Maybe it’s the sudden cold snap or the enticing whiff of hot soup, but this season brings on memories. It’s not coincidental that the first two days of November, next Friday and Saturday, will be among the most solemn liturgically — a time for remembrance, All Saints Day and All Souls Day.
Services will be at churches throughout the county. Their intent will be the same: to be thankful for what forebears built and left for us. Leave Halloween for the kids and the other candy panhandlers. Nov. 1-2 are strictly for people old enough to have lasting memories.
That’s why the city-owned Hillcrest Cemetery in north Temple is so important to preserve. Hillcrest’s markers are more than last words and testaments. They are actually a valuable archive of historical documents written on marble and granite instead of paper: part history, part roll call of early settlers, part ecology and much more memory; each epitaph and etching are gifts of poetry, scripture and sculpture.
Words engraved on stone create a permanent record of those who went before, especially at times to honor those who are “gone but not forgotten,” as dozens of headstones in Hillcrest Cemetery can attest. This is especially important because Hillcrest, begun in the mid-1870s, is older that the city it serves. So many other records have been lost.
Hillcrest’s panoply of epitaphs bears strong religious illusions — especially those of the 19th century: “God has claimed thee in thy youth”; “I am waiting for thee in heaven”; “God’s finger touched him and he slept”; “Charity suffereth long and is kind”; “Dying is but going home”; and “She is not dead but sleepeth.”
Others are meant to leave monuments to their families. Saulsbury family lots bear the inscription, “Warm summer sun, shine kindly here; warm summer winds, blow gently here.” The Woodson family erected massive granite monuments with upturned corners, similar to their home on North 11th with pagoda corners — now called “The Chinese Mansion.”
A perambulating visitor on the grounds will also find an epitaph to a man killed “for defending his wife’s honor” and grieving parents’ final goodbye to their young son, ending with “he was a hell of a guy.”
Louis Calvin Duty, who served as a U.S. Navy senior chief boatswain mate from 1942 to 1974, was a highly decorated veteran of World War II, Korea and Vietnam. He was wounded in action five times and received five Purple Hearts. His epitaph was a plea: “Swords into plowshares.”
Here’s a sample of Hillcrest’s mighty cloud of witnesses and their words from beyond:
J. Eddie Weems Jr. (1924-1999), respected author of 12 non-fiction books, best known for his 1957 account of the 1900 Galveston hurricane, “A Weekend in September”: “A master of historical curiosities.”
Dr. Zadock W. Casey (1855-1940), physician: “He was sure crowned; a man who lived above the fog in private and public life.”
Edythe Grundy Talley (1889-1915), died when scissors penetrated her side as she fell picking flowers: “God called her while gathering daisies.”
Lessons for others
Margaret MacGregor Barclay Megarity (1905-1995), proud of her lineage, listed her clubs and heritage society memberships including Magna Charta Dames, Plantagenet Society; Sovereign Colonial Society of Americans of Royal Descent; Dame Grand Cross Hospitaller Order of St. John of Jerusalem; founder of the Heritage Society of Waco, chapter board member of the Washington on the Brazos State Park Association; and founder of the Pilgrimage to Waco (Brazos River Festival).
Geneva Briggs Smith (1894-1927): “Graduate nurse of Scott & White Hospital.” Her obituary indicated that she kept working in the hospital even after her diagnosis of leukemia, which was untreatable at the time. The Temple Daily Telegram indicated that other nurses emulated her for her devotion to her career during her illness. Her fellow nurses said, “If she can work that hard, so can I.”
Dr. Rob Roy MacGregor (1896-1980), a teacher: “And gladly would he learn and gladly teach.”
Dr. James Madison Woodson (1868-1930), eye, ear, nose and throat surgeon in partnership at Scott & White: “He healed the afflicted in body & soul.”
Annie Rampuglia Vienna (1823-1906), born in Sicily, matriarch of a family proud of their heritage: “Italian woman.”
George Hornsby (1891-1922) was the last man legally hanged for murder in Bell County. Hornsby was charged with a Brown County murder, but his trial was moved to Bell on a change of venue. Despite the controversial case and questionable evidence, jurors sent him to the gallows.
His last words are inscribed on his headstone: “I am innocent.”
Loved and Loving
Letrice Wofford Benedict (1906-1978): “One needs no other rosary whose thread of life is strung with the beads of love for a friend.”
Lively Lavert Shear (1873-1959): “Mama, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith.”
More to their stories
Lizzie Wilson (1871-1896): “A peaceful rest freed from the cares of this life.”
C.G. Wood (1904-1967), a school teacher: “God gets his soldiers out of the highlands of affliction.”
Herschel Thomas (1874-1916), knifed during an argument: “He cometh forth like a flower and is cut down.”
Unknown young man (1860?-1880?), whose remains were found in West Temple by construction crews: “Young man known only to God….”
Remarkable accomplishments with no epitaphs
W. Goodrich Jones (1860-1850): Jones was responsible for the adoption of an official Arbor Day in Texas, the founding of the Texas Forestry Association, and the Texas Forest Service. The W. Goodrich Jones State Forest in Montgomery County near Conroe is named in his honor.
Lt. Gov. George Cassety Pendleton (1845-1913): After serving six years in the Texas Legislature, where he was speaker of the House, and spent two years as Texas lieutenant governor serving with Gov. Hogg, he was elected as to the U.S. House of Representatives, serving from 1893 to 1897. He was elected a U.S. senator, but died before taking the oath of office.
Dr. Arthur Carroll Scott Sr. (1865-1940) was the co-founder of Scott & White and a pioneer in cancer surgery.