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Historic East Side Cemetery and Graves Restored

By Lisa Marie Gomez. San Antonio Express News. Sunday December 7, 2003

- 2 Texas Rangers are buried at Odd Fellows graveyard. -

It took seven years of work and $6,000 to renovate the historic Odd Fellows Cemetery. History buffs and folks who dedicated their time, money and souls to the renovation project gathered Saturday at the joint gravesite of Capt. Samuel Hamilton Walker and Capt. Robert Addison Gillespie. Walker and Gillespie, both Texas Rangers, were veterans of the Mexican War. They were killed in 1847 in separate battles while serving in Mexico.

They first were buried in Mexico but were moved to the Odd Fellows Cemetery years later.Walker met Samuel Colt in Washington, D.C., and they worked together to improve an existing revolver for service use. The new "six-shooter," a .44 caliber, single action handgun, was renamed the Walter Colt. Saturday's re-dedication of the gravesite and cemetery, which is one of six historic black cemeteries found on the East Side, included a procession with men dressed in mid-1800s military apparel and two women in long black dresses with black veils. The seven men, who are members of the Alamo Lure and Myth Organization, stood at attention as they fired revolvers three times. The gravesite is marked by a tall, white concrete pillar. The bones of the two men, both bachelors and life-long friends, are buried in the same casket.

Lee Spencer White, who lives in Freer and is founder of the Alamo Defender Descendant Association, spearheaded the restoration project. She said she first visited the place several years ago. The grass was taller than the tombstones, she said, and the fence that surrounded the cemetery was falling apart. Used hypodermic needles and other trash was everywhere. "We've returned it to its 1850s glory," Spencer White said. Improvements to the cemetery included: installing a new wrought iron fence; stabilizing, restoring and cleaning monuments; restoring stone cannon balusters; installing a biographical historical bronze marker; and installing a Former Texas Ranger Association cross. Although the renovation only cost $6,000, Spencer White noted that several people donated supplies and work. Gail Loving Barnes, commissioner of the Texas Historical Commission, commended Spencer White for her efforts to preserve the cemetery.

"She was doing preservation long before it became a trendy thing to do," Loving Barnes said.

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