MERRIMAN ADDRESSES PLEA FOR PRESERVATION
OF BURYING PLOT
WHERE REST CITY’S HONORED DEAD
By E. T. Merriman
Referring again to my last articles on the pioneers buried in the old cemetery, it might be interesting to the people to hear about some more of the early settlers-people who blazed the way for the development of this country.
Felix A. Blucher, county surveyor here in the very early days, was a descendant of the great General von Blucher, who, at the battle of Waterloo, caused the defeat of Napoleon. In the early ‘forties, Felix A. Blucher, after graduating at the University of Berlin, went to Mexico City, where he was translator and interpreter for General Scott. From Mexico City Major Blucher came to Corpus Christi, having received a commission from Pinkney Henderson, governor of Texas to raise a company of soldiers, but before completing the organization the company was disbanded, peace having been declared. Major Blucher, who returned to Germany, came back to Corpus Christi in 1849, bringing a bride with him, two bridal couples coming here on the same boat from across the seas – Mr. and Mrs. Blucher from Germany, and Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Dunn from Ireland.
Major blucher, on being elected surveyor of Nueces land district, decided to go to Austin to make his report. Going on his way one night, he saw a light and, thinking it was a camp of the whites, he rod right into it.
To his great surprise he found it was a camp of Tancahua Indians. Chief Castro, coming up and taking charge of Blucher’s horse, talked Spanish to him, saying that his tribe had just had a fight with the Lipans, and had killed one of their brave men and had him in a pot, boiling. He said while they were not cannibals, the Tancahuas had a superstition that when they ate the flesh of a brave foe their descendants would partake of his bravery. The chief intimated to Blucher that it would be wise for him to join them in the feast. Getting out his penknife, Blucher fished out one of the brave man’s fingers and tasted it, finding it tough. After this the chief embraced Blucher. The next morning the surveyor found his horse ready for him, saddled and bridled, for him to go on to Austin, Chief Castro furnishing an escort to protect him to the suburbs of his destination, Blucher having made himself solid with the Indians.
During the confederacy Blucher was appointed major of the engineer corps, designing and building several fortifications along the coast. At the break-up Major Blucher went to Mexico, where, as chief engineer for General Mexia, he built the fortifications for Maximilian at Matamoros. He was glad to get back to Corpus Christi, where he spent the rest of his days. Captain John Dix, another pioneer, left an interesting history for some one to write who knows it. Captain Dix was a great mariner, traveling the seas for the U. S. government, it is said, visiting the Sandwich Islands in the days of its savagery experiencing some hairbreadth escapes.
Captain Dix was here with Colonel Kinney, John Dix, Jr., his son, coming to Corpus Christi with mules, wagons and supplies for General Taylor’s army in 1845. In the civil war, Captain Dix sided with the union, and when the federals bombarded the city not a cannon ball hit his house. The old building, a two-story concrete structure on the water front, known as the Seaside hotel in later days, stood everything till the storm of 1919 wrecked it so badly it had to be torn down.
In the old cemetery rest the remains of hundreds of pioneers of this country. There lie the firemen – Felix Noessel, John Fogg, James Hunter, Lyman Brewster, Ben Gravett, Jerry Atkinson, Frank Atkinson, and others who kept the old town from burning up time and time again. There lie the remains of Chas. L. Lege, one of Nueces county’s judges; Mat Nolan, sheriff, and his brother, Tom Nolan, the latter killed in the discharge of his duty, making an arrest; Horace Taylor, postmaster of Corpus Christi in 1873, a teacher of great talent; Doctors Burke and Hamilton, of the firm of Spohn, Burke and Hamilton, years ago; Dr. J. J. Gregory, Doctor Luckett and Dr. E. T. Merriman.
Doctor Merriman, a graduate of Yale and the first settler of San Marcos, Texas, came to this state in the ‘forties from Connecticut, residing for a number of years on the lower Rio Grande, moving from there to Banquete, Nueces county, in 1858, having a large practice over considerable territory for years.
During the civil war he was surgeon of the army, having two hospitals, one in Corpus Christi and one at Banquete. Dr. Merriman, with others, sacrificed his life in the terrible epidemic of yellow fever here in 1867, attending the sick till exhausted and had to give up, telling his friends good-bye.
