “for fun” up as a record. I wish I had looked up the site while I was there and I would have been more serious and organized about it all. All of the Woods family graves were accounted for (listed and had information, just no picture) except Mary, so I have added her to Find a Grave now. I couldn’t find any more information on the web about her service or her marriage. It leaves me with questions.

But I learned a lot about her family. These are her parents and they were buried beside her:

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French and Bertha. He worked as a car washer at a dealership in 1930 and she was a laundress at their home, raising at least 4 children.  By 1940 he was working as a truck driver for a gas station, which I would think would have been a pretty good job.  Bertha was working now as a maid in a private home. Mary Lee was an “under clerk” for the “N.Y.A.” now that she was 18 and was no longer in school. She had completed high school (I believe) where her parents had only completed 6th and 7th grade, so the family was progressing.  Oh, yes, and this family is African-American and French’s parents were born as slaves and couldn’t read or write:

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They were born in North Carolina (Jials – or Giles) and Tennessee (Julia). I wish I knew how they came to know one another, to get married, how they felt as teenagers to learn about the Emancipation Proclamation and what differences it made to their families.  I think he was married once before he married Julia. I won’t go into all the details about why that might be. The item I was most happy to find on the internet was the record that he was registered to vote in Colorado County, Texas, in 1867. How great is that that a man that was born a slave was on the voter’s rolls so soon after the Civil War? Then I read how the KKK forced many blacks to register and to vote Democrat, so maybe it wasn’t as rare or great as I think, I don’t know. I also thought it was interesting that his grave says “He was a member of  Methodist church.” I don’t know that I’ve ever seen an inscription like that on a gravestone.

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He had a sad ending to his life. According to a story on Find a Grave, when Jials was in his early 70s in 1914, he was working for a farm east of town and it was after dark and he thought he was walking away from the Colorado River, but he walked toward it, fell in and drowned. Now, of course, I wonder how the writer of this news story knew what a dead man was thinking minutes before he died? Is there more to the story? We’ll never know.

In addition to Mary, her parents, and her grandparents, there is another Woods grave:

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It looks like poor Fannie was the oldest of Jials and Julia’s children and she was living at home in her early 20s when he drown. She lived the rest of her life with her mother and never married. A devoted daughter.

Of course, off of these stats and details were pulled from internet sources (though most of them legitimate and actual photos of the real census, WWI draft registration, voter’s rolls, etc), but I’ve also drawn some conclusions. And that’s why I like genealogy and cemeteries, its creating those stories for these people and wondering what their life was like.

1 Comment »

  1. I’m just now reading this in June. A most interesting article and beautiful wild flowers.

    Comment by pat — June 4, 2013 @ 9:32 pm

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