Old Bayview, Established 96 Years Ago, Is
The Oldest Military Cemetery in All Texas
Established 96 years ago, after a marine accident in Corpus Christi Bay took lives of eight men, including two officers in the army of General Zachary Taylor, Old Bayview Cemetery on West Broadway a short distance from the Southern Pacific passenger depot, is the oldest military cemetery in Texas.
The burial plot has long since been closed to new graves, but it is still maintained by the city and a resident keeper cuts the grass and preserves the markers. It is a cherished landmark and contains the remains of some of the earliest Corpus Christi residents. A wooden arch over the entrance gate indicates the name is now Cemetery Beautiful but the innovation has been generally rejected and it is still “Old Bayview” to the old residents.
An account of the accident which resulting in establishment of the cemetery is contained in a book published in 1847 by Capt. W. S. Henry, who was an officer in Taylor’s army. The book, Campaign Sketches of the War With Mexico, has long been out of print, but a copy is owned by La Retama Public Library and is available in the reference room.
According to Henry, General Taylor was transporting his troops to Corpus Christi from St. Joseph’s Island in a light draft steamer, the Dayton. On September 12, 1845, the boiler of this ship exploded off McGloin’s Bluff. In addition to the eight fatally injured 17 men were badly scalded. The ship sank but the survivors were rescued by fishermen and the bodies of the dead were brought to Corpus Christi for burial.
The rites were conducted the following day. Henry wrote of the funeral: “They were buried about half a mile from camp on the top of a beautiful bluff commanding an extensive and picturesque view. The sun had just set.... Three volleys were fired over the graves.”
The graves of these first victims of the Mexican War are now lost in this small plot, the markers having long since disappeared. The names of the victims, too, are forgotten except for the two officers who, according to Henry, were Lieutenants Berry and Higgins.
After the war was over, the bluff lot became the community burial ground replacing an older cemetery at Nuecestown which had been used before Taylor’s occupation. Veterans of the War of 1812, who had become pioneers in South Texas, were buried there, side by side with those who had fought in the Indian campaigns, the Texas Revolution, the Civil War, Spanish War and the World War.
During the Texas Centennial, the state erected a stone over the grave of George W. Hockley, inspector-general of the Army of the Republic at San Jacinto and Secretary of War in 1838, during the first administration of President Sam Houston. Hockley died in Corpus Christi on June 6, 1854. He was a native of Philadelphia.
Another marker denotes the grave of Corpus Christi’s first mayor, Benjamin F. Neal, who came here from San Antonio in the days of Henry Lawrence Kinney and lived to become honored as a captain of Civil War defenses. Others who are buried there include: Felix A. von Blucher, major of engineers, C. S. _________, who died in 1879; Felix Noessel, Corpus Christi’s first fire chief, who died in 1887, and William Gambel, another veteran of Sam Houston’s army, who died in 1877.
A monument, erected by the state in 1836, honors all Texans dead who fought in the Civil War and were buried in this and adjoining cemeteries
Source: Corpus Christi Caller
Transcription: Rosa G. Gonzales