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Beeville Bee - Picayune

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County looks to spruce up Evergreen
by Jason Collins

Weeds grow tall blocking the headstones.

Aged and weathered, this cemetery has significance but behind its locked gate it appears neglected.

It holds the headstones of the Jones, Impson, Heldenfels and Wilson families — to name only a few.

“Just looking at some of the headstones... it is the folks who did a lot of work and put a lot of themselves into Bee County,” said Commissioner Dennis DeWitt.

Beeville Bee-Picayune, Oct. 27, 1969:

“The site of Evergreen Cemetery was already being used for a burial ground in 1862 when the commissioners bought it and set it aside for a county ‘graveyard’ evidently available for everyone. It is not known whether a charge was ever made for lots.

“The poor, apparently, were buried in the northwest corner, now bare of the wooden and cement crosses that formerly marked their graves, many of them for Mexican-Americans, according to Mrs. Donna Madderra of Beeville. Two stones, bearing Spanish surnames were still standing in this area in 1964 when a survey of the headstones was made.

The names were Maria Contreras, died 1898, age 20 years; and Santiago Garza, 1873-1906.

Also Negro graves are there apparently.  According to Mrs. Teal Adkins, Mrs. Caroline Lott, an ex-slave and mother of Mrs. Anna Taylor, was buried there, and according to an item in the June 2, 1899, Beeville Bee, ‘A daughter of Peter Fagen, a local colored man, died at Sinton Monday and her remains brought up on Tuesday’s train for interment in the Beeville Cemetery. A large concourse of the colored population was at the train to attend the funeral.’”

DeWitt brought the cemetery to the attention of the court during its Monday meeting.

“When we were doing our budget process, it came to light that we were spending about $1,200 for security lighting,” he said during the meeting. “In doing some research, it turns out it is the Evergreen Cemetery which is upon Bowie Street and Filmore Street.”

Originally, a cemetery association was charged with the care of the grounds.

“Someone was very forward thinking in 1872 and this item was placed into a deed provision, ‘It is further herein and hereby provided that in case said Beeville Cemetery Society should hereafter cease to exist in such, then and in that case this county court of Bee County” will begin the maintenance and upkeep of the property.

According to the minutes from a presentation by the late Patricia Cox Shaw to the court in 1997, “Ms. Shaw explained that the county owns the cemetery after Anne Burke donated it in 1856.”

Back in 1997, Shaw was leading an effort to bring the cemetery back into the hearts of residents.

“Ms. Shaw continued with discussion of the planning stages required in having the first annual Christmas Tree Nature Trail at the cemetery by each elementary school grade,” according to meeting minutes from November 1997.

“Gifts for the birds, squirrels, etc., will be paid by classes under the direction of the teachers. This effort will involve children, teachers, parents and the community.

“Service clubs, H-E-B, Wal-Mart, McConnell prison and other associations will contribute Christmas trees for each class.

“Some teachers have talked about having history classes out there.”

DeWitt said that since Shaw’s passing, the cemetery association has fallen apart.

“The cemetery is the responsibility of Bee County,” DeWitt said. “The lady it made reference to has passed away.

“The records went to her daughter in Austin and they have been unable to find her or her records.

“I don’t think this organization exists. According to the deed, it is the county’s.”

Judge David Silva said that the county doesn’t need to take formal action to claim the property.

“There is nothing we need to do to accept it,” he said. “It is ours.”

DeWitt was calling upon the court to cut the overgrown grass and trim the trees.

“I think we have a duty to the folks who are interred there,” he said. “They are the foundation of our city and a lot of the foundation to our county.

“I think we have a sacred responsibility to step up to the plate and get this done.”

Most recently, the historical society has done its best to maintain the cemetery, but it has become more than even the members could handle.

Silva, after the meeting, said, “We have not been able to maintain it because the crew from the prison has not been able to work there.

“We are going to put it back on the contract with the prison and they can start helping us out there.”

The county, he said, needs the prison’s help because the amount of work, coupled with the regular workload of the county employees, is too much.

“You need more than one or two people working out there and they can bring out more people,” Silva said.

A transition of wardens at the prison might delay the prison work though, Silva said.

“It may be a little bit,” Silva said. “We are hoping it won’t be a long drawn-out thing.”

DeWitt also said, “I hope everyone will bear with the county. We will have it looking good in an appropriate amount of time.”


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Jason Collins is the editor at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 121, or at editor@mySouTex.com.
 

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