To the Editor of the Caller:
Referring to the list of those employed by the city, published in Thursday morning’s Caller, I wish to say that I am not a sexton and am not receiving any salary from the city for looking after the city’s old cemetery, which I have been doing for near half a century, as a labor of love for the old pioneers who are taking their last sleep on that beautiful hillside, doing my bit for the Bay View Cemetery association, when the ladies formed the association over 30 years ago to beautify it and preserve it from the grafters, and for the city, since it was turned back to the city, the voucher issued to me and cashed at the bank being paid every month to the sexton who I have employed and am watching without any compensation. After the storm of 1916 I had the fence enclosing the grounds repaired free of expense to the city and again in 1919 when the fence was wrecked worse than it was before.
I think I know more about the old sacred grounds than any one else, or as much, having lived in Corpus Christi nearly 70 years. The first sheriff of Nueces county – H. W. Berry, lies buried up there. The first mayor of Corpus Christi – B. F. Neal, elected in 1852, is buried there, and there are seven of them, six besides Judge Neal, viz.: R. Holbein, H. W. Berry, George Robertson, W. N. Staples, John M. Moore and J. B. Mitchell. I was personally acquainted with them; also knew Wm. Rogers, the first president of a railroad that was finally built form Corpus Christi to the City of Mexico, and has a monument, one of the finest in this part of Texas, erected to his memory, up there; also, Felix Noessel, Corpus Christi’s first fire chief; also, Felix A. Blucher, one of the first surveyors of Corpus Christi’s first telegraph operator, as well as hundreds of others buried in the old cemetery.
As many people living now have asked me to tell them when the old cemetery was started, I will say that all I know about it is what I read last week in a book down at the library on Mesquite street – “Fifty Years in Camp,” by Major General Hitchcock, who was in command here when General Taylor’s army landed at this place and what he said and did, accounts, I believe for the starting of the city’s old cemetery. The report is given below, and reads as follows from the diary kept by Hitchcock:
“Report made of Major General Hitchcock, with Taylor’ army:
“Corpus Christi, Texas,
“September 13, 1845.
“Yesterday brought up a disaster. A small old steamer, the Dayton, employed for a few days by the government, burst her boiler a few miles from here, near McGloin’s Bluff, and killed seven men and wounded 17. Among the killed were Lieutenants Higgins and Berry, of the 14th Infantry, and my regiment lost one excellent young man, Private Hughes. The Dayton had just completed the time for which she was hired when she exploded with such terrible results.
“September 14. A military funeral took place today at the burial ground which I selected. It is on the brow of the hill northwest of the camp and command a view of the Nueces and Corpus Christi bays. It is a beautiful spot. Another body was found afloat and brought in today, and two of the injured have died since in the hospital making ten deaths from the accident.”
After General Taylor’s army left Corpus Christi in March, 1846, for Mexico, the army’s burial ground was turned over to the city to take charge of, but it didn’t pay much attention to it, letting it go like a potter’s field for years, permitting all races of people to bury their dead there, any old way, till the cemetery got to be a disgrace to the community, when a meeting of the ladies was called at Mrs. Elizabeth Merriman’s on Chaparral street to form an organization to stop such practices as well as to secure another burial ground, because of a lack of space for only a few more burials, many soldiers – Union and Confederate – dying here having been buried there, in addition to those of the citizens. After securing other grounds farther out, I accompanied a committee of the ladies who went before the city council and got an ordinance passed prohibiting any more burials in the old cemetery unless those seeking space have close relatives buried there.
Eli T. Merriman
Source: Corpus Christi Caller, April 29, 1933