Cementerio del Rio

Location
Hays County, Texas, USA
Memorials 7 added (100% photographed)

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46 Inscriptions (read in 1990s)
This site is currently (2007) referred to as Cementerio del Rio, though landowners in the area have previously referred to it as Camino Real Crossing Cemetery (so-designated in the 1990s-era Hays County Cemeteries Inscriptions publication of HCHC members JoAnn Hearn and Dorothy Kerbow) and Westerfeld Crossing Cemetery. It is located on land adjoining the Baugh Ranch (Rancho del Camino Real) and the Hilliard Farm (1990s owner), on the San Marcos River, just below the Westerfeld Crossing). It long served the Hispanic community of San Marcos.

Current access to the cemetery is by an approximately two-mile long ranch road north from Staples Road (FM 621 from San Marcos to Staples in Guadalupe County), and condition of the mostly dirt road is contingent on rainfall (and would not be recommended after heavy rains).

The cemetery covers approximately three acres of land and is in relatively poor, unrestored condition, though Hays County some years ago did set up an agreement with San Marcos contractor Gene Bagwell to periodically mow and trim the site. Cattle having access to the site is an ongoing problem and does not bode well for maintenance of even the status quo at the site. Adjoining the San Marcos River, it is believed recurring floodwaters eroded the river bank, possibly taking tombstones. The Hearn-Kerbow publication stated “At one time this cemetery must have been one of the prettiest in Hays County,” and the assessment of the picturesque site remains accurate more than a decade later. Their 1990s-era report of “many wooden crosses, which are rotting” no longer holds true, those remains apparently relegated to a “dust to dust” fate. Many indications point to numerous unmarked grave sites.

Researchers Hearn and Kerbow’s 1994 revision of their cemetery inscription book credited cemetery activist Winton Porterfield and the local LULAC organization with working at that time to clean and restore the cemetery. Today, San Marcos historian Ofelia Vasquez-Philo maintains the most active interest in and conservation of the site.

To reach the cemetery from IH 35 in San Marcos, go east on Highway 123 (toward Seguin) to the FIRST light. Turn left at the light and take this road (FM 621, or Staples Road) for approximately 2 miles to an intersection with Old Bastrop Road (a commemorative stone monument noting an old route of El Camino Real can be seen about 50 yards to the left from this intersection). Continue past the intersection about a quarter mile – to the FIRST ranch gate on LEFT. Enter the gate and follow the ranch road its full length of about two miles. The road dead-ends at the cemetery.

2013 Update: Cementerio del Rio was designated a “Historic Texas Cemetery” by the Texas Historical Commission, ca. 2011, and The Hays County Historical Commission hosted a THC Historical Marker dedication at the site on June 16, 2013 (see Hays Free Press report, San Marcos burial site earns its place in history, by Jordan Gass-Poore’, July 10, 2013). A number of changes/improvements have taken place at the site since the last (2007) description, starting with the complete perimeter fencing of the cemetery which removed the long-time, ongoing damage done by cattle on the ranch where the cemetery is located.

The cemetery’s four largest tombstones, all Woodmen of the World stones and previously all toppled--were professionally righted and leveled by Wimberley stone restoration specialist Don Hudson, thanks to assistance from the office of Hays County Commissioner Debbie Ingalsbe. Many dead and dying trees—victims of the ongoing drought of the past several years—were removed through the courtesy and efforts of the Hays County Road Department, again with funding assistance through Commissioner Ingalsbe’s office. The HCHC Cemeteries Committee has overseen much recent individual tombstone leveling by assistant Richard Gomez. And regular yard maintenance continues as a part of the county contract that maintains a total of seven county cemeteries and historic sites.

Access to the site through the private property is still through the gate described in the history (above), though a combination lock now prevents unlimited access. That access can be arranged by contacting either Ofelia Vasquez-Philo or Jim Cullen of San Marcos.

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GPS Coordinates: 29.8600560, -97.8768890

  • Added: 21 Jul 2018
  • Find A Grave Cemetery: #2669571