Contributed by: Laura Esparza, Austin Parks and Recreation Department
To say that I was impressed with the historic beauty of Oakwood Cemetery would be an understatement. Anyone who knows old Austin can tell you that Oakwood is studded with stars of Austin’s past. A stroll down a single lane reveals the names of Zilker, Barton and Pease, whose names live on in Austin’s parks. The 19th Century architecture of the memorials and the chapel is no less impressive. This is really worth a weekend stroll to see some of the builders of Austin, including Alamo survivor Susannah Dickinson Hannig and her husband Joseph Hannig, whose second home is one of our museums in downtown Austin.
Plummers Cemetery, just behind Givens Recreation Center, is also a 19th Century cemetery, inhabited by more of Austin’s founders and builders. It is one of Austin’s earliest segregated cemeteries for African-Americans. The stone memorials seemed more personalized to me, more touching than the mighty plinths and crypts of Oakwood, and the beauty of the park is unparalleled, in a lovely grove of trees that appear to be memorials themselves.
Our tour turned to a discussion of the importance of preserving the stories and the history of these important historic sites, in tandem with community members who have ancestors there and who have been telling these stories for decades. Their treasured stories must be preserved not only to fully articulate Austin’s past but to create a community that cares for these sites long into the future.
As a descendant of Gregorio Esparza and an 18th Century Tejano family in Central Texas, I came from a family of storytellers and champions of Texas history. Nothing thrills me more than to see these historic sites revitalized with the hopes and dreams of the exciting Austin Cemetery Master Plan.
1601 Navasota St.
Designation: National Register of Historic Places, Historic Texas Cemetery, Austin Landmark
1204 Springdale Rd