by Barbara J. Wood
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CEMETERIES

THE GRAVE IN THE ROAD

In the western part of Wilson County, one could once find a lone grave marker on a dirt mound surrounded by rocks in the middle of a three way intersection of County Roads 104 & 105 (photo 1 ). The dirt mound elevated several feet above the level ground. It was overgrown with brush, hiding the marking rock, with only the grave marker itself rising out of the mound of soil and brush for passers-by to see (photos 2 & 3) . Part of the sandstone grave marker, broken and eroded by time and weathering, lay near the grave. Passers-by drove around the grave site and accepted and respected the presence of the person buried there as they drove by without question. The person buried here rested in peace with the lone grave marker for over 130 years before the grave site was disturbed. What happened to the grave? What is this person's story? 
 
The person buried at this intersection of county roads is Mr. Phillip John Burrow (Photo 4 ). Mr. Burrow was born on May 15, 1784 in Guilford County, North Carolina. He is the son of Ishmael and Catherine Burrow. He moved several times from North Carolina to Tennessee to Missouri. According to Charles Allen Burrow, a great great great Grandson of Mr. Burrow, Phillip married Martha W. Yandell on June 20, 1827 in Tennessee. While living in Rives County, Missouri, which later became Henry County, he and his wife had seven children by 1838.  Mr. Burrow and his family finally ended up in Navarro County, Texas in 1845. Mr. Burrow received a land grant for "settling in the wilderness of Texas" dated April 19, 1850 (certificate number 256), for 640 acres of land located southeast of Corsicana. It was a requirement that the family must live on the land for three years before the grant was given. 
 
Mr. Burrow's first wife, Martha, died in 1850 and he remarried to twenty-two year old Martha E. Moore. Martha E. Moore was born in 1831 in Tennessee or possibly Kentucky. The two married on February 2, 1853 in Navarro County Texas, according to C.A. Burrow.  There were no children born to this marriage. Mr. Burrow then moved his family further west to Parker County, Texas, and settled sixteen miles northeast of Weatherford, Texas. He purchased 220 acres of land and began farming and ranching. 
 
During the Civil War, Mr. Burrow enlisted on May 25, 1861, at Veal Station in Parker County. He served as a Minute Man under the command of Captain H.J. Thompson. He served for ten days as a scout to find Indians roaming the farm lands of the settlers. It was necessary that the local residents enlist as Minute Men since the regular army soldiers were gone to fight the Civil War. 
 
After the war was over, Mr. Burrow sold all his land and moved his family to Wilson County, Texas. Mr. Burrow settled on 160 acres of land on the Borrego Creek in 1866. This land was located eight miles south of Graytown near Fairview. Mr. Burrow filed a 3rd class headright to this property on March 12, 1868. 
 
Mr. Burrow died on October 5, 1870. The rumors and mystery of his death are still debated and many stories surround his death. One story says he was digging a community water well and it caved in on him. It was not considered the safe thing to get his body out for a proper burial, so the well was filled in and the well became his grave. Another story says he was working his stock when he fell in the well. Another says he fell in the water well with his horse. Unable to retrieve either body from the 60-80 foot well, it became the grave for both. Another says he and his horse were struck by lightning and they both were buried at that exact spot. Nobody knows exactly how Mr. Burrow died, but the fact is that he was buried at this remote spot. 
 
The tombstone of Mr. Burrow reads: "In Loving Memory, Philip J. Burrow, born May 15, 1784, died October 5, 1870, age 86 years, four months, 20 days". The fact that the grave was surrounded by sandstone rock, and a fine grave marker placed, proved that Mr. Burrow was loved and missed by many. No matter what the cause of death was, he was respected and missed. 
 
Over 130 years since his death, his grave and marker remained firm and steady, not yielding. In 2002, Bruce Whitley, a descendant, contacted Wilson County Commissioner Albert Gamez Jr., to have the grave moved stating he could move the pile of dirt and rocks to his property. Mr. Whitley stated he would rather have it on his property than as fill dirt somewhere . 
 
