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Historic cemetery dedication set

By Rebecca Huffstutler Norton BCC Contributor

Courtesy photo
Under the direction of retired Texas Tech University History Curator Henry Crawford, Texas Revolutionary soldiers will perform a musket salute during the dedication of the Bertha Tryon-Hendrick Arnold Cemetery, set for 10 am, Saturday, June 18.

During a dedication ceremony on Saturday, June 18, members of the Bandera County Historical Commission and trustees and staff with the Frontier Times Museum will honor the final resting site of a number of Bandera County’s early black residents.
The once-neglected cemetery has been cleared of brush and a new rock fence and iron gate has been added to the Bertha Tryon-Hendrick Arnold Cemetery, 390 Old Medina Highway, off Highway 16 North in Bandera. The dedication ceremony will begin at 10 am.
At the urging of the late Carl Holt, the members of the Bandera County Historical Commission formed a committee headed by the late Gene Turner to take on the task of restoring the cemetery. The cemetery is named in honor of the last resident to be interred, Bertha Tryon, and Hendrick Arnold, a veteran of the Texas War of Independence from Mexico.
Bandera County Commissioners designated the site as a historic Texas cemetery by the court and efforts are currently being made by Historical Commissioner Elenora Dugosh Goodley to secure a state historical plaque for the site.
The cemetery was established in 1922 when Mrs. Charles Montague originally set aside the one-acre parcel between Houston and San Antonio Streets on the Old Medina Highway as a “Colored Burial Ground in which only Negroes are to be buried.” As the years past, the cemetery was neglected and the lot became overgrown with cedar, poison ivy and brush.
In 1993, the family of long-time local resident Bertha Tryon requested permission to bury her there. The woman’s husband, Buddy, and other family members cleared the center of the property around the new gravesite. At the time of Tryon’s burial, the cemetery was designated as the Bertha Tryon-Hendrick Arnold Cemetery.
Prior to Tryon, the last documented burial in the cemetery was GW Leonard in 1944. In an earlier interview, Alfred Anderwald recalled helping excavate Leonard’s final resting place. “The grave was nine-feet long because Leonard was seven feet tall,” Anderwald recalled. “We had to use a compass when digging his grave to make sure it had to face due East as is the custom in most cemeteries.”
Leonard had served as a local handyman and caretaker of the Bandera County Courthouse.
In addition to Tryon, the cemetery is named for Hendrick Arnold, a free man, who received 1,920 acres from the Republic and the State of Texas for his services as a soldier. Arnold served as a guide for General Ben Milam’s division in the assault on Bexar in 1835. He also distinguished himself as “one of the most efficient members of Deaf Smith’s Spy Company” during the Battle of San Jacinto in 1836, according to his commanding officers.
Although Arnold is not buried there, the area is part of his original land grant. Arnold’s land parcels touched the Medina River and lay north and northwest of the town of Bandera. The cemetery lies in part of the original Hendrick Arnold Survey #59.
While many volunteers have worked on clearing the lot, Holt served as the driving force behind the massive efforts to restore the cemetery. Among the local community members Holt and Turner worked with included Cody Tripp, Scott Asher, Andy Wilkinson, Harlan Campbell and Victor Strickland, who lent bobcats, chain saws and physical labor to help clear the overgrown brush. Local historian Peggy Tobin wrote extensively about the cemetery for the Bandera Historian, the newsletter published by the historical commission.
Most recently, Roy Dugosh and mason Cecil LeStourgeon of Medina applied the finishing touches, preparing the cemetery for the dedication ceremony.
During the ceremony, the names of those interred will be read aloud and a wreath will be placed at the front gate. To recognize Bandera’s connection to the Texas Revolution, history re-enactors will be attired in uniforms of Texas Revolutionary soldiers and present a five-musket salute.
Organized by retired Texas Tech University History
Curator Henry Crawford, the history re-enactors are active with the Alamo’s Texas Independence Day celebrations. Following the dedication ceremony, the history re-enactors will set up camp from 1 pm to 4 pm on the museum grounds and demonstrate the accoutrements of soldiers who fought for independence from Mexico. This Living History Program is being funded by Bandera Electric Charitable Foundation’s Operation Round-Up.
To celebrate this special day, admission to the Frontier Times Museum will be free on June 18. The museum is located at 510 13th Street and is open from 10 am to 4:30 pm. Telephone is 830-796-3864.