Hispanic Heritage Month continues until Oct. 15 and we would like to highlight some of the culture-rich cemeteries that currently reside in our county. Cemeteries are usually an ethnic blend that produce some of the greatest memories and tales that mimic the great Texas lore. However, there are the cemeteries that are separated by race, ethnicity or religious affiliation for various reasons. Today, I will highlight the cemeteries with Hispanic roots and origins. Some of these were submitted by family after we created a social media request. The re- sponse wasn’t great, but we received some great infor mation from the folks who did respond. If I left any cemetery out, I apologize; it is not intentional.
Are there lost cemeteries in Atascosa County that we have forgotten and the ground has swallowed into untold history? I am going to confidently say, “Yes,” because in the last two years I have been in this position, we have discovered cemeteries that were, until recently, unrecorded. For now, we will recognize the Hispanic cemeteries by family, if possible, and by community with special mention of Texas and local heroes.
Rossville Cemetery- Located west of FM 476 on Jenschke Lane on private property. The Navarro Family descendants of Jose Antonio Navarro, signer of the Texas Declaration of Independence are interred here. Also interred are Texas Revolutionary Hero Luis Castañon and Confederate Veteran Clemente Galindo, who also spent some time with the local Native Americans when he was kidnapped as a child. This cemetery is very wellmaintained for its age and the families of the deceased take great pride in their heritage and it shows.
Brown Cemetery- Located not far from Rossville Cemetery on Olivares Lane, this cemetery seems like an extension of the Rossville Cemetery. Here, you will find the same names such as Briseño, Castañon and Olivares. You will also find a lot of descendants and family of the oldest grave owner Edward Brown (1808-1886), Texas Revolutionary Veteran. This cemetery has been on our list to designate as historic, and after further review, we will get on that as soon as possible.
Willborn Cemetery- Descendants of Richard Brown Willborn have been using this cemetery for generations. This is Atascosa County’s most recent historically-designated cemetery. It has been used since 1897 and is continued to be used to this day. What used to be a part of the Jose Antonio Navarro Land Grant, was purchased by Richard Willborn and his wife from Sixto Navarro (son of Jose Antonio) to use as the Willborn Ranch. Eventually, two acres were cut out of the property to be used as a graveyard by the Willborn Family. The Willborn Ranch was used to export and ranch cattle from the area. Richard Willborn was an Indian Fighter, Civil War Captain and talented fiddler during his lifetime. The history of the Willborn Cemetery tells a great story about today’s Atascosa County. Willborn Cemetery is located on private property off of Amphion Road.
Zavala Cemetery- Not much is known about this cemetery located off of County Road 305 about 1 mile from Highway 16. Some of the tombstones have been buried in the sand by time and weather. There are burials from the Zavala, Garcia, Arnett, Sanchez, Lopez and Medrano families. There is a visible perimeter and the necessary procedures have been implemented to ensure that this cemetery does not become a lost one.
Madre Dolorosa Cemetery This one I know very well. In this one, my immediate family rests in and I’ve got a lot to say about it. This is what is known as the ‘Mexican Cemetery.” Most immigrant Hispanic families arriving to Poteet in the early 1900s were Catholic. This cemetery contains the early Hispanic, Catholic families of Poteet. You walk in and begin to read the names and you will hear the names of the first Hispanic families of Poteet. Names like Ybarra, Orta, Gomez, Alcorta, Garcia, Zamora, Contreras, Hernandez, Sandoval, Ramos, Perez, and the list goes on. These are the people that helped grow this little town. If you ever wish to learn about Hispanic heritage in Poteet, look up this cemetery and look up some of the names on any genealogical search engine and you will quickly be educated.
San Pedro Cemetery- This cemetery on Rutledge Road, also known as El Cementerio San Pedro, is a Catholic cemetery as is evident by the name. However, it is not operated by the church like Madre Dolorosa is. In this cemetery, you will also find some of the old, original families of Poteet. In the 1930s and 1940s, this was used as a pauper cemetery for the Hispanic, Catholic families of Poteet and the surrounding area. Today, it is used as a cemetery for descendants of the original burials in San Pedro.
Community Cemetery of Charlotte- This was also known for years as the Charlotte Mexican Cemetery. This is another example of the segregated era of a small, south Texas town. Segregated by ethnicity and religion, as the majority of this cemetery is of the Catholic faith. This cemetery is a mirror image of Madre Dolorosa in Poteet. Here lies the pioneers and first Hispanic families of Charlotte. Some of these families are extensions from the Poteet families, such as Ybarra and Hernandez, to use an example. This cemetery is still being utilized and is well-maintained.
Chilipitin Cemetery- Located on CR 315, east of FM 140 west of Charlotte. This cemetery has an official Texas Historical Marker. This cemetery gets its name from the nearby Chilipitin Creek. Early area settlers Dario and Manuelita Douglas Tober acquired land here in 1877 and later set aside this site for a family cemetery. Dario Tober was a Confederate Veteran of the Civil War. The oldest marked grave, that of teenager Nieves Douglas Tober, dates back to 1903. This cemetery is maintained by descendants of Dario and Manuelita Tober.
San Jose Cemetery- Also known as Cementerio Catolico San Jose, here lie the Hispanic parishioners of St. Matthew Catholic Church and of the Catholic faith in Jourdanton (FM 1332 West). This is one of those cemeteries where the early Jourdanton Hispanic settlers rest—where you want to go and read the tombstones to get a history lesson of the current families and their ancestors. Some of the interred include Cordova, Gustamante, Guzman, Olivarri, Romero, Treviño, Segura, Serrata and the list goes on. The Cruz Family seems to have the oldest burial in 1927. Mauricia Cruz was born in 1840 and died in 1929. There are conflicting dates to her birth and death, but the dates I posted are the most accurate. This woman would have arrived in Atascosa County sometime around the turn of the century. Imagine the progress she witnessed in Jourdanton!
San Ysidro- One of Pleasanton’s first cemeteries, (some will argue that it was the first), San Ysidro exhibits the antique entryways and native sandstone structures seen throughout the cemetery. This cemetery is unique in that it encompasses another cemetery within it. Bonita Creek Cemetery lies within San Ysidro. You will see the Bonita Creek Archway when you continue deep into San Ysidro Cemetery. With the name, it is easy to decipher that is also an early settler Catholic cemetery.
Leal Cemetery- Located on Leal Road in the southeast corner of Atascosa County, El Cementerio Leal is used as the final resting place for descendants of the Leal family. The Leal Community was about 3 miles from the cemetery location. The community and cemetery were started by Manuel Leal, a Canary Island descendant and one of the first families of San Antonio.
Esparza-Rodriguez Cemetery- This cemetery is one of the most historic in our county. Interred in this cemetery is Manuel Esparza, child survivor and witness to the Battle of the Alamo. Esparza’s father Gregorio was killed in this battle and is the only Tejano combatant to be allowed a Christian burial. Descendants of the Esparza/ Rodriguez families are interred in this cemetery. Much has been made about the name(s) of this cemetery as it has been known by many names: Martinez, Rodriguez, Esparza and San Augustine. Old deed records show it as Martinez, survey records show it as Rodriguez, family records call it Esparza and the last private owner of the land called it San Augustine. Regardless of the name, the history of this cemetery cannot be denied by anyone and the proud descendants of this family continue to thrive in Atascosa County.