In 2003 the grave for Mr. Burrow was moved from its original location. According to Larry Runnels, Secretary of the Fairview Cemetery Association, the moving of the grave was a symbolic one. There was no cost involved and no excavation. The grave itself was not moved, his body not exhumed, and stays at its original location. The mound of soil and brush over his grave was leveled. 
 
A 2nd grave marker was made (photo 5) and set up in the Fairview Cemetery to recognize his burial  as a commemorative tribute. Fairview Cemetery donated the space for the new grave marker. A shovel full of dirt from the old grave was spread over the new site. The original grave marker from 1870 is with a family member to keep and protect. 
Phillip John Burrow's final and eternal resting place will forever be at the intersection of County Roads 104 & 105 and will be remembered as "The Grave in the Road". May you forevermore rest in peace Mr. Burrow. 
 
UPDATE: UTSA Archaeologists are excavating the burial site. Cadaver dogs have found a second body buried just a few feet  away. Remains will be sent to UTSA for DNA and facial reconstruction. Reburial will be in Fairview with Confederate Honors.
(Courtesy of Wilson County Historian, Mark Cameron)

STEELE BRANCH CEMETERY

Steele Branch cemetery is out about six miles east of Stockdale in sight of FM 1107 in the country, pretty much in the middle of nowhere. It's down a couple of roads with #'s only as a name, and then ultimately it's at the end of a dirt road. There is a large pasture behind the cemetery and we saw a cow standing at the fence checking out what we were doing. Maybe the cow works security on the side...I'm not sure. The cemetery was unlocked so we looked around until we found some Wests.
 
I was looking at the information on this cemetery, and not much was there about the history of this awesome place.  So I thought I would share the story that was told to me, Kathryn Jordan, by my grandmother, who was quite the story teller and who made sure tell the stories until I knew them by heart... 
 
Ok so here goes, "My grandmother stated  that generally the people in the area outside of Stockdale were buried, in an area somewhere on the other side of the creek that runs there, which is known as Steele Branch.  I am not sure if it was an area close to Caddo, an old community or a forgotten cemetery on someone's property.  But, there was a person who died and when they went  to the cemetery, they were unable to get there because, the creek was raging.  It was not safe.  So the people of the family as well as those who were doing the burying, all agreed to bury the person on the area that is now the Steele Branch Cemetery.  It is not used  much now days.  For the most part people are buried in the Stockdale Cemetery in town." (Courtesy of writer & family historian Kathryn Jordan)
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   James  West is buried in the Steele Branch Cemetery near Stockdale, Texas in Wilson County.  The Cemetery sits atop a hill just a short distance from a recently collapsed pioneer house known to this day as the "Old West Place".  Beside him in the cemetery is son Wade Hampton West, his daughter in law, Susan, and his Granddaughter, Seletia Ann West Jackson.  Each of these graves is marked with a special marker stating the individual was a "Citizen of the  Republic of Texas" living here during the period for 1836-1845 when Texas became a state. That makes many of her descendant's fourth and fifth generation Texans. (Courtesy of writer & family historian Kathryn Jordan)
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  A Steele family member was to be buried In Pleasant Valley cemetery, but the Ecleto creek overflow was blocking access. So an ancestor of mine allowed burials on his land, and donated additional land for a new cemetery(Steele Branch Cemetery). The cemetery was probably named after a tributary(Steele branch) of the Ecleto creek just to the north. Don't know if branch so named because of some association with the Steele family.
 
There are four graves marked by carved sandstones in the
center of the original cemetery area. The only information is an inscription( The Steele Family) on a surrounding curb.
I have been unable to locate anyone with information on the Steele family(including some with last name of Steele).

(Courtesy of Steel Branch Cemetery Director, Larry Childress)
Screenshot 20220619 145109 1

Remembering our nation's bloody past

By Bain Serna | Wilson County News | November 02, 2011 issue
 
LA VERNIA — In a quiet cemetery just north of La Vernia, faded and weathered tombstones stand as silent and abiding reminders of that great and terrible tide of American history. Etched on the headstones are the names of courageous men, faithful soldiers, of a long-ago and distant era. They are the cherished names of the fathers, husbands, sons, and brothers who bravely fought in the deadliest and bloodiest of all of America's wars –the American Civil War (1861-65).
 
