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FOCUS ON THE BACKROADS: TEXAS STATE CEMETERY – AUSTIN

Just east of downtown Austin, the Texas State Cemetery is located on 22 acres of land.  The cemetery is divided into to two section, one that contains 900 graves of deceased prominent Texans and another that has over 2,200 graves of Confederate soldiers and widows.

In 1851 General Edward Burleson, who fought in the Battle of San Jacinto and also during the Cherokee and Mexican War and later served as the Vice-President of the Republic of Texas, was the fist person buried in the cemetery.  He was the only person buried there until 1856 when Abner Lipscomb, Associate Justice of the Texas Supreme Court, was buried in 1854.  Between 1856 and 1866 there were numerous burials including Civil War Generals, soldiers that found for Texas independence, and many of widely know Texas leader at the time.  In the late 1900’s the State of Texas took over the Confederate Men’s and Women’s Home.  As many of these men and women passed away there was space made available at the cemetery to bury them with their former Generals.  One acre was set aside for graves of Union veterans.  Later all but one, Antonio Briones, were removed to Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery in San Antonio.  Briones is buried alone in the far northwest corner of the cemetery.

In the early 1900’s there were efforts to enhance the Texas State Cemetery.  In August of 1906 a Albert Sidney Johnston monument was completed.  Johnston, graduated from West Point in 1826 and served as a general in three different armies:  The Republic of Texas Army,  the United States Army,  and the Confederate State Army.  He was the highest-ranking officer, Union or Confederate, to serve in the Civil War.  He was killed early in the Civil War at the Battle of Shiloh at the age of 59.  Shorty afterwards the remains of Stephen F. Austin were brought to the cemetery and a monument was erected in his honor.  Between 1929 ad 1936 over seventy men and women were reinterred.

Burial guidelines were established in 1953.  To obtain a plot individuals must meet one of the following requirements:  member or ex-member of the Texas Legislature, Confederate Veteran, elected state official, state official appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Legislature,  individual designated by governor’s proclamation or a resolution of the Legislature, or the spouse of anyone meeting and of these criteria.

In the northeast section of the cemetery is Monument Hill.  The special area honors those who have made sacrifices to preserve the freedoms that we enjoy as Texans and Americans.  There are monuments commemorating Medal of Honor and Purple Heart recipients,  World War II, and the Vietnam War.  The Gold Star Mothers Monument honor women whose sons and daughters have perished in all wars.  The Nine Men of Praha Monument honors men from Fayette County who died in combat in 1944 and 1945.  There is a monument that honors  African-American legislators that served Texas during Reconstruction.  One of the most memorable monuments is the 9-11 Memorial which includes two actual beams from the World Trade Center towers that were destroyed in 2001.  In 2013 US Navy Seal Chris Kyle was laid to rest on Monument Hill.  The inscription on his grave reads  It is our duty to serve those who serve us.

The next time you visit Austin please take some time to visit this beautiful cemetery.  It is an opportunity to reflect  and honor the many men and women that have contributed to our great Texas Heritage.

Texas is neither southern or western….TEXAS IS TEXAS       Senator William Blakley

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