It’s… It’s another post about Gravestones

Before actual parks, people treated graveyards as open, communal spaces. So like, strolling around like I occasionally do is not so much crazy as it is just “out of another time.” Or something?

This week I made two trips to the Comal Cemetery. My weight trainer’s (she drops into conversation like it’s nothing) house is just a couple of blocks from it, and this week I realized I had somehow mistimed it and showed up twenty minutes early for a workout. Instead of just waiting around outside her house (she has a gym in a building behind her house) I hopped over to the cemetery and strolled around for a few minutes. It was hot, and I showed up to my workout with an absolute ass ton of stickers in my shoes, but it was still worthwhile.

The second time I went to the cemetery I dropped my husband and middle daughter off at Cypress Bend park for a fishing trip… and since you get there by driving through Comal cemetery I stopped on the way back out for a stroll as well. That second time I was in flip flops- and let me tell you the fear of rattlesnakes was pretty real, though I didn’t see any. Note to self- solid footwear is preferred for this sort of thing.

That bottom line is “A memory of your children” according to Google translate but I assume it’s a too literal translation and really is more along the lines of the stone is dedicated to her memory by her children.

So the first trip I took out there I explored the Hispanic side (because of course it’s segregated… of course it is). I loved the stone above, it was one of the only ones with the porcelain pictures I like- the visual it lends to this town not being “All German, all the way back” as so many like to pretend it is great. I hope that damage is accidental, I hope it is. But I will say there were a lot of weirdly damaged stones, something I didn’t find on the German side a week later. This… gives me some pause.

Yet another damaged stone…

I saw this grave above and thought huh, that rock looks just like a skull…

And that’s what it was. After brushing some of the cedar leaves away I found it was a hand formed skull out of concrete and affixed to the grave cover. Neat!

When I went back a week later I used a trowel to brush all the leaf litter away (wondering if there were stylized crossed bones or something underneath) and… it’s just a long and tapered neck behind it that connects to the foot of the cross. I do not have a picture of this as it was creepy as all hell and I’m trying to erase the image from my brain.
Regular readers will see this is REALLY similar in lettering and the type of stone used to the ones I’m fascinated by in Castroville!

The Hispanic side of the cemetery is not perfectly segregated- there are German names scattered amongst the Spanish named graves. Were these the unrascist folks? Did these German men marry hispanic women? How did this work? Why are there some German names on this one side, but no Spanish names across the street? What rules applied to this? I would really like to know more about that. Weirdly the care is better on this side than the other- the grass is better mown and the whole cemetery looks better cared for. So like… good? Or no? Or… something.

When I went back for the second jaunt (a bit of a pretentious word, but also what the hell else do you call it?) I found this historic marker almost immediately- an answer to the question: “What is up with all these seashell covered graves in Central Texas?” That question has an answer, one impossible to find online, but BOOM- the answer was right there the whole time! On a big sign! Fascinating!

TLDR: Dude invented shell covered graves.

And the shells were “cockleshells”- so the song lyric that goes: “…With Silver bells and cockle shells and pretty maids all in a row” is SO FUCKING OMINOUS SOUNDING NOW, AMIRIGHT? Are they all in rows because they’re in rows of graves? Mary, Mary quite contrary- I need answers here!

What I also find funny is that Heinrich does not have any cockleshells on his own grave cover. I assume it’s similar to how I don’t buy any Hallmark cards after having worked in a Hallmark store once during college: because we all grow tired of the things we make our livelihood out of.

An example of the Heinrich Mordhorst cockleshell style grave cover. Also- Google tells me that “Mord” means murder in German but that “horst” isn’t a German word and doesn’t mean anything. I’m just going to imagine it means “Murder horse” for my own amusement.
Beautiful stone- the drape over the top is a death shroud or symbolizes the curtain between the land of the living and that of the dead.

There are an absolute TON of “cradle graves”in Comal Cemetery. It isn’t indicative of a childs grave, they are the type of grave covers, common during the Victorian era, that have the area in the center that was to be planted in flowers.

Families would come and tend graves regularly, and the cradle graves were originally filled with soil and a blanket of flowers in the center. That means cemeteries would have been filled with colorful flowers and people back then. Now they are just filled with weeds and are empty except for the deer that bolted from behind a grave and scared the ever living shit out of me. Heart attack in an empty graveyard is NOT how I want to go out, thanks deer.

Lot of 20 year old women in this cemetery- I’m assuming death in childbirth isn’t an off the wall assumption. Love the large NEINE on the top there. A huge “NO!” on a gravestone is the most German thing I’ve ever seen, you know? I am assuming it means something along the lines of “no more” when used like that.

As I wandered around the thought occurred to me to fill some of these cradle graves with native flowers… like cedar sage, or pigeon berry, or snakeroot- and once more have graves capped in flowers. But I’m held back by the thought that you just have no idea who was an absolute garbage human being, you know? I feel like there is some indication of the style chosen to commemorate them though… I may risk it and plant some things in Alwine’s grave as I find it pretty lovely. Maybe. We’ll see.

And finally the grave of our local celebrity, Ferdinand Lindheimer- a botanist who helped Prince Carl in his founding of the New Braunfels colony, and who has over 50 plants named for him.

So Lindheimer was the only botanist working in Texas for a long stretch of those early days- probably because the pay was a hard earned $8 for every 100 sample sent off, many (interestingly) to Harvard. He made friends amongst the area indian tribes- so while there were a ton of folks who were killed near the river crossings in Gruene, he was left alone and unharmed in all of his wanderings. He was even known for hosting the Comanche war chief of the area, Santana, in his home. That home, on a plot of land along the Comal river given to him by prince Carl, still stands today and is now a museum.

His grave (with a modern stone, nuts) is topped by deer netting- which means someone is or was trying to get some of the plants he discovered established in there… but it’s all just bermuda grass and weeds (plus a crepe myrtle tree) now. Which is a little sad, but maybe it’s a good home for the other thing he discovered- the Texas rat snake, Elaphe obsoleta lindheimeri. These snakes grow up to 5′ in length and while they are non venomous they vary wildly in temperament from docile to bastard-level aggressive.

I have GOT to start wearing better shoes when I do this, I swear.

4 thoughts on “It’s… It’s another post about Gravestones

  1. Love this post – and I love your idea of planting some flowers in the cradle graves.

    Also, the cockleshells and Mary Mary! Is her “garden” a graveyard??? Are the silver bells flowers or are they those bells people used to put on graves so people could alert the living if they’d been buried alive??? Is Mary Mary a super creepy poem about a serial killer?!?!?!

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