On Saturday, Oct. 22, 2011, the Sons of Confederate Veterans hosted a memorial in the Concrete Cemetery, located just north of La Vernia off F.M. 775, to honor and remember 33 Confederate soldiers and one Union soldier who were laid to rest there.
 
Many people of all ages from Wilson County and the greater San Antonio area attended the memorial to remember and to pay their respects, in this year that marks the 150th anniversary of the beginning of the Civil War.
 
In attendance were Wilson County dignitaries, such as County Judge Marvin Quinney, Pct. 3 Commissioner Ricky Morales, Pct. 2 Justice of the Peace Sara Canady, and Pct. 3 Justice of the Peace Jim Burdette, to name a few.
 
Representatives from historical organizations, such as the La Vernia Historical Association, the Wilson County Historical Society, and the Floresville High School Junior Historians, along with the Poth Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 8555, also were in attendance.
 
Bagpiper Harrell C. Sutherland played out a Scottish tune of remembrance, as a color guard dressed in Civil War military uniforms solemnly marched the flags of the United States, Texas, and the Confederacy and posted the honored banners near the assembled crowd and the speaker's podium. Members of a mounted color guard carrying various Confederate battle flags lined their horses nearby as a pledge and salute to the flags were recited.
 
Various speakers and presenters delivered speeches and presentations under the shade of trees in the old cemetery. Small Confederate flags that had been placed on the graves of the soldiers flapped gently in the Texas breeze as, one by one, the names of the soldiers were read aloud and a bell tolled after each name.
 
Three men, dressed in Confederate military gray, lined up with their musket rifles and in unison fired off a volley to honor the lone Union soldier laid to rest in the Concrete Cemetery. The men then reloaded their weapons and, on command order, fired off another volley for the Confederate soldiers.
 
Thomas Terry, a La Vernia resident who is a direct blood descendant of Confederate soldiers and a member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, prepared his Civil War-era replica cannon for the final salute. It's men like Terry who help keep the memory and legacy of the Civil War alive in these modern, distracted times.
 
"We need to look back," Terry said. "We need to remember. We need to see that the way our ancestors, both North and South, tried to solve their differences didn't work. 150 years later we still have some of the same differences, and in some ways we have more differences, but we need to find a different way to settle our differences if we are to save this country and have it be the same Republic you and I grew up in."
 
Perhaps the most important people attending the ceremony were the youth. After all, it is they to whom the torch will be passed when it comes to the remembrance and preservation of our sacred history. Floresville High School teacher Tambria Read heads the student group, the Floresville High School Junior Historians. Three members of that student organization — James Dyches, 17; Alexander Klepal, 17; and Autumn Klepal, 14 –dressed in Civil War attire and worked as volunteers for the ceremony.
 
James, dressed as a cavalry officer complete with officer's sash and sword, had the honor of being a flag bearer in the ceremony.
 
"This Civil War memorial is important because it's always important to remember our fallen veterans," he explained. "Regardless of whether they were Confederate or Union, they were all still Americans, so it's important to remember what they did for their country."
 
Alexander, in the uniform of an enlisted Confederate infantryman, offered his wise observation.
 
"I'm a firm believer that nothing is ever gone until it is forgotten," he said. "So by remembering the Civil War, it will always remain a very important part of history."
 
Autumn, the youngest of the Junior Historians clad in the dress of a mid-1800s Southern belle, said, "If we don't remember our history, then history could repeat itself, and we do not want another brother-versus-brother war."
 
The cannons fired and roared out a final, thunderous salute that cracked and echoed through the countryside between La Vernia and New Berlin. As the cannon smoke wafted toward the heavens above Texas, this final homage to those soldiers of the War Between the States came to a close.
 
After everyone left, a hallowed loneliness again descended upon Concrete Cemetery. The tall trees swayed and rustled in the soft breeze, as if they were the sleepy guards of that sacred ground. The autumn winds caused the fallen leaves to dance a lifeless tumble over the graves of the timeless heroes honored ... and across those silent memorials of stone.

