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Bandera's intriguing"Boot Hill"

By Raymond V. Carter, Jr. BCHC Research Historian ©2017

What constitutes a "Boot Hill"? The definition of a boot hill according to Wikipedia is it ".... alludes to the fact that many of its occupants were cowboys who ‘died with their boots on,’ the implication here being they died violently, as in gunfights or by hanging, and not of natural causes." In a further explanation, Wikipedia stated, "This was due to some people (especially Chinese and Jewish immigrants) being buried without record. … However, most of the loss was due to neglect of grave markers and theft of these wooden relics as souvenirs."
Over the years markers deteriorate, wood rots away, people forget, families move or die out — any way, graves become neglected or forgotten and lost. No one is to blame, that seems to be a fact of life and common all over the world. The point of this story is, I believe, we have our own "Boot Hill" here in Bandera and it may be part of our Bandera Cemetery.
The reason I say this is because I have uncovered names of outlaws, prisoners, unknown persons and paupers that have been buried somewhere (locations not specified), but buried by our county government using county funds. Coffins paid for and graves dug and county funds spent.
Where were these folks buried? Well, the most likely place would be the Bandera Cemetery. So, I am saying that part of our cemetery could be a "Boot Hill." I have found none of their names in the "Bandera County Cemetery Records" book. So, were these folks buried in unmarked graves, or is there a record of them somewhere I haven't seen? My point is, I would like to remember them in some little way and record that they are not forgotten. I am creating a list and below is, just a sample.
It was recorded in the Bandera County Commissioners minutes that on Dec. 11, 1959, the body of "some unknown person was found-dead on Hondo Creek near M. Leon's rancho." Meacham Curtis was acting Coroner, holding the inquest together with William Ballantyne, Robert Ballantyne, George F. Lowe, John Cosgrove, George Hay, Andrew Hoffman, William Curtis and Charles Bird over a two-day period. The minutes did not say if the inquest was held at the discovery site (which was most likely the case) or held here in Bandera, but they were paid for two days service. So, if held on, the Hondo the body was most likely buried there. But, if the body was brought to town, then this person was buried in the Bandera Cemetery in an unmarked grave? Maybe, our "Boot Hill's" first resident?
There was another inquest that leaves the door open to intrigue. Inquests were held by, Justice Marcellus C. Click on Nov. 6 and Nov. 7, 1875, and again on Jan. 28 and 29, 1876. This inquest was held over the bodies of Sam Shields and A. Tweehouse. Where they are buried is a guess. Did family members claim them and bury them elsewhere, or are they residents of our "Boot Hill?"
In the March term of 1876, the Bandera Commissioners' minutes examined ''the claim of Sheriff Frick against Bandera County for (the) boarding of Charles Luck." Four pages later in the Commissioners’ minutes Sheriff Frick again produced a claim against the county for the "cases of A.E. Edwards and C. Luck."
At the bottom of the same page the minutes stated: "It is ordered that William Hudspeth, Esq., be paid the sum of six dollars for holding (a) Coroners Inquest over the body of Charles Luck, deceased, and that J.B. Davenport, I.N. Elam, J. Norris, Joseph Kalka, G.W. Davis and L.B. Hough, who served as Jurors at the said inquest, be each paid of one dollar and fifty cents for one days attendance."
Charles Luck was a prisoner in the jail and a trial was being held. Was he killed trying to escape or just of natural causes? How he died will require further research. Is he another resident of our so–called "Boot Hill?"
Another noted burial in the County Commissioners' minutes was made in early 1879, when Sheriff Henry Hamilton made a claim to the county for $38 “… for money expended in the burial of David Carter and for material to repair the Courthouse and Offices."
One of the first pauper burials I found was recorded in the Feb. 10, 1880, Term of the Commissioners Court. B.F. Bellows was paid five dollars ''for making coffin and burial expenses incurred by him in interring the pauper Thomas Jones, deceased." Jones is most likely buried in the Bandera Cemetery.
On Jan. 3, 1884, the Bandera County Commissioners' minutes recorded the following: "It is ordered by the Court that a Pauper fund be created in this County, which shall be known as the 6th Class (Fund)- and which shall be used solely for (the) assistance to those so unfortunate as to require the same from the County." This goes to show you that Bandera County is and has been full of caring people!