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South Texas Living

Maxwell descendants to clean up cemetery

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November 21, 2012 | 2,412 views | Post a comment

Many cemeteries in Wilson County are well cared for and often visited by family and friends. Some are in need of a little mowing and trimming. The Maxwell Cemetery, after many generations of neglect, is in seriously bad condition and in need of much love and hard work.

There will be a workday in the cemetery on Saturday, Dec. 1, beginning at 9 a.m. and lasting until dusk, with a noon break for lunch and a meeting to discuss forming a cemetery association for care and preservation. Those participating are encouraged to take water or cold drinks, and food to share, such as a covered dish, barbecue, or fried chicken.

Appropriate clothing, shoes, and gloves should be worn. Workers will cut tree limbs, brush, vines, weeds, and grass. Use of a brush-chipping machine is being sought so brush will not have to be hauled off. Attempts will be made to place tombstones upright and make minor repairs. There are strict guidelines set out by the state of Texas for preservation of such historical structures; workers will be instructed in those methods.

Located on private property on F.M. 536 west of Fairview, the 5 acres of land was dedicated as a cemetery in 1873 by Samuel E. Pearce when he sold 50 acres to George Maxwell, a local farmer who immigrated from Scotland. The land has changed hands many times, but the cemetery tract has always been cited on the deed. People were buried there until the late 1930s but no one had the responsibility of caring for or preserving the cemetery. The landowners have the legal responsibility of allowing people to traverse their property to get to the cemetery, but they have no obligation to tend the cemetery.

Over the years, wild animals and cattle have trampled the graves, knocked over tombstones, and destroyed evidence of some gravesites. The current owners, the Jaksik family, erected a barbed-wire fence to keep out cattle, but nothing can prevent the wild animals’ access. Trees and brush have overgrown the land, forming a massive barrier, which must be cut through to get to the gravesites.

Several years ago, some descendants of George Maxwell “Mack” Carver searched and found the cemetery and went for a visit. Our grandfather’s tombstone reads, “Gone but not forgotten.” Those heartfelt words have caused the family to work to locate and contact other descendants of those buried there in order to organize a restoration effort. Some of the names on remaining tombstones are: Bell, Brister, Carver, Davidson, Dossey, Fleming, Garcia, Gardner (or Gartner), Hall, Hatch, Henderson, Heyman, Hunt, Hurley, Jones, Lewis, Long, Lothringer, McCurdy, Neal, Nocker, Pearce, Schilder, Swift, Tollett, and Wild (or Wilda). Many tombstones are no longer legible or have been broken beyond repair. The Wilson County Historical Commission has been most helpful in obtaining lists of these names and other important information about the cemetery. Anyone with ties to these family names is encouraged to be a part of this restoration effort.

The descendants are forming a cemetery association and plan to seek the Texas Historical Cemetery Designation. Traditionally, the cemetery has been called “The Maxwell Cemetery,” but some have suggested adding the name “Pearce” in order to acknowledge Mr. Pearce, who allowed burials there as early as 1858 and to show appreciation for his dedication of the land. The name “The Pearce--Maxwell Cemetery” will be discussed at the workday and organizational meeting of the proposed association. It is hoped that by forming an association, members will be able to obtain status as a charitable organization for the benefit of tax-deductible donations. Not only will much physical work be required in the restoration and preservation of the old cemetery, donations of money will also be required. A substantial fence and gate, an appropriate sign, and materials for repairs are some of the immediate, pressing needs. It is hoped that local businesses will do their part and join the effort. Donations of money, supplies, equipment, and manpower will be appreciated.

No chronological or accurate records have been found regarding burials in the cemetery. Surveys of the remaining tombstones have been made by several individuals over the past years. Anyone with information about the burials or names and locations of tombstones, especially pictures, is welcome.

Access to the Maxwell Cemetery is off F.M. 536, about 15 miles west of Floresville. From I-37, head east on F.M. 536 approximately 3-1/2 miles. Signs will be posted. Vehicles will be allowed only in designated areas. A four-wheel drive vehicle will be available to transport workers from the road to the cemetery site, along a path the owner will designate.

Everyone in the Wilson and Atascosa county area is invited to attend and help with the work, especially descendants of people buried in the cemetery.

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