Doseido Cemetery

*FROM THE HISTORY BOOKS:  (Appreciation to Sherry Schoenfeldt for sharing additional pictorial information on the Doseido Cemetery)
(Shirley Grammer , a well-known Wilson County Historian, inputs that there are no historical markers for the Doisedo Colony Cemetery. She has plans to get the historic designation and has everything needed to do so and has documented over 60 burials, many with no stones. [Thank you for your info!])
 
The Doseido Colony was a small, primarily African American, settlement in Northwestern Wilson County, Texas, one of Eight "colonies" established after the end of the American Civil War. 
 
Doisedo Colony Cemetery AKA Pleasant Grove Est. 1881 served the Afro-American community of Doisedo. There are many marked and unmarked graves.

"Stockdale – A Glimpse Into The Past"

GRAVEYARDS & CEMETERIES ... have always fascinated me.  They tell so much history that can be gathered from the tombstones as one takes a free time walk. The process of burial was different 100 years ago. Miss Birdie Lorenz wrote an interesting and informative story in her book, "Stockdale A Glimpse IntoThe Past" about cemetery practices. (Courtesy of Dawn Steenken Korzekwa)

The Pearce-Maxwell Cemetery of Wilson County Texas

Lost cemetery finally found ....  on private land. Trey Cranford  shares his search on finding his Great Great Grandmothers headstone in Wilson County Texas.

"I searched for years and years to try to find my Great Great Grandmothers headstone.  I was familiar with the area (I had lived 30 miles away for several years) but could never find the headstone at any of the "known cemeteries". By luck, I was reading the hometown newspaper and ran across a community notice asking for help cleaning up and helping repair an old cemetery.  With a little research I was able to confirm that this land is where my GG Grandmother was laid to rest!  She was FOUND! The cemetery is on private property and off the beaten path! "

"Rev. Samuel E. Pearce and his family homesteaded 50 acres and was granted a 'patent' or deed in 1861. In 1858, he allowed a neighbor's wife to be buried there, his wife was buried there the next year. In 1873, when Rev.Pearce sold the land to George Maxwell, he stipulated that the five acre tract remain a cemetery. Burials continued and the community called it "The Maxwell Cemetery". Many infants and children were buried, some entire families.

Almost every tombstone has suffered damage from the elements, animals and vandals. The Bible pictured on Rev. Pearce's tombstone has bullet holes. Efforts to restore the old cemetery began in December 2012 and volunteers are being sought to help with the tremendous work yet to be done. To honor the original donor of the land, the name was changed to "The Pearce-Maxwell Cemetery of Wilson County Texas"

Cemetery is on private property over a half-mile from the road. No roadway except sand path over pasture. Four-wheel drive vehicle recommended for access."

In looking at census records the Pearce Family were listed next to my family in the 1870 census so they were likely close neighbors

Timeline of family arrival in Wilson County Texas
James Basil Hunt was Discharged  23rd Texas Cavalry (Gould's) Company I Private participated in Battle of Mansfield (Confederate Victory) April 08, 1864 Red River Campaign DeSoto County, LA Battle of Pleasant Hill April 9, 1864 Union Victory Sabine County, LA

Fresh from military service, James Basil Hunt married Sarah Susan Tollett in Hopkins County, Texas, on August 30, 1865, when he was 20 years old, SS was 17 years old.  The young couple ended up moving to Wilson County, Texas in 1866 and started their family.  Wilson County was formed in 1860 from Bexar County and Karnes County.

Sarah Susan passed away at 59 years of age spending her entire adult life on the farm.  JB passed at 93 years of age and had spent over 70 years in Wilson County at the time of his death.
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The first grave in 1858 was allowed by S.E.Pearce on land he had acquired through a Texas Land Grant. When he sold the land, in 1873, to Geo.Maxwell, he stipulated that five-acres forever be a cemetery. After the last grave in 1938, the cemetery fell into disrepair with no one to care for it.  Re-discovered recently by descendants of those buried there, the Pearce-Maxwell Cemetery Assn was formed to encourage volunteers to help with its restoration and preservation.  The "Texas Historical Cemetery" designation has been achieved and the historical marker was dedicated May 5, 2018.