In this sacred ground lie the remains of Lafayette Caldwell, another surveyor of Nueces county in years gone by; Rev. J. P. Perham, who left his home in the country and rushed in to Corpus Christi in response to the call for help in 1867, giving up his life. There lie the pioneers – Judge Gambel, John Wade, Joseph Almond, John S. Givens, Esq., John Fitch, Capt. John S. Greer, Frank W. Shaeffer, H. R. Sutherland, James Weymouth and Wm. DeRyee, the last named durggist making frequent trips to White’s Point the latter part of his life, returning with specimens of rock, saying he felt sure there was oil under the surface of the ground; Don Louis de Planque, the photo artist; Peyton Smithe, J. P., who took the people by surprise one morning upon opening his court; Rev. J. B. Hardwicke and his son, John, the editor; George Pettigrew, Edwin Ohler, Jacob Ziegler, Anton Meuly, T. P. Rivera, John Uehlinger, Wm. H. Daimwood, John Pelham, George Conklin, Theo. Lawrence, Major James Downing, R. D. Simpson, W. S. Halsey, Edmund Beard, John Woessner, Thomas Parker, Fred Cooling, G. W. K. Mew, W. F. Crank, james Bryden, Charles Weidenmueller, Wm. H. Maltby, Henry Hawley, henry Lucas, A. D. Evans, Henry Woessner, Ernest Rocher, Thomas Allen, Sam’l F. Stevenson, Thomas N. Tinney, Joseph Langridge, Captain Harrison.
W. B. Wrather, Mathew Headen, Wm. Myers, Frederick Busse, Louis Maximillion Dreyer, Adison Lane, Otto Von Roeder, Otto Petzel, E. J. Allen, G. B. Williams, A. A. Deavalen, J. W. Littig, J. M. Davidson, George Noessel, I. H. Thomas, Otto Dreyer, John Gocher, C. H. Ley, John Riggs, Dr. Swift, James Stephenson, John McGregor, Samuel McComb, Herman Vetters, George Gold, Wm. Terrell, B. M. Baldeschwiler, the last named coming to Corpus Christi from the old country seventy-nine years ago, when there were only seven houses in the place. Also, hundreds of other pioneers, many of them with nothing to mark their graves – some of them with interesting history.
Many noble women, pioneers, too, are sleeping their last sleep in the old cemetery. The last one buried there was Mrs. Mary Wrather, whose maiden name was Woessner, considered during the civil war as the prettiest in Corpus Christi, and as such was selected to present a handsome flag to Captain Maltby’s company, which she did on the old court house steps before a large gathering of people. A friend, finding a copy of her presentation address, took it up to the Wrather home last year and read it to her, taking her by surprise.
At the request of some of the ladies of the Bay View Cemetery Association, about ten years ago, the writer took charge of the old cemetery, looking after it ever since, keeping a man employed there about one-third of his time, paying him from contributions received from friends of the dead. During this time the writer has had the large fence enclosing the grounds repaired twice – one after the 1916 storm and once after the 1919 storm; the grounds sodded with Bermuda grass and over four hundred feet of water pipe laid through the grounds; purchased lawn mowers, hoes, rakes, etc., and today the grounds look fairly good for the time spent on them, as good or better than some city parks. The people buried in this cemetery are of many denominations and nationalities; white and black, possibly two thousand, including soldiers of the north and soldiers of the south; many veterans of the Mexican war.
The object of the writer in publishing these articles on the old cemetery where are buried so many of the old pioneers is to interes the city council and citizens generally in having these sacred grounds, about three acres, preserved and cared for as they ought to be – parked and beautified with flower beds, shade trees, etc. San Antonio for some time has been guarding its old landmarks, taking care of the missions, while Corpus Christi has allowed most of what it had to be obliterated – the last being the mounds left by General Zachary Taylor’s army in the northern part of the city. It would indeed be fitting if the old cemetery grounds (one of the most beautiful locations to be found anywhere – on a hill overlooking the two bays) could be converted into a sacred park, where the weary could go and sit down under the trees and watch the ships in the harbors; grounds where so many of the old pioneers are sleeping their long sleep – old timers who had visions and dreams of deep water and a great city here some day.
Source: Corpus Christi Caller, June 22, 1924
Transcription by: Rosa G. Gonzales