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Cemetery dedication – solemn & celebratory occasion

By Judith Pannebaker BCC Editor

No one had an inkling of how many people would attend the formal dedication of the Bertha Tryon-Hendrick Arnold Cemetery on Saturday, June 18 – an event that had been a long time in the making.
“We had 50 programs printed up and we gave them all out before the ceremony even began,” said Rebecca Norton, executive director of the Frontier Times Museum. “We are very pleased that so many people would honor this occasion.”
The museum and Bandera County Historical Commission cemetery sponsored the dedication, in conjunction with the Bandera Electric Cooperative Charitable Foundation’s Operation Round-Up.
Harry Harris, past president of the Frontier Times Museum’s Board of Directors, welcomed everyone to the dedication, which was both solemn and celebratory. “We are honoring those who are buried here and the many volunteers who made this happen,” Harris said. “A cemetery connects a community to its past. However, it serves not only as an end point, but also as a starting point.”
Noting that the dedication marks the culmination of an effort that was started 30 years ago, Harris said, “Volunteers from the community took an overgrown lot filled with cedar, poison ivy and brush and transformed it into a historical landmark for Bandera County.”
Garbed in his beloved western clothes and cowboy rigging, Roy Dugosh, chairman of the historical commission, described the project, which was revived in earnest in 2000, as “a long, slow – but good – journey.” He noted that as he had worked the land over past years, he had sensed a “great amount of peace here.”
Interestingly, although only 28 official graves have been listed at the site, Dugosh said, “I witched the land and found 49 graves – more than anyone had thought.”
Elenora Dugosh Goodley told those assembled that a story marker would be placed to explain about the significance of the cemetery. Additionally, plaques would be installed on the limestone columns listing all those buried within cemetery’s defined borders.
Gail Joiner, publisher of the Bandera County Courier, spoke about one of the first advocates who pushed for the rehabilitation of Bandera’s so-called “Black Cemetery” – the late Carl Holt. “He used to pass this place going to and from work every day and would say, “What a travesty!” she explained.
To correct what he felt was an injustice, Holt assembled several work teams to clear brush and make more order from the neglected burial ground.
“Carl didn’t live to see this day, but I can just imagine he’s here right now,” Joiner said. “In fact, I can almost see him, leaning against one of these trees wearing creased jeans, starched white shirt and a quirky smirk on his face.”
Ray Carter, a member of the historical commission, offered a concise Cook’s Tour of the life of Hendrick Arnold, ne of those for whom the cemetery is named. “They told me I could only talk for 10 minutes,” Carter said apologetically.
A free man, Arnold received 1,920 acres from both the Republic and the State of Texas for his services as a soldier in the fight for Texas independence from Mexico.
Arnold served as a guide for General Ben Milam’s division in the assault on Bexar in 1835. According to his commanding officers, 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. In fact he married Smith’s stepdaughter.
For his service Arnold was designated “an immortal Texas hero.” He died on Nov. 9, 1849 in a cholera epidemic that was sweeping through San Antonio and Bexar. Arnold is buried not at the cemetery that bears his name, but at the Medina Ranch Cemetery.
Judge Richard Evans lauded former Bandera County Commissioner James Mormando, who had procured the documents necessary to secure the cemetery for the county.
As Evans explained, in 1922, Mrs. Charles Montague had set aside the one-acre parcel between Houston and San Antonio Streets on the Old Medina Highway to use as a “Colored Burial Ground.” However, in later years, since so many Montagues had to sign papers to transfer the land to the county, officials found it more expedient to initiate an agreed-upon foreclosure and take possession of the land. “Without Commissioner Mormando’s work, we wouldn’t be here today,” Evans said.
Mormando read the names of those buried in the Bertha Tryon-Hendrick Arnold Cemetery – with each name being marked by a solemn tolling of a bell.
At the end of the dedication, those gathered were thanked for “their support and effort in recognizing and honoring those who have found their eternal rest in these hallowed grounds.”