Murray Cemetery

Texas backroads have no shortage of interesting sights. As far as I’m concerned, windshield time on winding two-lane farm to market roads is about the best way to get from here to there — even though it takes a bit longer than traveling by way of our busy interstates.
I recently traveled from my home in Katy to a speaking engagement in Belton. Of course, I left early because I wanted to take the backroads. And I am so glad I did. The roadway was flanked by stunning Indian Blanket wildflowers swaying in the wind. Texas, I thought to myself, is absolutely beautiful.
As I traveled north of Rockdale toward the San Gabriel River I noticed the old Murray Cemetery and hit the brakes. Old cemeteries are among the most interesting stops on Texas backroads — and, the older the better.
Named after Madison Murray (1821-1897), the Murray Cemetery dates back to 1856 — a mere one-hundred years before I was born and twenty-two years before the town of Rockdale was incorporated. The earliest grave in the cemetery is that of Nancy Phillips and dates back to 1856. Nancy was forty-three years old when she died.
Situated on the gently rolling terrain of central Texas, the location of the cemetery is absolutely idyllic. Many of the beautiful trees at the sight were saplings in the days of the earliest burials. The once beautiful tombstones placed in memory of loved ones remain in place, but with their names and epithets slowly being erased by the passage of time.
My curiosity is always stirred when I stroll through old cemeteries. I wonder about the person who died. How did they face death? What unfinished work did they leave behind? Who attended their funeral? Who returned to place flowers on their grave? The questions just keep coming but with no one to answer them.
The reality is that one day many of us will end up in a cemetery, with a tombstone offering the world the briefest of information about us — the dates of our birth and death but nothing about what happened in-between those dates. Perhaps a line carved in stone to tell the world something about what we meant to our loved ones. Or perhaps a word about our profession or our belief about what lies beyond the grave.
As you travel Texas backroads, don’t be in a hurry. Instead take the time to stop and walk through old cemeteries. Reflect on the brevity of life and the passing of time. And then resolve to invest most in those who will cry at your funeral.

Baby Head Cemetery

Cemeteries seldom make the list of must-see places on road trip adventures, and understandably so. After all, there are many more inviting and cheerful options to visit than final resting places. But, don’t let that stop you from considering a visit to some of the most fascinating and historical spots in the Lone Star State — old cemeteries.
One of Texas’ most interesting old cemeteries also bears the distinction of having one of the creepiest names on record for a cemetery — Baby Head Cemetery. Located about 9 miles north of Llano along Highway 16, this place is definitely worth visiting.

As the story goes, sometime between 1850 and 1875 a small child in the area was kidnapped and killed by Indians in an effort to discourage settlers to the area. Some oral traditions claim that the baby’s head was placed on a spike as a warning to encroaching settlers. Consequently, the mountain (or better yet, hill) where this incident allegedly happened was named Babyhead Mountain.

In the 1870s, a pioneer community was founded near the mountain and became known as Baby Head. A post office was established there in 1879 and remained in operation until 1918. The small rural community which once had numerous farms, homes, and business eventually dwindled to only a handful of folks. The cemetery is the last physical reminder of the Baby Head community.
Baby Head Cemetery is the final resting place for a few dozen folks, many of whom died in the 19th century and some as recently as the past few years. Many of the old headstones are so weathered that they are hard to read. But, in spite of their deteriorating condition, you can still make out the epitaphs on many of the old tombstones.
The epitaph on the headstone of two-year old Texas Calvin, the daughter of W.T. and M.A. Mc Coy expresses the hope of these parents who suffered the loss of their little girl. The inscription is a silent reminder that they grieved with hope:

Farewell sweet little Texas
Farewell on earth to thee
Sleep sweetly sleep beneath the tomb
The angels o’er thee watch
And when we meet in heaven above
We will part no more
Perhaps the most poignant epitaph was the one I read on the broken headstone marking the grave of Susan McCoy who died in 1893.

Remember friends as you pass by
As you are now so once was I
As I am now so you must be
Prepare for death and follow me

There is a lot of Texas history in our old cemeteries. Walking slowly among the graves always makes me wonder about the stories of those at rest beneath old and broken headstones. Reading the fading epitaphs also makes me think about what final message I will leave on my headstone for those who will stroll through cemeteries long after I am gone.