Sunday, March 20, 2011

Walker & Gillespie (A Walkin' the East Side Special)

When I was trying to locate my great-grandfather's grave by an online search the other day, I came across this article: City Warned to Protect its Historic Cemeteries. It talks about the city's lax preservation standards in regard to historic grave sites.

Nearly a century later a similar event occurred, after the San Antonio Express-News reported on January 5, 1995, that representatives of the Texas Rangers Hall of Fame in Waco were in San Antonio to exhume the remains of the famous Ranger Capt. Samuel H. Walker, a hero of the Mexican war and designer of the Walker Colt revolver. With his descendents' permission, they were to move his remains to Waco.
Lee Spencer of Freer in south Texas, president of the Alamo Defenders Descendents Association and third vice president of the DRT, read the report and rushed to San Antonio, where she discovered that the Rangers from Waco had already begun digging up the grave of Walker with a backhoe. The grave was partly open beside a large, long pile of black, gravelly clay.
Spense got a restraining order to stop the exhumation, based on old newspaper reports which she presented to show the likelihood that the remains of Alamo defenders were buried in the very same area and might be disturbed. History shows that Walker's dying wish had been fulfilled when he was buried next to another former Texas Ranger, Capt. R. A. Gillespie in the Odd Fellows Cemetery at Pine and Paso Hondo streets.

Huh, I said to myself, I bet I know exactly where that is!  In fact, I have a picture of it.  After today's discussion of a potential Texas State Firearm, I decided to go over to the Odd Fellows Cemetery and take a closer look-see and get better photographs.

And so I did.

Sadly, the little chained-off area is a testament to the necessity the article outlines.  There are four things, aside from the historical marker, in it: a small metal cross, a two large obelisks, and a smaller, nearly flat-to-the-ground headstone.

This is the cross:
Before I got close enough to read it, I had assumed that this cross was to commemorate the heroes of the Alamo said to be buried there.  Not so.  I suppose the city (state?) considered the marker to be enough.  So I stepped under the chains and went to investigate further.

This is the next-closest thing:
If you get nearly on top of it, you can see Capt. Gillespie's name inscribed on it, but no other info about that man.  Still, I initially assumed this to be his tombstone.  Until I walked around to the other side, where Capt. Walker's name was inscribed.  This isn't a tombstone, then, but some sort of memorial to both men (you see these things sometimes in cemeteries, especially in family plots).

So I went over to the other two things:
These are both the same thing: tombstones for Capt. Walker.  (I see him as Chuck Norris in my head, of course.)  The larger stone has some information about where and when he was killed.  The smaller is a more traditional tombstone of the old military sort:

This thing is in serious need of cleaning, and I wish I knew how to do so.

Anyway, notice what's missing here?  That's right--there is nothing for Capt. Gillespie.  There were a couple of these:
Remains of a stone of some sort for Gillespie?  I don't know.  I do know that very old stones often are ruined, both on purpose or otherwise (there are quite a few grave sites at the cemetery across the street, which if I recall correctly is City Cemetery #3, that bear obvious signs of vandalism).  And I think it's a damned shame that no one thought to try to prevent damage to Gillespie's grave, but if there was so little concern for men who died at the Alamo, I suppose the lack of care about a Texas Ranger isn't so surprising.

Still it's disappointing.

I took a lot of other pictures while I was out today, by the way, but they're going to be put at the end of the queue as far as Walkin' the East Side goes, since I'm trying to maintain chronological order.  However, I cannot resist including this photograph I took whilst in City Cemetery #1:
I took it from a distance as sometimes the police are tetchy about being photographed.  I had the thought that, were the zombie apocalypse to occur right then, with them there I'd have a fighting chance.  In all seriousness, though, it's a pretty good staging area--they provide a deterrent from further vandalism, and they're in the neighborhood when the shit starts to go rodeo, as it does on a frequent basis.  So it looks a bit ridiculous, but it makes perfect sense, which seems to be par for the course for the police.


Les said...

Thanks, I really enjoyed this. Read a lot about these two men and their exploits. I didn't realize they were buried in SA. But where better, except maybe Gulf Prairie Cemetery where many of the Old 300 and Stephen F. Austin (was) are buried.

Anonymous said...

R. Addison Gillespie was my grandmother's grand-or great-uncle (I cannot remember which). Apparently he never married or had children, so we are not direct descendants. My theory about why his site was not cared for is that there was no one else in the family in Texas in the early time period. I believe that his brother in Texas had already died. As far as I know, the next relative to come to Texas was around 1870 (my great-great grandfather). My great-grandfather was also a Texas Ranger for a short time and named one of his children after the Captain.

I have only been to San Antonio a couple of times; I have seen pictures of the large marker for both Rangers, but have not seen it in person. I did not realize that Walker had the other stones for his grave. According to history, Gillespie wanted to be buried near the Alamo under the cottonwood trees and Walker wanted to be buried next to Gillespie.

Thank you for caring enough to check on these gravesites.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this. I have been reading S C Gwynne's book about the Comanche Indians, and therefore have read a lot about Ranger Gillespie and Ranger Samual Walker. Is Ranger Gillespie the same that fought in the Battle of Walker Creek, and shot Yellow Wolf at the command of Cpt. Jack Hays? If anyone knows, please reply.
SL Early Tx

Anonymous said...

Yes, he was the same Gillespie who fought in the Battle of Walker Creed, shot Yellow Wolf, etc.